Simple Mindfulness - Simple steps to a happier life
Paige Burkes bases her Simple Mindfulness blog on the concept that happiness comes from within to support you in new, mindful ways of being that will allow you to live a happier and more fulfilled life. The blog contains health, relationship and financial articles about practicing acceptance to create a fulfilled life.
When readers leave comments here on Simple Mindfulness asking for help or advice, I do my best to share what I know that may help. In some cases, that’s enough. In others, it’s clear that the reader needs more in-depth help than I can offer in a comment. In those cases, I frequently recommend that the person seek professional help – a licensed therapist of some sort.
But how does one go about seeking such help? What are the steps? What can you expect?
Then there’s the stigma that’s wrapped around needing help. By asking for help it’s as if you’re saying, “There’s something wrong with me.” And wrapped around that are all kinds of negative labels that our society doles out.
When I was a kid, my mother asked me if I wanted to see a therapist. She could tell that I wasn’t feeling right but didn’t know how to help. My initial reaction was, “There’s nothing wrong with me.” She never explained how a therapist could help, even if it was just someone safe to talk to.
I didn’t see my first therapist until things had gotten bad enough in my second marriage, and I knew something had to change. I was tired of feeling depressed and repeating all my old patterns. I didn’t know how to make my life – me – different.
My first therapist helped me with all this. She helped me to get back on my feet and gave me new ways of seeing myself and my relationships which helped immensely.
A few years later I needed help again and found a new therapist. Working with her for a few months helped me to move further along toward better understanding myself and how I contribute to how my life plays out.
Now that I’ve worked through some bigger issues with the help of some great therapists, I have many more tools to help myself when things go awry (which I write about and share with you here). Even with that, I still sometimes need an objective person to bounce things off whose job it is to help me see where I’m off and what I can do to get back on track. It’s like getting a tune-up.
These days I’m the head of finance of a large community behavioral health center. Basically, I’m in the therapy business not as a therapist but as an administrator who helps to ensure that people get the help they need.
The Marriage of Mental and Physical Health
Most insurance companies in America try to match everyone they insure with a PCP (primary care physician) whose job it is to monitor the physical health of their patients. I think the system is missing half the picture. Everyone should be matched with both a therapist and a PCP to ensure that they have someone they can call, regardless of whether their needs are physical or emotional.
I’ve written a few articles (here, here and here) about how emotional issues create or contribute to physical issues. Healthcare costs along with lots of time and emotional energy could be saved if people worked with a therapist while working with their doctor to address their overall health issues.
At the medical clinic that’s part of the behavioral health center where I work, people can come in for their physical health needs. If the doctor they see senses that there might be other issues going on (i.e. depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.), the doctor can call in one of the behavioral health specialists (aka – therapist) to address that issue on the spot. It’s amazing how much this helps people in their overall health and happiness.
Why is it that people have no problem sharing their physical ailments with everyone around them but don’t feel the same about emotional issues? People will share that they’re going to the doctor for a checkup, procedure or consultation but won’t share that they’re seeing a therapist about anything.
This double standard needs to end, and I recently discovered a therapist who is doing her part to end the stigma around getting the help you need.
Kati is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who has built a global mental health online community and YouTube channel. Here’s more from the book’s back cover:
Everyone struggles with mental health issues from time to time, but the greatest level of misunderstanding comes from knowing the difference between mental health and mental illness, figuring out whether we need professional help and, if so, how to find it. Are u ok? walks readers through the most commonly asked questions about mental health and the process of getting help. From finding the best therapist to navigating harmful and toxic relationships and everything in between, Kati clarifies and de-stigmatizes the struggles so many of us go through and encourages readers to reach out for help. What are the red flags of a mental health issue? How do you go about making a first therapy appointment? How do you know if your therapist is a good fit for you? What are the best ways of talking about mental health with your family, friends, and colleagues? There are so many questions and concerns, and in the down-to-earth, friendly tone that makes Kati Morton so popular on YouTube, Are u ok? informs and remind us that we can get through the difficult times and we are never alone.
If you think that less-than-optimal mental health isn’t common, consider that 20% (one in five) of all children and adults are affected by mental illness. Whether it affects us or someone we know, it’s much more common than you think. And this statistic is only from reported cases. It doesn’t consider the multitudes that suffer in silence, too scared or embarrassed to get the help they desperately need.
I love this quote from the book which addresses what I was saying about the differences between seeing a physical health doctor and a therapist:
Why, in real life, when we trip and fall do we get back up so quickly, yet when we emotionally fall down, we allow ourselves to lie on the ground for weeks, possibly years?
Here’s an excerpt that shows how intertwined physical and mental health issues can be as it relates to anxiety:
Anxiety can stop us from eating, sleeping, and concentrating. Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, even expressing themselves physically like they do for Alice:
First, I start breathing harder and get panicky, and then I feel angry, and I just lie on my bed wanting to cry or scream. I’m also very irritable recently, yet I know I shouldn’t yell at anyone, so I bottle it all up inside. Is this all part of my anxiety?
The truth is, yes, all those symptoms can be part of our anxiety, but since many of these symptoms mimic those of a physical illness, people with anxiety are three to five times more likely to wind up at their doctor’s office or hospital.
And I’ve seen this with people I’ve personally known who swear they’re having a heart attack or other physical problem. When taken to the emergency room, the doctors declare them perfectly healthy physically but emotionally, they’re having an anxiety attack. Their anxiety makes them feel like they’re dying.
Kati’s descriptions of depression are also very accurate (as I’ve dealt with depression through much of my life):
Something to remember about depression is that it’s episodic, meaning it comes and goes. We can have episodes of depression that last for a few weeks up to months, and then they go away like they were never there. I believe it’s because of these episodes that people don’t reach out for help. All of those terrible “I can’t get out of bed” feelings go away, and we think maybe we were making it all up, or it’s really not that bad and we work through it on our own. Then they come back, and we go through the same cycle all over again, possibly not getting help for years.
That was me for decades. Until I got tired of the cycle happening over and over again and decided that I actually needed help.
The truth is that depression doesn’t always show itself in the way we expect. It can be quiet, sneaky, and shift over time. Some of the most common symptoms I have seen, which are not listed on any diagnostic criteria, follow:
Feeling like you are walking through water: everything is harder, and you feel like you’re moving so much slower.
Reading and rereading the same thing. Concentration is very hard to come by.
Everyone around you is just so freaking irritating!
You can’t help but replay everything you have ever done wrong in your life.
I know these symptoms may seem too vague or as if they can be applied to many illnesses, but it’s important to highlight just how varied depression can feel. It’s not always about feeling sad or struggling to sleep; it can look and feel very different person to person. Just remember that however you feel, if you don’t feel like yourself and find that you are less and less interested in things you used to like, please get help.
The lack of energy that comes along with depression is always my largest concern. Many people who come into my office or reach out online tell me they just couldn’t muster up the energy to reach out any sooner.
That’s why depression can hold people hostage for so long. When we have the energy to get up and out of the house, we don’t think we feel bad enough to need any help or treatment.
By the time we actually do feel bad enough and believe we need to get some help, we physically and mentally can’t. This is why we need to not only to do our best to check in on our own mental health, but also to have supportive people in our lives who can help us when we can’t help ourselves. This could be having that friend make the call to see a therapist or driving us to our appointment and waiting with us. However we can make it happen, it’s important that we have a plan to get back up and keep fighting.
In addition to helping you identify if or when you should seek professional help, the book also covers:
The difference between different mental health professionals (i.e. what’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?)
Preparing for your first appointment
Figuring out if your therapist is a good fit (hint: You might have to try out a few before you find one that works for you.)
What are toxic relationships and ways to get out of them?
Communication: The key to a happy, healthy life
Avoiding common mistakes and healing broken relationships at home, work and in life
How to get more help if you’re in therapy and still struggling
Whether you think you need this book or not, I recommend it. If you’re one of the few not struggling with anxiety, depression or some other issue that’s preventing you from living your best life, I’m sure you know someone who is and who could benefit from the information in Are u ok?.
Therapy truly is for everyone, just as support with physical health is. There’s nothing wrong with you if you reach out for help. 911 isn’t only for physical emergencies.
But I Can’t Afford Therapy
If you don’t have insurance, there are many ways to find a therapist online, most of which run from $40 to $80 per week. TalkSpace offers email and text therapy for a monthly fee. BetterHelp.com offers messaging, chat, phone and video therapy. If your company offers an EAP program, take advantage of it. Teledoc, one of the best online sources of medical advice, also offers online therapy. This link summarizes some of the top online therapy resources currently available.
Many therapists offer sliding scale fees based on how much money you earn. Most areas have community-based resources that are available for free. In Colorado, where I live, the state offers a free crisis line where people can call or text to get the help they need for free. Do some online searches to see what’s available in your area.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, which includes substance use issues, help is available and it’s probably closer and cheaper than you think.
If you’ve had good experiences with therapy and can offer helpful advice and encouragement to others, please leave a comment below.
We could all use more sleep.
Most of us are pushed to keep going, going, going to produce more, more,
more. Sleep is usually portrayed as some
kind of necessary evil, to be reduced to as little time as possible.
While it’s “common knowledge” that we all need eight hours of sleep a night, there are plenty of articles and programs out there that will tell you that this is a myth and you really only need four or five hours. From my personal experience, that doesn’t work so well. I need seven or eight hours, but I know others who thrive with four or five.
Over time, I’ve applied mindfulness to the process to see what kind of impact I can make on my own sleep habits. The biggest lesson I’ve learned (which applies to just about everything in life) is that one size does not fit all. Even if you find your “size,” it doesn’t continue to fit over time. Things are always changing.
With that in mind, I’m going to cover some of the contributors to a better night’s sleep as seen through a mindful eye.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
While the average of the bell curve of how much “everyone” needs is around eight hours, many aren’t at the peak of that bell curve. Some need much more and some much less. Environment, age, health, and other factors play a part in how much sleep you need.
Instead of beating yourself up for not getting eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep (which might be possible for about 5% of the population), experiment with what feels right for you.
Hundreds of years ago, people weren’t writing about their sleep habits so we don’t really know how long people slept for. There are theories that people went to bed when the sun went down and woke at sunrise. That’s a long time to sleep, especially in the winter.
More research has been done that shows that pre-Industrial Revolution people slept in two shifts: going to bed just after darkness fell, waking for a couple hours around midnight and making pleasant use of the time, then going back to sleep until morning.
I sleep straight through the night about three nights ayear. The rest of the time, I wake up sometime between midnight and 2am. Sometimes I can fall back to sleep and other times I can’t.
Ten or fifteen years ago, I used to set my alarm for 4am soI had time to do yoga, meditate and have some alone time. After a while, that toasted me, and I couldn’t sustain it, so I went back to getting up around 6am. Lately, I’ve been voluntarily waking up a little after 4am, unable to get back to sleep. Age, hormones and who knows what have changed my natural sleep habits.
Now I’m naturally up before 5am and ready for the day. As I get older, my environment changes (I’m no longer chasing young children around and tending to babies which takes tons of energy) so my sleep patterns are adjusting. I need to be mindful of these changes and not insist on being the same all the time (which can create a lot of self-induced stress).
Listen to your body. There are no “should’s.” There’s only what’s right for you here and now. And what’s right for you now will change over time. Every now and then, check in with yourself to see if your current habits are serving you. If they’re not, change them. Experiment.
Getting Ready for Bed
You’ve probably read about all the steps you can take to induce better sleep. But how many have you implemented into your daily sleep habits? Go through the following list and pick one new practice to implement tonight. Stick with it for at least one month to see how it works for you. Anything less won’t be long enough for you to feel an impact. Your body needs time to adjust to any changes.
After the first month, pick another practice to implement. Keep the first one you tried or drop it depending on how much it helped you.
1. Turn off all screens two hours before bedtime.
I know, I know. This one seems almost impossible for everyone. Whether it’s TV, computers, phones or whatever, everyone seems tied to a screen from the time our eyes open in the morning to the time they close at night.
Feeling that FOMO (fear of missing out) 24/7 keeps your brain wired and tired. It’s extremely unlikely that some bit of social media, email, text or whatever that will change your life will be missed if you shut off your devices a couple hours before bedtime (and while you sleep).
Take the opportunity to spend some focused, uninterrupted, quality time with your partner, kids or yourself. It will help to reduce your anxiety, depression, and general feelings of disconnection.
While most people sleep with their phone next to their bed to use it as an alarm clock or “just in case,” leave your phone out of the bedroom. Period. Charge it in your kitchen, office or living room.
There’s a very cool handmade product called Bagby that supports keeping your phone out of the bedroom. I’ve tried them and love them. Check them out here.
2. Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible.
It’s not rocket science that you need dark and quiet to sleep. Turn off the TV and phone (remember step 1?) and anything else that emits sounds. Turn off all the lights. Even a little night light can mess with your sleep.
If you live in a populated area, pull the curtains or blinds to keep out light from the streets. Depending on your existing curtains or blinds, you might want to invest in room-darkening curtains that are like what you see in hotels. They have a special layer that doesn’t allow any light through.
3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
Depending on your sensitivity to these substances, you may need to cut them out sooner than some recommendations call for. Use mindfulness to notice how these things affect you.
Both are stimulants. While alcohol may help you relax initially, it converts to sugar in your body as it’s metabolized which causes you to wake up later on.
If I drink coffee after 1pm, it messes with me all night. My husband has a much higher tolerance. We’re exactly the opposite when it comes to alcohol. We both know how our bodies react to different things so, when we don’t follow what’s right for us, there’s no one to blame but ourselves.
4. Exercise during the day.
You don’t have to spend an hour at the gym or run for miles for exercise to help your sleep. Take a ten-minute walk in the middle of the day. I have a standing desk and a stationary stepper so I can “take a walk” while I’m working (that’s about the extent of my multi-tasking).
Spend some time gardening, playing with your kids or grandkids, walk to a friend’s house or coffee shop for a visit. Spend some time connecting with the people in your life who support you (without screens). This helps mind, body, and soul.
5. Have a regular bedtime.
Your body needs cues to anticipate when it’s time to shut down. Little kids thrive on this. So do adults.
Create a bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, sip some tea, meditate, journal, read a paper book. Do things you enjoy that help you relax and release the stress of the day.
If some worry is running around in your head, journal about it. Write out what you’ll do tomorrow to address it. Get it all out so it won’t keep you up at night.
To handle those thoughts that pop into your head in the middle of the night, I’ve found that a pad of paper and a pen with a blue light in it (like this one) next to the bed work wonders. When you think of something, write it down quickly while you’re still in bed without turning on the room lights. The blue light in the pen keeps your eyes in “night vision.” You don’t have to stay awake hoping you remember your bit of wisdom until the morning (which you won’t).
6. Make your bed as comfortable as possible.
This is something I’ve spent a lot of time on. Sheets, pillows, mattresses, blankets. They’re all very important parts of the equation. You spend about a third of your life in bed, make the investment in high-quality bedding. If you don’t, you’ll be paying for it during your waking hours with pains in your back, hips, and shoulders and general crankiness because you didn’t sleep well.
Many years ago, I researched “healthy beds” and found that most mattresses are filled with toxic chemicals. Who wants to sleep face down in a bed of carcinogens?
So I invested in an organic rubber mattress and wool-filled pillows from Lifekind. At the time, this was the only option for an organic bed (that I could find). It feels like memory foam without any bounce and offers plenty of support (almost a bit too hard since I’m a side-sleeper).
I would rather have purchased an organic innerspring mattress, but couldn’t find one back then. Things have changed and a company called Saatva answered my call. They have organic innerspring mattresses that are adjustable and made in the US of high-quality materials. They’re very reasonably priced given the high quality you get.
Saatva also has pillows and sheets that are completely organic. When my pillows and sheets arrived, it was like they were gift-wrapped just for me. The sheets (all organic) are super-soft, almost like Egyptian cotton. I love curling up in them at night (or for daytime naps).
The pillows are so-very-soft yet are firm enough to support my head (as I mentioned, I’m a side-sleeper). They don’t flatten out like the other wool pillows I had (which couldn’t be re-fluffed) and don’t immediately go flat like down pillows.
Combine all that with a great down comforter (make sure you get one with the “warmth” level that’s right for you) and you’ll never want to get out of bed.
If you’re sleeping on old, flat pillows or that bargain mattress that you bought ten years ago, give yourself the gift of a better night’s sleep for years to come by investing in better bedding. You’re worth it.
Which of these ideas will you implement tonight? And which will you implement next month? Take some time to reflect on how any changes, regardless of how subtle, affect you. Keep what works and drop what doesn’t. Keep experimenting. Everyone is different and will find unique sleep times and routines that work for them. Like I said earlier, there’s no “one size fits all.” Experiment to find your size and don’t judge what does or doesn’t work. That’s mindful sleeping.
Society programs us from birth that whatever we have or achieve and whoever we are is never enough. We’re subconsciously sent on a never-ending quest to accumulate more and better things, find better relationships, make ourselves different and “better,” achieve more goals, more, better, more, better…
Every time you achieve your next goal, you’re happy for a bit then the happiness bubble pops, and you’re on the path to another goal that you’re sure will make you happy. But the happiness never lasts. What’s wrong? You may ask: “What’s wrong with me? I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do but I never get “there.” I feel like I need to keep moving, searching, striving, achieving. It’s killing me! When will it end?!?!”
I know exactly how you feel. I’ve spent most of my life doing this. Nothing was ever good enough (for who, I never quite knew).
I got good grades, degree, and jobs that were never enough. I got certifications that I judged to be “what’s required” instead of achievements. When I was in relationships or friendships, I was either consciously or subconsciously looking for someone better.
This treadmill guarantees that you’ll never be happy. As long as you look for happiness outside of yourself, nothing will feel like the kind of lasting joy that you’re looking for.
When you compare yourself to others with the goals you achieve, how you appear on social media, the friends you surround yourself with or the jobs that you have, you’ll always come up “not good enough” and certainly (in your mind) not as happy as all those other people who have what you want.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” ~Jim Carrey
I’ve said before that happiness is a choice, not a destination. Anyone can choose to be happy regardless of their circumstances.
I think gratitude has everything to do with the choice to be happy. When you can pause and mindfully notice all the amazing things in your life right here, right now, you can’t help but feel happy (or “happyful” as the leader at Right Here, Right Now notes). Not that giddy “happiness bubble” kind of happy (although that’s definitely possible), but a happy, peaceful contentment that says, “Life is good.”
What you focus on grows. When you focus on what you’re grateful for, you’ll find more things to be grateful for. At first, this might seem difficult. It’s a practice that grows and slowly reveals its magic the more you practice it, like meditation or yoga. Do it for a bit and it will feel nice. Do it every day and, over time, it will transform you in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
When I started my gratitude practice many years ago, I was challenged to write three things I was grateful for each day. I was so used to seeing the negative and feeling depressed that coming up with three different things to be grateful for every day was one of the hardest things I had done.
Over time it became easier. Within a year, I was going through gratitude notebooks, filling up a couple pages each day. Some days it was hard to stop.
I started noticing that I was feeling a bit happier. My negative thought patterns were changing. I wasn’t blaming others for what was wrong in my life as much. I started noticing the great things about others that I hadn’t previously seen through my veil of negativity. And my depression was lifting.
I started to realize that I had a choice in how I saw the world. I noticed that the stories I had made up about myself, others and my world weren’t helping me, so I started to change them. If I could see people differently, then my presumptions about them could also change.
A whole new world that I couldn’t have imagined opened up to me. All from this simple daily practice practiced over time.
In this transformation, I noticed that “enough” didn’t matter as much. Instead of constantly striving to be more, better, enough, comparing myself to others and judging myself harshly, I was looking at others to see what was great about them that I could be grateful for. This helped to squelch the comparison monster.
Instead of feeling bad about myself and the stories I made up in my comparisons, I felt good. And the better I felt, the more I looked for the good in others and anything to be grateful for. Which continues to make me feel good every day.
The better I feel, the more effectively I can support others and be a better person, a better example. There are entirely too many negative role models in our day-to-day lives. I like to be the example that says it’s possible to be in a good mood, to have more good days than bad – to be happy.
Find the awesomeness in every day with a daily gratitude practice.
The next step is to begin your gratitude journal. You can do this electronically, but it tends to have a better effect if you put pen to paper. I’ve used both over time and find that physically writing it on paper helps to reinforce the underlying emotions more effectively.
Every day, preferably at the same time each day to create a habit, write three, five or ten things you’re grateful for. The challenge is to not repeat what you write each day.
Go deep with what you write. For example, don’t just write, “I’m grateful for my partner.” Each day you could instead dedicate your list to a certain aspect of your partner like their physical appearance, how their little actions help you feel better, how they’ve helped you to be a better person, how they express their unique selves in the world.
Along with each item on your gratitude list, write why you’re grateful for it and how that makes you feel. This is probably the most powerful part of the practice.
Things in life have meaning from the meaning you give them. Meaning creates emotions. Feelings and emotions determine how you feel and how you act.
Once this practice becomes a habit, you’ll find yourself looking for things to be grateful for throughout your day. You’ll subconsciously note things that you can add to your next list.
You’ll be looking for and focusing on the good around you. Because what you focus on grows, the good in your life will grow. Things that you used to take for granted will shine in a new light as you see how lucky you are to have all that greatness in your life.
3. Reflect on the changes your gratitude practice has created.
After maintaining this practice for a month or two, go back and read what you wrote when you started. I find it helpful to write the date above my daily list so I can get a sense of when I was writing what I wrote.
Take some time to reflect on the subtle changes that have occurred in how you see yourself and your world. Journal about that.
Your gratitude practice helps you to see that what makes you happy isn’t “out there.” It isn’t a goal to achieve. It isn’t a “better you” to become.
Happiness is how you choose to see yourself and your world. It’s not a light switch that you can suddenly turn on. It’s a process of learning that your choices, what you focus on and the stories you tell yourself can be changed to bring you that lasting happiness that everyone wants.
Starting a new meditation practice can be difficult. With all the information, apps, gadgets and books out there on the topic, it can feel like information overload. And all that information is probably keeping you from starting a practice that can help you manage all that overload.
I’ve put together a quick resource guide with some basics to get you started without getting overwhelmed. We’re not going to get into specific approaches and nuances. That’s simply more overload at this point. You want to know where to start and where you can learn more. And here it is.
What Meditation Is Not
Meditation does not involve sitting in a lotus position and zenning out for an hour (although it could). In fact, you don’t even have to sit down. There are many forms of meditation: walking, eating, cooking, moving. Check out the infographic below for more ideas.
Meditation does not involve completely clearing your mind and keeping in that state. The human brain wasn’t designed to work that way. Most long-time meditators can’t keep a clear mind for more than a minute or two (I know I can’t).
Meditation isn’t something you practice once a week or so and expect benefits. To reap some of the benefits you read about, it’s something that needs to be done almost every day. Small daily doses are much more effective than longer infrequent session.
Meditation isn’t goal- or accomplishment-oriented. The goal isn’t to clear your mind or be relaxed. It’s all about the process and the practice. Every time you meditate, it’s about noticing when your mind wanders and bringing it back to the present moment and your chosen point of focus (breath, candle, mantra, etc.). When you practice noticing and refocusing, you’re strengthening your ability to focus which pays dividends everywhere else in your life.
There’s No “Right Way”
There are no right or wrong ways of meditating. It doesn’t matter how or where you sit, whether you have your eyes open or closed, how you’re breathing, whether you’re silent or repeating a mantra or anything else. It’s all about the noticing and refocusing.
It’s up to you find your own “right way” – the way that works for you. Everyone is different. That’s why there are so many forms of meditation: transcendental, mindfulness, kundalini, zazen, guided… Like yoga, someone is dreaming up a new type every day.
Some people like to use apps for reminders, timers and guidance. Others completely avoid technology in their practice.
Experiment with many different methods. Mix and match to put together what works for you. Every so often, change things a bit because you’re always changing.
To start, you’ll need to make the time. I know, I know. You’re too busy and can’t even find five minutes. Reality alert: you just made the time to read this article and probably a few others. Where did that time come from?
If you need an excuse, call it a form of exercise. You’re exercising your mind. The stronger your mind gets with this exercise, the more effective you’ll be in everything else you do.
Carve out just five minutes to start. Even if you have an established practice, it feels so good to take five minutes outside of the normal times you practice to sit, breathe and be fully present.
In those five minutes, sit down wherever you want, close your eyes, relax your body (especially your face and jaw) and notice your breathing and any sensations in your body. Notice any sounds or smells. Notice the things you normally don’t think about or try to block from your mind.
Notice all this without judgment. Everything simply ‘is’ until you create a story about it. Don’t wish away aches and pains. Get objectively curious about them.
When you start thinking of anything in the past or the future or all your to-do’s (which will take a nanosecond to happen), notice it, don’t judge yourself as ‘bad’ for doing it (you’re human), and come back to the present and whatever you were initially noticing (i.e. your breath).
That’s all there is to it.
Learn More About Meditation
Beyond that very basic introduction to meditation, there’s an endless ocean of ways you can deepen and grow your practice.
If guided meditation is your thing, there are audios, videos and many apps available.
If you like variety and need some guidance to get started, for only $5 per month, you can have a meditation video emailed to you every day by going to Daily Meditation [aff].
Simple Habit is an app with a multitude of five to twenty minute guided meditations that you can use throughout your day. Just choose what you’re doing, and there’s a meditation for that. It also includes podcasts and tons of other info on meditation from a variety of teachers.
Another great app is 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics from Dan Harris. The app includes many of the big names in meditation in informative interviews and guided meditations. There are Q&A sections to answer all your questions.
There are endless books, videos, courses and other resources out there to help you with your meditation practice. The choices can be overwhelming. A course I found particularly helpful for all levels is Master Your Mind [aff] from LiveAndDare.com, a site devoted to meditation, where you can find answers to all of your questions about meditation.
The Master Your Mind program introduces you to a variety of meditation principles and techniques over the course of 35 days to start you on a daily habit of meditating.
The first few days only ask you to meditate for 2-3 minutes each day. Anyone can do that. In addition to the actual meditation practice, the program helps you to establish triggers and other supports for your new habit. It also helps you manage the inevitable distractions that will come up.
Throughout the 35 days, you’ll be introduced to a variety of techniques as you grow your practice to 20 minutes each day. Although I’ve been meditating for many years, I learned more about how I can deepen my practice and gain more benefits from it.
There are also online forums and sixty days of email access to the creator of the program. While I would have expected the program to cost a few hundred dollars, it’s quite accessible at only $59 for lifetime access. That’s a small investment for a lifetime of returns.
To make your practice more comfortable, you can put together your own pillows, blankets and cushions to sit on or invest in a zafu (cushion) and zabuton (mat) at Samadhi Cushions. The company is in Vermont and has been around for over forty years. They make their own products by hand and ship world-wide.
For a list of other meditation resources on the web, check out “Top 40 Meditation Blogs” (of which I’m one). It’s a great resource to learn about different approaches to the practice. You’re sure to find one that works for you here.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Take it one baby step at a time.