Meditation has made its way into the mainstream. And for good reason. Its benefits have been proven and scientifically backed. In fact, a quick Google search on the topic will bring up multiple types of meditation—like breathing, transcendental and zazen among others. With all these options, you may feel so overwhelmed that you give up on meditation before even trying it. Not to worry. There is an incredibly easy way to meditate that almost everyone overlooks. In fact, it’s so easy, even a 2-year-old could do it. What is it? It can be summed up in one word.
At the core of most meditation practices is stillness. So if you want to give meditation a try, all you need to do is sit still for five minutes, or even one minute. Now of course you can do more than just be still, and many advanced meditators will. But if you’re just getting started, stillness is enough.
Why stillness works
To understand why stillness is effective, we first need to look at the problem meditation is solving. That problem is reactivity. Now, “What is that?” you may ask. Reactivity is what happens when you react to any kind of stimuli without thinking. In other words, you react automatically. An example might be if someone cuts you off in traffic. When this happens, most people will automatically honk their horn without a second thought.
Meditation brings awareness, or consciousness, into your automatic reactions. This is important because when we react automatically, we aren’t in control of our actions or feelings anymore. To return to the horn honking example, most people by default will get really irritated when they’re cut off in traffic. So much so that it can have a negative impact on the rest of their day. Wouldn’t it be great if you could change this? Instead of getting angry, you brush off the experience quickly and carry on with your day. When you practice meditation enough, this becomes an option.
How meditation decreases reactivity
In most forms of meditation, walking meditation aside, you are training yourself not to react. For example, if while sitting in meditation your phone rings, you don’t answer it. If you get an email alert, you don’t react. If you feel stressed about your workday, you don’t do anything—you just sit still with those feelings. Unless there is an emergency, like a fire or an earthquake, you do not move a muscle.
By being still, you are consciously choosing to ignore your impulse to act. The keyword here is choice. Meditation creates a choice in a situation where you would normally just react, and your body and mind will instinctively remember this later on—outside of meditation. So if someone later cuts you off in traffic or says something negative to you, then you can choose not to react negatively back. You’ll be aware that you have a choice because you’ve trained your mind and body to recognize when you’re acting on autopilot. And as you meditate more often, your choice of reaction will go beyond physical means. You’ll eventually be able to choose how you react emotionally as well. So if someone does something hurtful to you, you can choose not to be angry or upset.
How to meditate
Again, all you have to do is be still, and you can do this in really any position you want. In other words, you don’t have to sit. You can also meditate lying down.
Once you’re in a comfortable position, find a spot to focus on—like a light switch, an outlet or a mark on the wall—and just be still. If you want, you can also set an alarm beforehand for five minutes, ten or however long you want to meditate.
So just be still?
Well, there are a few other things you can focus on while being still. Here are two ideas:
- Sounds – when you first start meditating, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is just how many thoughts you have running through your head. This can produce a lot of anxiety for beginners. So to combat this, listen to something relaxing like soft music, nature sounds or even the white noise of a fan.
- Sensations in your body – take a moment and place your attention in your hand. What does it feel like? You can probably feel the blood flowing and a beating sensation, similar to that if you literally place your fingers on someone else’s pulse. So as a third option to sounds and stillness, you can also focus on the feelings in a specific body part while meditating. One quick note though, make sure not to solely focus on any body part that’s experiencing a negative feeling—like anxiety or a headache. Doing so will just compound the negative sensation.
While these are just two small things you can focus on in meditation, the key ingredient is stillness. So next time you’re thinking of giving meditation a try, be still for just five minutes. Do it once a week, then twice the next and build up your new practice week after week. It will get easier as you go along. And if you keep it at, you’ll finally gain the calm and clarity that a regular meditation practice offers.