For many of us, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of unconsciously rushing through our lives without ever being fully immersed in the present moment.
For many of us, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of unconsciously rushing through our lives without ever being fully immersed in the present moment – and it’s affecting our health and our happiness. The ancient art of meditation involves sitting comfortably, focusing on our breathing, and bringing our mind’s attention to the present without wandering back to the past or drifting into the future.
The practice has become more popular than ever, with a wealth of research suggesting that regular meditation not only brings a sense of peacefulness and relaxation, but health benefits such as improved immunity, lower inflammation and decreased pain. Additionally, brain-imaging studies show that meditation sharpens attention, improves memory and enhances decision-making ability.
The list goes on. Meditation has been linked to decreased feelings of anxiety, sharper emotional intelligence, increased happiness and greater compassion.
The meditation diary below sets you a goal of meditating every day for 21 days. The best way to create a positive habit is to make it a part of your daily routine for a consecutive period of time, so choose a place and a time you’re going to meditate each day and record your experience using this diary.
The following breathing exercise should be carried out before any mindful activity.
Set an alarm for 10 minutes. Assume a comfortable sitting position. Keep your spine straight and let your shoulder blades roll back and down. Rest your hands where they feel most comfortable, the palms can be up or down. Make any adjustments you need to.
Take five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable with this; if not, focus on an object on the floor a few metres in front of you.
Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breath. Don’t try to change it or make the duration of each breath longer or shorter. Find a place where you can feel it strongly, in the nostrils, chest or stomach. Rest your attention there. Don’t try too hard to relax.
Pay attention to the full in-breath and the full out-breath. Notice the spaces in between, the gaps at the top of the in-breath and the gaps at the bottom of the out-breath. Notice whether each breath is fast or slow, deep or shallow.
Carry on observing the breath for the remainder of the time. If your mind wanders off, notice where it has gone and gently, without judgement, bring it back to focus on the breath. If the mind wanders off a thousand times, bring it back a thousand times. Try not to chase your thoughts, or become involved in their content, just observe them and let them go.
When the alarm sounds, let go of any focus on the breath, and allow your mind to wander. Stay this way for a few moments. To complete the practice, place the palms of your hands over your eyes, and open them slowly. Allow some light to filter in. Slowly remove your hands and become aware of your immediate surroundings. Continue your day with the intention of remaining mindful.