I have been practicing Yoga and Meditation for almost 25 years and I will share a little secret with you: the Brain almost never shuts up, we have very busy minds. It doesn’t matter how much yoga or meditation you practice, there will always be chatter in your mind.
But wait! Don’t lose hope! The point of meditation is NOT to quiet the mind. Let that sink in for a moment. I’ll say it again, the point of meditation is not to quiet the mind, rather to release your attachment to what is happening there. The mind is always going, the purpose of meditation is to lose your reactivity, lose your judgment of yourself and others, lose your attachment to what is happening mentally, and instead just allow whatever is there to be there. Thoughts, sounds, sensations will come and go, meditation creates space inside your mind for you to tolerate whatever arises.
Research shows that meditation offers mental, emotional, and physical health benefits (a quick Google search brings up many pages of articles). Health benefits include:
- Reduced anxiety, stress, and depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Improved memory and focus
- Less pain
- Improved self-love and acceptance
- And more
The good news is you don’t need to meditate for an hour a day to feel benefits. 3 minutes of mindfulness changes your brain chemistry for the better. Regular meditation has the most health benefits, but even a short meditation practice once or twice a week will make a difference in how you feel overall. Start small, start slow, maybe set a timer for 3-5 minutes to start. The most lasting changes are gradual, so just start with one sitting and see how you feel.
Simple meditation for your busy brain:
The simplest form of meditation is observing the breath. It doesn’t require any equipment and you can do it anywhere.
Start in a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. If you choose to lie down, ask yourself if you might fall asleep in that position, and if you answer yes, then choose a seated position. Sit comfortably with your spine upright and your hips and shoulders relaxed. If you feel strain in your hips or back when sitting, try to sit with your hips higher than your knees (maybe use a chair or sit on a cushion, yoga block, or rolled-up towel). Let your knees be supported, rather than hanging in the air. You want your body to be comfortable so that it doesn’t add to your distractions.
Once you are comfortable, close your eyes. Take 3 deep, slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your neck, jaw, and shoulders relaxing and dropping with each exhale. After your third breath, return to normal breathing. Notice your inhale and your exhale. Notice the tendency of your mind to try to analyze or talk about the breath. See if you can notice your breath without words. Notice the impulse to control or deepen the breath. Simply allow the breath to happen. Be with your body breathing for you, ride the wave of your breath.
You may notice that your mind wanders rather quickly and the mental chatter kicks up within seconds. When it does, come back to your breath and start again. Start again without judgment. Notice if you criticize yourself when your mind wanders. See if you can start again without criticism, but instead, hold a loving, caring, and kind feeling toward yourself instead. Notice how that feels. Begin again every time you notice your mind wandering (and it will wander. A lot. Especially at first. Eventually it wanders less). Just be present, notice the thoughts like you notice the breath. Be patient, gentle, and kind with your self-talk. Ideally, there is no self-talk, just background noise, but meet yourself where you are.
Over time, with practice, you will find more space between your thoughts. You will notice your thoughts but won’t attach your mind to them. You will be able to let your thoughts flow like water down a river, while you sit peacefully on the water’s edge. You might even be able to sit in the water, letting the river of thoughts flow all around you while you remain still and dry in the center.
Finding peace in the center of the chaos is one possible result of practicing meditation, but even if you don’t feel that way, you are still benefitting from sitting and practicing. It’s a practice, not a perfect. The practice is what matters, not the result. Do the best that you can. That is enough.
Watch/listen to a guided version of the above meditation: