Last updated December, 2019.
"Your post on the difference between mindfulness and meditation really cleared up what they are. Having said that, I find lots of different and conflicting instructions on the Internet. Can you explain how I should do it in simple terms?"
When it comes to meditating, there are a lot of misconceptions. Not to mention confusing and conflicting information. We can clear it up for you!
Meditating isn't something mystical. You don't have to adopt a new philosophy or religion. And, it's not about wearing robes, sitting in an uncomfortable position, or listening to "guided" instructions.
You can sit in an uncomfortable position if you want. But, all you really need is a straight back. A straight back promotes alertness - so use a chair, the couch (don't slouch!), or sit on the floor with your back against the wall.
Set a timer for 5 minutes (start small, add more later). Take a few deep breaths, and then let it flow naturally. Don't try to control it.
Focus your attention on your breath as it enters and exits your nostrils (or, on your stomach as it rises and falls). This is called your anchor.
At some point, you will notice your attention has wandered and you'll become aware of thoughts. You will probably be flooded with them! They might be about work, a future situation you’re worried about, that guy that cut you off in traffic earlier, something stupid you said or did, how annoyed you are at your friend’s post on Facebook…the possibilities are endless!
When you notice your attention has wandered and you're aware of thoughts, simply return it to your anchor.
That’s the objective. It’s not to control thoughts or to stop thinking. It’s to strengthen awareness by noticing your attention is caught up in them, and returning it to your anchor.
"Notice and return," over and over again.
A consistent meditation practice delivers numerous benefits backed by scientific studies. In simple terms, however, it helps distance you from the non-stop mental noise that gives rise to stress, anxiety, self-doubt, extreme emotions, a lack of focus...and on and on.
It helps you break the habit of being lost in thought: dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, fantasizing about an alternate reality (i.e., thinking about something other than right here and now).
It helps you reverse the conditioned behavior (habitual actions and reactions) that leads to the struggles in life.
That's it. Sit straight. Your breath is your anchor - focus your attention on it. When you notice it has wandered and you're aware of thoughts, return your attention to your anchor.
"Your inner narrative"
How do I just “let things be”?
“Your thoughts about the situation cause you to suffer more than the situation itself” — what does that even mean?
How do I get proper instruction in meditation and mindfulness?
“Your inner narrative” — our 15 day meditation challenge — answers all these questions (click here to read about it).