how i meditate
One of the many habits I should do more often but don't is meditating. I love the mental clarity and tranquility it brings, and think everyone could benefit from a little bit of meditation in their lives. When I talk to people about meditation, though, I realize that most people have serious misconceptions about what it means to meditate.
Before we begin, I want to clarify that I'm not a monk, nor am I religious in any way. While being a monk is extremely cool, I recognize that most of us do not have the means to sit and meditate for hours every single day. We also likely share different goals than monks: monks use it to achieve spiritual transcendence, whereas I use meditation as a tool to improve my daily life.
I try to meditate twice a day for ten minutes each, once in the morning right after I wake up and once at night before I go to bed. When I meditate, I find a peaceful place (I like my front porch), sit down cross-legged on the floor, close my eyes, and pay deep attention to my senses. What do I hear, smell, and feel? How do these sensations make me feel? Why? Am I tired? I examine all my feelings and my mood as closely as I can.
It's normal to get lost in your thoughts when you do this. It happens to me hundreds of times in a session. The goal of meditation is not to stop the flow of your thoughts. That would not only be unnatural, but also impossible. You should simply strive to develop an awareness of what you are thinking. When you notice yourself lost in a thought, gently bring yourself back to being present and just noticing. This will happen over and over again, but if you keep to it you will gradually start to notice more quickly.
What's the purpose of this exercise, you ask? The goal is to develop a constant awareness of what you are thinking, doing, and feeling that lasts long beyond the ten minutes you spend meditating. Because meditation isn't about the short time you spend sitting with your legs crossed and eyes closed. It's really about the rest of your life, about exercising a mindfulness that permeates your every waking moment, even when you're not sitting quietly.
You'll see after you start meditating that your mind feels much clearer immediately afterwards. This clarity will fade quickly, but it's okay—that's normal. You can meditate again to revisit that mindspace, and with practice its aftereffects will last longer.
That being said, you don't need to meditate a certain way or number of times each day. Feel free to meditate as often as you like. You can also practice mindfulness standing up, laying down, with your eyes open, or on walks. It just so happens that doing it seated, with eyes closed once a day is the easiest way to get started, build a habit, and reap benefits.
Seeking this mindfulness comes with a whole host of benefits. The most important one, at least to me, is that you enjoy life a lot more when immersed in the moment. Paying attention to individual senses heightens them, letting you notice things you might not have before. When you're in the present, unfettered by worry and stress, even the simplest things can bring immense joy, like the beauty of birdsong in the morning or the coolness of the air on your skin.
This awareness also helps you make better choices, because it makes you conscious of mindless habits like doomscrolling, binge eating, or saying unkind things. When you have this awareness in every moment, you won't do these things anymore, because you'll notice and stop yourself before.
Meditating can be a daunting task to get into, so I encourage people to use whatever tools they can to make it easier. Headspace is the first to come to mind for most people, but my favorite that I've tried is Waking Up by Sam Harris. Both of these apps are freemium, which means you'll need to pay to get any more than a small selection of free content, but I think they have enough for you to get started.
I'll leave you with my favorite text, This is Water by David Foster Wallace. He doesn't mention meditation by name, but the awareness he describes is what we should aim to achieve through meditation.