My meditation practice has improved exponentially over the past year. I’ve been meditating in one form or another for about 12 years. I first started out taking some classes that looked a lot like Transcendental Meditation in a group setting. I was quickly turned off from that practice once I was told to ‘picture the guru in the light within my heart.’ Nothing against gurus, it just didn’t work for me.
I then attended a breathing practice meditation, but found that the idea of going somewhere to meditate was prohibitive to my schedule, mostly because I was lazy to do so. Books and audio were next on my journey and over time I cobbled together an erratic practice at best. Sometimes lying in bed and meditating, only to find myself falling asleep. Trying to sit upright with my legs crossed doing my best to imitate what I thought meditation should look like, but would find the position uncomfortable and aggravating to my lower back.
Finally about a year ago I found my sweet spot. I made a few small adjustments and can now meditate for an hour if I choose to without any discomfort and feeling as though only minutes have gone by.
Here are the changes I made that improved my practice
- Setup a large pillow against the wall and a blanket on the floor (see above pic). The pillow helps with the discomfort I felt in back from my previously herniated discs. The blanket provides just the right amount of comfort and warmth especially since I tend to get cold easily.
- I changed my breathing patterns. I used to count my breathing probably like most individuals do. Starting at 1 breathe in, 2 breathe out, 3 breathe in etc., however I found that by the time I reached 8 or 9 my mind started to wander and was no longer counting. The simple change I made was to only count in a 1, 2 cadence. So breathe in 1 and out 2, in 1 out 2 etc. At this pace I can concentrate on my breathing much longer
- Cut down significantly on my alcohol intake. I’ve never been a big drinker, but what I noticed was that even one glass of wine would make my mind groggy the next morning and my meditation would not be as clear. So I made the choice to cut out alcohol, which has been a little bit of an issue socially but return on meditation has been phenomenal.
My technique. Again after all the years of practice I decided to create my own method, justifying by telling myself that some kind of practice is better than none at all. My meditation practice depends on the kind of day I’m going to have. I always incorporate my breathing technique for some period of my meditation time because it helps me relax and center myself. Then I combine it with one of the following
- Open monitoring. If I have a somewhat normal day of meetings and work related stuff then I spend my meditation time just recognizing my thoughts and allowing them to pass along while trying not to focus too much on any one of them. I find this very useful because many times I find my thoughts to be memories of the previous days and I almost feel as though I able to file the relevant ones into my mind for later recall if needed.
- If I have an important meeting that day then I try to envision the outcome of that meeting and how I want the conversation to flow. It’s almost as though I do a dry run so that when I’m actually in the meeting I don’t feel as though it’s my first time being there. The other part of visioneering is seeing how I would like my future to unfold and what steps I have to take to get there. This very often brings a smile to my face and I feel the corners of my mouth turn up as I meditate and is one of my favorite things to do.
The results I’ve seen in past year have been incredible.
- Increased focus
- Improved recall
- The ability to control my heart rate. My internal ninja loves this one. I’ve always had a great resting heart rate but after my meditation began to improve I was able to bring my resting heart down to the low 40’s at will.