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How to meditate on a busy day?
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
What am I thinking? How am I feeling?
I ask myself these questions every day at 9 a.m. On the one hand, I want to make sure my attention is spent on important projects. If I don’t ask myself this question, I’ll default to whatever is on my calendar. While these productivity sprints are great for short-term outputs, they rarely move the long-term strategic needle. These questions help me do less and think more.
On the other hand, I want to create a better relationship with myself. I want to stress less and enjoy life. I tend to push myself too hard and expect others to be on top of their games. Such behavior has backfired in my life. These questions help me be more mindful of myself and others. Because life can be hard. Because we can all benefit from some kindness.
Tons of research has already validated the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. One study shows that mindfulness practice can increase the density of gray matter in your brain, which is responsible for learning, memory and emotional regulation. Another study shows that meditation increases the thickness of your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for attention and working memory. It improves your focus, productivity, and creativity.
While it’s cool to learn about all these scientific benefits, I’m more interested in this simple question: How good can life get when I meditate every day?
To understand the impact, I signed up for a transcendental meditation practice in early 2020. The practice was surprisingly simple. You don’t need an app or a unique room. You can meditate from anywhere, as long as you sit with your back supported and head free.
The practice consists of two main parts:
Unstress with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is like watching life unfold in slow motion.
We can start with the following exercises:
Notice your five senses. Pay attention to your sight (or the light through your eyelid), sound, smell, taste, and touch. If you find it hard to hold all five senses simultaneously, you can start by focusing on one sense at a time.
Notice your thoughts. What’s top of mind for you right now? There’s no need to clear your thoughts. Notice the images, sounds, and memories that come up.
Notice your feelings. Observe the sensations in your body. Are you feeling glad, sad, or mad? Watch them without trying to change them.
When we pay attention to our five senses, we will notice things we haven’t noticed before.
Repeat your mantra.
Transcendental meditation is a mantra-based meditation. This means that we get to repeat a word or phrase over and over. The mantra can be some Sanskrit words or anything that sounds charming to you.
While some mantras may be more potent than others, I don’t know if there’s a significant effect. After all, there is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. When I first started to meditate, I found myself yawning (and crying) a lot. I later learned that yawning indicates my body is slowing down, taking the oxygen it needs, and giving the brain, lungs, and heart what it needs to thrive. In short, they are good tears!
Once you sit with your mantra for 10 to 15 minutes, you can wrap up the practice by answering the question: What are you grateful for today?
For a smoother transition, keep your eyes closed for another 1 to 2 minutes—and slowly open your eyes.
How can you make time for meditation on a busy day?
Wake up a bit early. Or block off 20 minutes on your calendar. These mindful minutes can make a big difference in your day.
You will be more productive, and the rest of the day will be less stressful. If you’d like to check out our mindfulness workshop, leave a comment and let us know!