Meditation is associated with all sorts of life-altering benefits, including offering protection against Alzheimer’s Disease. It also helps keep you calmer, healthier, and sharper into old age. So whether you’re twenty or eighty, you can’t go wrong with starting a daily meditation practice.
In our last post about meditation we talked about how to get started with a new practice by breathing properly. This is an excellent skill, but unfortunately not the only thing you need to know in order to have truly rewarding sessions. The next step is learning an array of tricks for calming “monkey mind,” or your brain’s tendency to bounce from one subject to the next rather than remaining calm and empty.
While developing the necessary self-control to keep your mind blank is a lifelong process, here are 5 tricks that will help you get there.
1. Repeat a Mantra
Your mind is incredibly good at filling empty space. When it perceives you are trying to clear your mind, a bunch of other thoughts will rush in to replace the ones you’ve just managed to remove. Instead, don’t offer empty space by repeating a mantra. You can say it just in your mind, or aloud if you find this even more helpful. Whenever your brain starts to spin with thoughts again, just refocus on your mantra.
2. Hold a Picture in Your Mind
Sometimes holding a picture in your head can help keep your mind calm. Perhaps it’s the inside of a temple, or a green field, or a sparkling bay. Every time you feel the monkey mind acting up and asking questions, making judgments and criticisms, and generally wrecking your peace, return your inner “gaze” to the picture you’ve chosen.
3. Accept and Redirect
Another good strategy is just constant acceptance of your thoughts, then redirection back to your calm mental state. Instead of fighting the thoughts of getting frustrated when they come, note each one for what it is, and return to your blank state.
4. Say Affirmations
Affirmations can also help calm your mind. You can repeat ideas such as “I am focused,” “I am calm,” or “I control my thoughts.”
5. Count Along with Breath
Breath is a very powerful meditation tool. The best breathing patterns are slightly longer on the exhale than inhale. For example, in 3-5 counts, hold 1 count, out 4-6 counts. When your mind starts to distract you, just focus on the breath.
Again, don’t expect to master your whirling thoughts in a single session, or even a single year. It may take a lifetime to develop the calm control yogi masters and monks are said to have, or you may never get there at all. The good news is that simply trying still bestows positive mental effects.
You can extend the benefits of your practice by engaging in other activities afterward that also encourage your body and mind to remain calm. Consider getting some low-key exercise, such as yoga or stretching, or drinking a hot cup of Ujido Matcha, made in the traditional style and producing a relaxed, focused state of clarity.
Today could be the day you begin your new meditation practice, so don’t wait.
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