I like a bit of a challenge, but I also like the possibility of winning. When I first started meditating it did not seem like it was possible to win at meditating. This was because my mindset was wrong. This post is for beginning meditators struggling with their practice. If you already have an established meditation routine you will probably not benefit from this post.
How not to meditate
I learned a specific type of “focus on your breathing meditation”. This was the instruction: focus on your breath. Every time your focus drifts away from your breath you “fail” and you have to bring it back to your breathing. Anyone who has tried meditating knows: with this mindset you’ll set yourself up for a lot of failing. For me, this meant I did not particularly enjoy meditating and I could not keep up the habit of doing it regularly.
A different way to see meditation
I recently found a different way to see meditation. Imagine your mind as a muscle, and treat meditation as a mental workout. Every time you bring your attention back to your breathing is the equivalent of you lifting the dumbbell in the gym. In other words: the more your attention wanders, the more you train your focus-muscle!
When to meditate
The more difficult you find it to keep focusing on your breathing (or your work) the more you probably benefit from the practice. I found that doing 5 minutes of this meditation exercise calms my mind down and improves my focus, calmness and effectiveness in whatever I do afterwards.
Meditate whenever you feel like your focus is slacking. Or make it into a daily habit. 5 minutes right after waking up, right after your early morning meeting etc.
How to (breath-focus) meditate
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Focus on your breathing
- Direct your focus back to your breathing whenever it wanders.
As opposed to thinking you’ve failed every time you notice your attention is not on your breathing anymore, know that you win every time you’re able to bring back your attention to your breathing.