If your life feels like one big to do list, meditation may be just what you need. We know, how can you add one more item to a list that’s already three pages long? Andrea McLeod, author of Meditation: Simple Steps for Health and Well Being, makes it simple. “Meditation is a fancy word for paying attention—paying attention to yourself and paying attention to your world.”
There’s no right or wrong way to meditate, says McLeod, offering five easy meditation tips to build meditation and its benefits like mental clarity and physical relaxation into even the busiest day.
Count Your Breath. You can do this anywhere. “A bonus to using your breath as a focal point is that it’s always with you, anytime, anywhere.” Sit in whatever fashion suits the circumstances and take a moment to get comfortable. Breathe naturally, listening to the sound of your breath, until you feel relaxed. Begin counting your breaths (an inhalation and an exhalation equal one breath). Once you reach ten, you can stop or begin again at one.
Hug Someone You Care About. “Make hugging often a general practice,” suggests McLeod. “It’s one of the nicest things you can do for yourself and for others.” Your hug is a way to mindfully connect with another human being. “Don’t get distracted or let your mind wander. Take a deep breath, relax your body, calm your mind, and really feel the person in your arms.”
Silence is hard to come by these days, so it’s important that we seek it out. A silent lunch is an easy way to fit quiet time into your schedule.
Eat Lunch—Quietly. “Silence is hard to come by these days,” says McLeod, “so it’s important that we seek it out. A silent lunch is an easy way to fit quiet time into your schedule.” Take a bagged lunch to a place you know will be relatively quiet—a park, an empty meeting room or classroom. Leave phones and other devices behind for the 30 minutes or so you’ll have to yourself. “Clear your head of its babble, don’t talk to anyone, and if someone talks to you or asks to join you, kindly let them know you’re taking some much-needed private time. They will understand.”
Ride It Out. “A car ride is the perfect time for a little mindful meditation. Peaceful, private, the car can become your personal sanctuary.” The keys to a successful drive-time meditation are good music (or none at all), an open and alert mind, and an appreciation of the journey. “Use of the horn is strictly prohibited, as is the lead foot. The finger, also off-limits,” says McLeod. Start the car, put on some mellow music, take a deep breath and cruise. Get comfortable in your seat. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. “Slow down! No racing from point A to point B, no weaving or tailgating. Just drive.” Think only about your driving, not about yesterday or tomorrow. Drive safely and attentively, aware of your surroundings and the journey you are taking. “When someone cuts you off, just take a deep breath and, on the exhalation, smile at life.”
Tune In. Do you really listen when other people talk? “A lot of us hear words without really considering their meaning,” says McLeod. Listening is an art that must be practiced, but it’s well worth the effort. The next time you’re with someone for lunch, dinner, on a walk, or even at a meeting, focus on the other person’s words. Thoughtfully, attentively hear what he or she is saying. “Don’t let your eyes glaze over as your attention starts to fade,” cautions McLeod. “Notice your own body language and your own instinctual desire to jump in and speak. Notice the amount of difficulty you may or may not be having staying engaged in the conversation.” McLeod suggests trying this exercise at a party, where cocktails, noise, food and high spirits will test your focus and concentration.
These are easy tips for meditation to add to your daily routine, but don’t stop there. “When you walk,” says McLeod, “be aware of each step. When you sit, sit with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. When you breathe, breathe deeply and deliberately. When you communicate, speak thoughtfully and listen attentively. When you work or study, focus entirely on the project at hand.” Tweaking what you do every day will make it easier to bring yourself into mindfulness whenever you want to. “With some practice,” promises McLeod, “the only tool you’ll really need to meditate is your mind