Mindfulness for the skeptics
Seeking Zen and not knowing what to try? Not having enough time or the will to try every kind of meditation there is out there? Ironically that increases your stress levels even more. Fear not, here I’ve distilled down the core concept and show you how to get started.
Give me Zen! Stat!!
Zen is the art of inquiry, this is somewhat different from popular usage of the word where it could mean simplicity, calmness, being in the moment, minimalism, or inner peace. Technicality aside, what most of us are looking for is the peace, the calmness from mechanisms of life overwhelming us. But it is unrealistic for us to expect to take months to go away in to the woods and do a deep introspection with meditation. What we are seeking is a way that can be easily incorporated into our daily routine and life.
Who is it for ?
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when some one mentions, meditation or mindfulness? Is it a guru sitting cross legged in an ashram? Hippies sitting in a circle chanting? The sooner meditation shake off this image the better because, it is too good to be confined to a small group of the society.
Meditation originated in ancient India and was a Vedic practice to train the mind. And it is ingrained with Hindu/Vedic traditions and religious practices (4). This has the immediate effect of us wondering if have to adopt these traditions and practices to do meditation. The answer is no. The power of training the mind shouldn’t be confined to a social constructs like a tradition or a religion. The core principles of meditation are without these historical baggage.
These days, top performing athletes (1a,1b,1c), business executives (2a,2b,2c), and even US Marines (3a,3b) too taken up meditation as a way of training the mind in order to deal with stressful situations.
What is the purpose of mindfulness ?
Most of our troubles come from our inability to disassociated ourselves from our feelings. This association means we act without thinking on the impulse. There are good reasons why we were evolved this way. Feelings and emotions are what makes us human. We can not suppress our emotions, we can only observe them, with practice. This awareness is what we call the mindfulness. When we are aware of our emotions, it gives options to respond in a way that’s beneficial to us. Without this awareness, we would just be reacting. For example, someone’s words may make you angry, and your instinct is to shout back. That gives no options to articulate the response. But being aware of our anger building up, could give us time to formulate a better response.
What is the difference
meditation and mindfulness ?
How do we acquire this awareness? This is where practicing is necessary. Meditation is the structure that provides the mechanism of cultivating the awareness (Mindfulness). Meditation has strong associations to religion and spirituality. But in its core, it is a mechanism that provide guidance to train our minds to increase our awareness.
What are the benefits of mindfulness ?
You don’t change yourself to practice meditation. The change comes from your new found awareness that gives you options for well thought-out action. Training the mind to see clearly and be aware of yourself has the effects that are positive and in general improves your life and people around you. And they may see you in a new light because of your positive actions resulting from your new found awareness. Our actions are like ripples in a pond, they radiate outward and touches others around us. This is common sense, and no religious aspects are adopted or changed.
Is meditation a skill ?
Like any other learnable skill meditation is something you can practice and learn. But as with learning anything, consistency matters. It’s not something you could try for a few minutes one day and then again weeks later. But the good news is that you could start small for example 5 or 10 minutes a day, and with regular practice each day you will build up the habit as well as the skill. One thing to note is that it is not a “give me serenity! stat!” kind of a deal. Patience with yourself is necessary, you may not get the focus immediately, you may be slightly uncomfortable sitting in silence, but key is to stick with it.
Is it difficult to get started ?
It’s very easy to get started, it doesn’t need expensive equipment, large time commitment or change your schedule. Only thing you need is to find an uninterrupted 10 minutes each day at a specific time dedicated to practicing meditation. Now, once you have this time allocated, half the battle is won. In terms of guidance, there are lots of apps, videos and audio tracks available on the internet. One of the easiest way to start focusing is to use our Sanebrain app, which is free get started.
The core concept is to count down from a number like 30, or 60 depending on your session duration selected. Once you hear the bell, you tap in the number. It’s very easy. Very low ceremony, no need to be sitting cross legged or some other pose. You could just do this anywhere. This is one of the important part of meditation, and mindfulness. When you train at a specific place in a specific pose. You associate mindfulness with that place and arrangement. But we should be able to be mindful anywhere. So with our app, we try to remove all except the core essential concept.
Your mind may wander while waiting for the bell, but as soon as you hear it, you recompose, gather your focus to do one simple action - type in a number. This is the essence of meditation: mind wanders and you repeatedly bring it back to focus. When this is done enough times, you would be able to be see how your mind wander, the thoughts you’re thinking, and feelings arising from them. Just like body building, heavy weights, you start with smaller weights and build up the strength. With consistent practice, you would get better at bringing yourself to focus.
To help you build up a habit, you could set up a daily reminder. If you prefer to meditate before going to sleep, there’s dark mode option. As always, we love to hear from you, please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- [1a] “We Are Talking About Practice”: the Influence of Mindfulness vs. Relaxation Training on Athletes’ Attention and Well-Being over High-Demand Intervals Joshua D. Rooks, Alexandra B. Morrison, Merissa Goolsarran, Scott L. Rogers & Amishi P. Jha
- [1b] To Train an Athlete, Add 12 Minutes of Meditation to the Daily Mix Gretchen Reynolds
- [1c] Mindfulness Training in Elite Athletes: mPEAK with BMX Cyclists. In A. L. Baltzell (Ed.), Mindfulness and Performance (pp. 186–208). chapter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Haase, L., Kenttä, G., Hickman, S., Baltzell, A. L., & Paulus, M. (2016)
- [2a] 11 Wildly Successful Entrepreneurs Who Swear by Daily Meditation James Paine
- [2b] 5 successful business leaders that have used meditation to improve productivity, creativity, and business acumen Jayson DeMers
- [2c] List of CEOs who meditate at work Kayla Kozan
- [3a] Mindfulness Training in Marines Lori Hasse PhD, Clinical Psychologist, University of California San Diego School of Medicine
- [3b]Modifying resilience mechanisms in at-risk individuals: a controlled study of mindfulness training in Marines preparing for deployment. Johnson, Douglas C et al. The American journal of psychiatry vol. 171,8 (2014): 844-53.
- History of Meditation Elaine Mead BSc in Psychology and Criminology
- Photo Credit Joseph Barrientos, Ashley Batz on Unsplash