Cassidy Thedorf is an account director for GumGum's Canadian sales team.
Among the public, there are many misconceptions about meditation. Some people think it’s just about “clearing the mind.” Others think it requires sitting in a cross-legged lotus position, with incense burning, for 30 minutes straight.
In fact, meditating for just 2 minutes a day can have a profound impact on your health and happiness. It certainly has on mine. Soon after beginning a daily practice, I found that I was calmer, a better listener and more adept at handling life’s curveballs. I even found that I was sleeping better.
Later, once I had become a meditation teacher, I was fascinated to learn about how neuroscience supports the changes I saw in myself. It turns out we can rewire our brains in as little as 8 weeks of meditation. The fact is, neurons which fire together, wire together. We can create new neural pathways through the practice of meditation.
Here’s how it works: Each time we sit in meditation, practicing to focus on our breath, we learn how to focus off the cushion. Every time our minds wander, and we gently invite awareness back to the breath, we learn how to be more compassionate towards ourselves and others. Each time we accept the mind’s inevitable wanderings and embrace the moment as it is, we learn how to be more accepting of life. This, over time, enables us to skillfully respond to the present moment rather than put effort towards resisting it. With every practice of becoming aware of thought, or aware of emotion, we realize that we are not our thoughts, nor emotions. Rather, we are the awareness, the observer of thought and emotion.
It’s completely liberating to realize that thoughts are not things, and that emotions always pass. What’s constant, what’s true? Your breath, and your awareness. In mindful meditation, the only goal is to just be. A radical idea, but incredibly liberating to be without agenda. The truth is, the benefits of meditation are its natural byproducts, but not its purpose. The purpose is simply to breath, to be non-striving.
Here’s how you can do it yourself:
- If you are around family, friends or colleagues, let them know that you are taking this time to meditate
- Set a timer on your watch for anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes, with your phone on silent
- Find a comfortable position, whether that’s sitting, leaning against a wall, or lying down
- Try to have a relaxed yet alert position, with the spine straight
- Close your eyes, or gaze at the floor 2 feet ahead of you
- Focus on your breath
- Feel each breath as unique from the last
- You may wish to count breaths, in – 1, out – 1, in – 2, out – 2 up until 10, and then start over
- If you notice that your mind has wandered, simply notice where it went (“name to tame”) and gently (with kindness and compassion) invite your awareness back to your breath
- Always show compassion towards yourself. Every time that you notice that your mind has strayed, and invite your attention back to the breath, you strengthen a part of your brain (the anterior cingulate cortex)
- Consider it to be like training a puppy – always inviting the puppy (mind) back to the mat (breath)
- Thank yourself for taking the time to meditate!
- Repeat tomorrow... Meditation is a “dose response” – practice once per day, even if only for 2 minutes