An Expert Shares His Meditation Tips and Tricks
As our brains become accustomed to being over-stimulated morning, noon and night, it’s getting increasingly more difficult – and also more important – to learn how to truly switch off and do absolutely nothing. Yoga followed by a few minutes of meditation is incorporated daily into Chōsen experiences and teaches participants how to slow their bodies down and calm their minds. To find out more about the ancient art of meditation and more importantly how to incorporate it easily into our daily lives we asked Mingyur Rinpoche, a monk with more than thirty years of knowledge, to share his top tips and insights with us.
What’s the trick to ‘thinking about nothing’?
We cannot block thoughts and emotions, and we shouldn’t try to. If you tell yourself not to think of something in particular, I can guarantee that all you will think about is that exact thing. Focus is another common area where people make mistakes. Focus gently and don’t concentrate too hard. Try to relax and don’t force yourself to think or not think. Meditating should feel gentle – not forced.
What are the main benefits of meditation?
First, there is the effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing. You will have greater clarity, which will make you calmer. Normally, our minds are like crazy monkeys: and the mind is our boss, so how you think and feel will reflect in your actions. You can seek out material wealth – a nice house, an expensive car, and a new phone – but if your mind is not happy then these things will not change your feelings. Meditation can help you to be happy within yourself – and then, whatever you have, wherever you are, you can find happiness. Secondly, meditation gives you greater control over your mind and thoughts. It is more than simply being calm: you will understand yourself better and how to use your brain to focus on what is important. Consider this: you are trying to eat more healthily but you have a weakness for junk food. Without meditation, seeing a hamburger would have you breaking your diet in a heartbeat. But, with meditation, you can improve your self-control and it will become easier to stick to your resolutions. Thirdly, meditation is good for our physical health. By releasing stress it improves our immune system, slows ageing and promotes longevity. It can help with illness, like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Keeping a good mental state has a physical impact: some things are mind over matter.
What are your top tips for meditation novices?
First, allow for the fact that you might not be able to relax. Once you stop worrying about whether or not you can relax, you can actually begin to relax. Secondly, focus on breathing to relax your mind. The aim is to focus on one thing: so breathe in, breathe out, and concentrate on how that feels. My third piece of advice would be to not block thoughts: whilst you want to be focusing on one thing, that doesn’t mean that you can’t also have other ideas running through your head. They will come and go, but as long as you don’t chase them and remain aware of your breathing, then you are still meditating. Fourth, remember that you can meditate anywhere, and anytime, for as long as you like: don’t limit yourself. One of the best times to meditate is while you exercise – research shows that our perception changes when we exercise because of endorphins in the brain. This can unlock a lot of positive energy, which will take your meditation in a very positive direction. Doing many shorter meditation sessions can be as beneficial as one longer one – you have to find what works for you. Finally, don’t get attached to a meditation experience. Meditation is an ocean: it goes up and down, like the stock market. No two experiences will be the same, and it will lead to disappointment if you expect that: on days when you are busy, stressed or feeling sensitive, you may struggle to meditate or have a different experience.