Meditation has multiple benefits, some of which we’ve already discussed. However, when we think of meditation, we often think of a monk on a hilltop in the middle of Nowhereville, Tibet.
There are two issues with this. Firstly, most of us don’t live in Nowheresville, Tibet, yet we still deserve to benefit from the pleasure of meditation. Second, meditation can contribute greatly to real world living and real life problems like dealing more effectively with traffic jams, screaming children, or annoying bosses.
But meditation and real-life interactions seem like a contradiction, no?
It is of course more challenging to be conscious and self-aware in a supermarket than it is in a meadow, but it’s still possible. Here are three tips to help you reach a state of continuous Zen.
Meditation, the art of focusing on one thing for an extended period of time, be it your breath, your thoughts, or the view, is a learned skill. In the beginning, you may find it difficult to focus for more than a couple seconds. As you practice, you find yourself maintaining concentration for longer periods of time.
The same is true for the environment in which you mediate. In the beginning you might need absolute silence around you, or maybe even nature sounds. As you progress, you might find yourself more readily able to meditate with increasing amounts of distraction.
It’s important to remember that to meditate; you don’t actually have to sit cross legged with your eyes closed and your arms in your lap. Your eyes can be open as you walk down the street, and if you focused your attention inward, you are meditating.
So try to practice self-awareness in increasingly distracting scenarios, the more you do it, the easier you’ll find it becomes.
I personally have created a ritual of meditating on the train on the way to work. This is neither the most nor the least distracting situation I can be in, but it’s a good way for me to practice outside of my ideal meditation zone.
A cool trick to help you overcome the distractions around you is to incorporate them into your meditation. You can simply tell yourself, “all the sounds around me merely serve to bring me deeper and deeper into relaxation; the louder it gets, the more deeply I will relax”.
The effectiveness of these instructions depends partially on how well relaxed you are before you begin. If you can begin your meditation in a quiet place and then step into a more busy area, this increases the chances of you staying relaxed for longer, because it’s easier to maintain your relaxed state than to enter it in the first place.
In a similar vein, if you tell yourself the previous statement while already in a relaxed state, it will be easier for your subconscious to actually implement the instructions. It is harder to “buy in” to this statement when you are still fully-conscious and trying to relax.
You can also use your imagination to help overcome distractions. I was once running a workshop in the bottom floor of a university dormitory. As soon as I began the guided meditation, I realized that there was loud sound of continuously running water from the myriad of students taking showers in the evening. I gave the participants the instructions to have all sounds just relax them further, but simultaneously, I tried imagining that I was actually by a flowing river.
Now, the running sewer water was not exactly the same sound as a babbling brook, but it was close enough that I was able to bridge the gap with my imagination and continue the meditation.
As we’ve discussed, it’s easier to maintain a state of relaxation, than enter it in the middle of the dentist’s waiting room. It isn’t always possible to prepare in advance, so another technique that can help capitalize on your previous meditation experience is re-induction.
The way it works is by creating a trigger or an anchor that allows you to instantly return to a certain state of mind.
Here’s how you might do it. You meditate in a quiet room, and have a nice relaxing experience. As you near the end of your session, you tell yourself “whenever I wish, I will return to this state by telling myself ‘Relax Now’” or “by tapping my leg with my forefinger”.
You can create any trigger you wish, and what happens is that your mind learns to associate a certain word action with a certain state of mind, and returns to that state much more quickly.
It is my hope that with continuous practice, incorporating your surroundings into your process, and inducing yourself back to your previous positive experiences, you’ll be able to remain calm and relaxed in the most distracting and trying of circumstances.
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