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A Meditation a Day Helps You Work, Rest, and Play

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Wherever you look meditation is recommended as a solution for everything from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to finding your purpose in life. I didn’t have IBS, but I did want to find my purpose in life. So around five years ago I started meditating.

There’s no shortage of how-to books and articles. I read a lot of them. Read them, you’ll find lots of sensible advice. But once you’re done reading, you actually have to get down to it. And for me, that was tough. Real tough. Nothing seemed to stick.

In the end, after many false starts, I developed my own program. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you. I’m thinking of turning it into a book, a DVD, a series of expensive workshops, and a worldwide speaking program. But before I become rich and famous and you see me on daytime TV, here’s a sneak preview of the full, soon-to-be-bestselling A Meditation a Day Helps You Work, Rest, and Play course.

Meditation for Beginners:
Beginning is of course, the hardest part.

1. Determine a start date and write it in your diary. The night before, set your alarm clock for an hour before you would normally get up. Of course you’ll be tired and really need an extra hour’s sleep but that’s really not the point.
2. The next morning, at the appointed hour, force yourself to get up in the pre-dawn darkness, find a suitable spot on the floor, and sit yourself down in a cross-legged position. Make sure your back is straight. If it’s chilly, wrap yourself in a blanket. I know it’s cold, hard and draughty on the floor, but this is meditation. It’s not supposed to be easy.  Stop complaining.
3. Close your eyes and try to empty your mind. Focus on a single thought, or object and watch your breath. You’ll find this completely impossible, but that’s the least of your worries. After five to ten minutes your back will start to hurt.
4. Continue. Ignore the throbbing pain in your back. Remember Jane Fonda – no pain, no gain. After fifteen minutes your legs will go numb. Ditto.   

Keep going. After an hour you can stop.

Hopefully your body is now completely paralyzed with cold, pain, and numbness and you can virtuously go about your day secure in the knowledge that your suffering has earned you a few more shekels in your karma account.

Once you’ve begun, the next hardest part is continuing. But now it gets a little easier.

Meditation for Intermediates (Version 1):
1. Don’t bother with the alarm clock.
2. Travel to your nearest wild, deserted beach. It needs to be not so sunny you will burn, but warm enough so that you don’t get cold. And of course, within reasonable travelling distance of your home. Bring a blanket, but this time sit on it. Arrange yourself beautifully, cross-legged on the sand/rocks (see picture).
3. Continue from Expert Version, #3 above.

Too easy?  Don’t have a wild, deserted beach at an ambient temperature immediately to hand? Don’t worry, there are other options.

Meditation for Intermediates (Version 2):
1. Don’t bother with the alarm clock.
2. Take yourself to a meditation class. Here you can join with others as they sit in silence, cross-legged, back straight, on the floor (blanket optional).
3. Continue from Expert Version, #3 above.

The theoretical advantage of this approach is that the presence of others (competition meditation) will encourage you on.

However, as you sit, bored, in a position that makes your back ache and your legs go numb, sneak a glance around the class. You’ll notice that everyone else has a beatific smile on their face, and appears to be attaining a State of Nirvana. They’re not. They’re all as bored and uncomfortable as you, but they will never admit it. This will only discourage you, leave you feeling a failure, and you may even be forced to become a Beginner again.

Keep going. Push through the pain and you will soon become an Expert.

Meditation for Experts:
Becoming an Expert meditator might seem a bit daunting at first. It doesn’t have to be. Just think of all those nights when you’re lying awake staring at the ceiling unable to sleep. Practice meditation instead. You might as well, you’ve got nothing else to do.

1. Forget about getting out of bed an hour early. Go to bed an hour early. Half an hour will do if there’s something good on television.
2. Get all warm and cozy and comfortable and turn out the light (or dim it if you can). Now close your eyes and try the clearing the mind, focusing thing. You won’t be able to watch your breath because it will be dark, and your eyes are shut, so try to just listen to it. 
3. Continue. You’ll probably start going over everything that happened during the day. Or everything that’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s normal. When you realize it’s happening, come back to the room you’re in. What can you hear? Passing traffic, insects, creaking floorboards, the neighbors television? See how many different things you can hear. Including your own breathing. Listen. Just listen.
4. Continue. You might fall asleep. Congratulations! You’ve successfully relaxed yourself to the point where the brain has stopped. You’re an Expert meditator. Keep it up.

If you’ve mastered this/are bored with it/fall asleep too easily, another variation is to do exactly the same, but in the morning. Wake up half an hour early, smug in the knowledge you don’t have to get up for another half an hour. Do as above, although you might want to set an alarm in case you fall asleep.

A third variation is to try the same thing, but standing up. This too, can be easily incorporated into everyday life. Anywhere where you have to stand in a queue is a chance to practice (waiting for a bus, at the supermarket checkout etc.).  A big advantage of this approach is that you probably won’t have to do it for very long. The disadvantage is that if you do reach a State of Nirvana, and haven’t moved for a few minutes, your fellow queue dwellers won’t understand, and will no doubt try to move you along.

Good Luck!
Good luck, and remember, the hardest part is starting. The next hardest part is continuing.


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