How to Meditate properly

How to meditate properly is a question most beginners interested in the practice might wonder. I used to wonder this myself, and I got neck deep in apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, or guided meditation videos, and audio files. Although these might help in the beginning to get into the rhythm of the practice, ultimately I landed on practicing meditation in silence, whenever I can. I found that the less pressure I put on it, the more I kept it as part of my morning and evening routine. 

How to properly meditate is up to you. From sitting, to lying down, repeating a mantra like Transcendental meditation teaches, to simply focusing on your breath, your practice can be as unique as you. 

How do I stop the chatter? All I do is think.

Some people argue you need to meditate for at least half an hour since we waste the first ten minutes with mind chatter and the stresses of the daily life, and it is not until you get those things out of the way that you can truly focus.

What I like to do, and what I find works, is to write all your thoughts on a  journal  before you meditate. A simple notebook will suffice, but you can use ajournal with prompts if you find it hard to write, or if writing is not your favorite thing. 

Once all the little open loops in your head are on paper, it is a lot easier to move past them when you close your eyes in silence.

Sit or lie down?

I usually meditate sitting down, because if I lay down, chances are I will fall asleep. Sleeping is a very important part of healing, but meditation has benefits of its own, which is why I try to separate the two, unless I am doing Yoga Nidra (Sleep Yoga, or NSDR) during the day, but in that case what I am trying to do is training my brain to fall asleep on command.

For how long should I meditate?

I used to set up a timer when I meditated. I experimented with 20 minutes, 12 minutes, 5 minutes, you name it. In all instances, I broke the meditation to gaze over my phone and look at how much time I had left. Every time I do this, it was like having to start over again from zero. So now I have done away with any and all distractions, I just sit there in silence and focus on my breath.

I become hyper focused on my breath, and it becomes harder to breathe.

How to breathe properly during meditation

It used to happen to me, too. I started breathing deeply, and then I never let go. It is an important part of the practice to settle your breath into a regular pattern. You never notice you are breathing during the day, consider that when meditating. What works is trying to not force it. When you exhale, do not immediately force yourself to inhale. But let your body do what it’s supposed to do. Periodically check on yourself. Loosen your stomach and chest. Let it go. Not all breaths need to be deep, that’s when your chest and back hurt, because you are forcing it. When you’re doing it right, it does not feel uncomfortable at all, and I get lost in a sort of trance.

What is the use to learn how to properly meditate?

Once you get the hang of it, it is a tool you can summon anywhere and at any time. It will help you react better to things you will encounter in your daily life. You will remember the practice when you find a new ding in your car door, or your dog poops on the carpet, or no one buys your Etsy products. Like stoicism, meditation offers an aid to a good, collected life. One where you live well by doing less, better.

Once you get the hang of it, it is a tool you can summon anywhere and it will help you react better to things you will encounter in your daily life. You will remember the practice when you find a new ding in your car door, or your dog poops on the carpet, or no one buys your Etsy products. Like stoicism, meditation offers an aid to a good, collected life. One where you live well by doing less, better.

What is the purpose?

Every second, ask yourself: What is the purpose of this moment?

You are sitting in front of your computer, typing away trying to curb the fierceness of your thoughts, when an urge to look up an online sale comes along. And you step on the breaks of a 100 mile per hour train to full stop to skip to the next open tab and look for a few seconds. When you cannot find the item you want quick enough, you jump back to the previous tab, but the train is not there anymore. It exploded, and it took the tracks with it. And you try to go back to the online store tab but you realize you don’t even really need the item, so you go to where all days go to die: Social Media.

No matter how scrambled your brain is, or how scattered your ideas, you can always head back to the purgatory that is social media and scroll your day away and feel, if not slightly accomplished, at least normal.

May I suggest an alternative?

With everything you do, ask yourself “what is the purpose of being here?” In this moment, why did I set out to do? When you opened the lid of your laptop, what was the plan? What compelled you to do it? Were you aiming for a productive morning of writing before you ended up on an online store and then on social media? Make it your life’s mission to protect that purpose at all costs. No one is going to tell you what to do. Every truly difficult endeavor is yours only to traverse. There are no parents, teachers or bosses pointing you in the right direction. You have to point yourself, to force yourself to walk the way.

Find some tips on productivity elsewhere on my blog. But always try to only keep at hand the tools necessary to complete the task you set out to do, and nothing else. One thing at a time is way better for productivity than all at once. There is no such thing as multiple priorities running in parallel. The word priority is derived from the Latin prioritas, meaning “first in rank, order, or dignity.” The word itself contradicts having multiple priorities. There can only be one priority.

Do less, better.

How to make better decisions

If I was a person who ONLY made the right decision, what decision would I make right now? This is a question that should take permanent residence in your mind. It will help you make better decisions.

When working out, there are a few ways to perform the same exercise routine. There is the light weight high repetition count, there is a high weight low repetition count, and then there is the no weight version. All of them have something in common: they allow you to pick and choose your difficulty level so you do not stop moving. Ever.

Apply this to all other areas of your life and watch your day blossom, and never remain stagnant. Wether you are in front of your computer, stuck on a complicated problem, or frozen in traffic, there is always something you can do to keep your brain or your physical being in motion. Get up from your desk and sweep the kitchen floor. Or go to the garage and reorganize it. Do something simple that you have been putting off. Those things claw at your attention and hinder your development in other areas of your life, it doesn’t matter how small a task it is.

When in traffic, why listen to the same songs you have been listening to for decades? Either go check out that album you have been meaning to check out, or listen to an interesting podcast. You are what your thoughts are, they say, so feed your brain with what you want to become. In order to make better decisions, you have to have better thoughts. The only way to have better thoughts is to feed your brain and body better food.

Si what if your neighbors or friends do this or that? Do you take advice from financially or mentally broke people? You know better.

Ask yourself this simple question: “If I was a person who ONLY made the right decision, what decision would I make right now?”, and then do it.

Fix your morning routine. Consider keeping a journal, and reflect upon these questions.

The next thing

Living in the moment is as important as looking forward to the next thing. How often an upcoming show, concert, or even a new episode of a beloved show have kept your mood up for an entire day or weeks?

Give yourself mini rewards to look forward to in the future to get through the tough parts of your day.

Do you want to write 500 words? Think about the video games or the movie you’ll be able to watch after you get that done. Don’t know how you’ll get up early to work out? Think about the delicious and healthy breakfast you’ll cook and eat after you’re done, and picture yourself drinking coffee or tea feeling like a champion.

Invent rewards throughout the day to get you through to the next goal post. Don’t wait until a good thing comes along at a distance, create them and place them carefully in your path to greatness.

Never ending list of productivity and reward recommendations

This is a list of productivity and reward recommendations (as you can probably guess from the title). I use these as motivation to be productive, or as a trophy after completing my list of actionable steps for the day.

I will try to keep this list updated as I find new things. And I will try my best to only add things you probably have not heard of before.

Tv Shows

  • Halt and Catch Fire – (on Netflix as of 2021) – About the successes and tribulations of a group of self starters, entrepreneurs and engineers. Really good acting, cast, and writing.
  • ZeroZeroZero – on Amazon Prime – I usually don’t like drug crime dramas, but this one is so well done I’m enjoying every second of it.

Movies

  • Captain Fantastic (Netflix)

Music

  • Productivity playlist on Spotify – it is the first result I got when I typed in “productivity playlist” on the search on Spotify. It is great. It puts me in the zone immediately
  • Concentration Music – first result in either Spotify or Youtube(the thumbnail has a blue man). It really turns your neurons on. It really works if you listen with headphones.

You can do everything, just not all at the same time

Next time you see a successful person think about that one ingredient, that one unknown human attribute that they have. They stand beside us and fill us with awe. We cannot even comprehend how a person, with the same necessary physical abilities as you, can achieve so much in so little time. “They must have some supergene,” we convince ourselves to think.

Some use this as an excuse not even to bother trying; others see it as the end to their goals. They become either their crutch or the finish line ribbon they must break to feel satisfied with their existence.

The truth is, there is no magic sauce. No one is better than you at every single thing. The thing that they appear to be better than you at, they just cultivated through hours upon hours of obsessive behavior and impeccable work ethic. Most people who seem to have this “magic sauce” become great at one thing, or at least one thing at a time. The phrase “you can do anything, but not everything” holds, but you should rephrase it as: “You can do everything, just not all at the same time.”

A stack of startup books. Do everything you want, but not all at once.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

For example, if becoming a great reader of many books was a new year’s resolution, then you have two options: do you want to finish as many books as you possibly can, or do you want to have the complete comprehension of all the books that you read? One involves moving quickly, the other moving intelligently. Reading as many books as possible becomes a simple task then when all you want is to make a list of the books you have read and know that no one will question you about them. But instead, your goal should probably be to grow your intelligence and comprehension about the topics you are reading.

One or two books a month, and writing down a summary of what you read that day in a piece of paper( to reinforce comprehension) is probably a much better use of your time than turning pages with no goal other than getting to “The End.” Focus is the secret ingredient that makes people the best at one thing. They take their time, obsess over this single goal and maintain a laser-like focus on it.

Take online courses. I have been a proponent of online classes from the moment I found out that they existed. Other people close to me prefer the environment of a traditional classroom where people can ask questions, and live discussions are allowed to brew. This classroom environment had the opposite effect on me, though, an introverted person who merely survived this environment by sitting in the back, hiding behind someone, and praying that the teacher never put me in the spot.

Taking online courses, though, I could not only absorb the material at my own pace, but I could do so without the constant stress of being the center of attention. That can be a double-edged sword, of course, because some people will play the course videos on the background and skip the optional quizzes and projects. To get the most out of it, you have to treat online courses as traditional courses. You have to turn everything off but the video of the lesson you are watching. You have to put in the hours and do the work.

Doing the work

Image with a cup that says Hustle
Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

Doing the work is where most of us fall short of the task. Most of us aim, get distracted by something else, then lower our bow and never take the shot. We don’t want to do the work. We satisfy our brain pathways by merely talking about how “how great life would be if…” and then we abandon a project before even starting it.

Take at least a month and do the work. Reassess your project when the end of the month comes to decide if: You need another month, you will take a break from it, or you will abandon it forever. Not everything we think we want to do is as it seems from the outside. Maybe you have always wanted to be a commercial airline pilot. Still, when you enroll in small airplane courses, and you get to fly one for the first time, you realize how stressful and fearful you feel and get to experience first hand what it is, versus what you perceived it to be. That’s ok. You tried it, and now you can move on to the next thing.

The greats in any field make things look a lot simpler than they are. That is what seduces us. Take a rockstar, for example. Most of us wanted to be a rockstar at some point in our lives. I know I did. They make it look so simple and execute it with so much confidence. What they never talk about is the grueling schedule they need to have to make it to all the gigs to which they have committed. Traveling from one place to another and playing full sets with almost no real rest. That, without also considering the emotional pain of playing or singing the same songs that you wrote probably on your darkest hours of your life. To relive those emotions has to have a toll on you.

They are having to play full shows while sick or having to interact with interviewers, fans, and any human being that crosses their path in a kind and mild manner, even when you don’t feel like it. Who is perfectly calm, collected, and kind, with an ethical, moral compass 100% of the time? Why do we expect this, then, of artists? Public and press criticism adds another level of complexity.

Busy entrepreneur walks out of his office
Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Take also inventors, founders, CEOs, and the “evil” wealthy businessmen of any country. People criticize them for earning too much money for the little work they do. They compare their salary to their employees. Nobody talks about their 2 hour sleep days, never-ending meetings to keep the company afloat so that hundreds, maybe thousands of employees do not lose their jobs. No one discusses coming up with new ideas so that the company stays relevant, and the fact that their workday usually doesn’t begin at 9 am or end at 6 pm. It is typically never-ending, especially at the beginning. While their friends are binge-watching or binge-drinking, they are binge-packaging their product and mailing it themselves.

These people are approaching business owners randomly to talk about their services, and they are trying to get investors to lift them off the ground when they have already poured and risked all their cash and time investment they possibly can. They are learning website design while trying to keep up with the arbitrary IRS rules because they have no money to pay anyone else to do it for them. They could be homeless at any moment, and you call them up to invite them to a local bar, and then hang up on them mad that they keep saying: “No.”

Next time you criticize an entertainer, businessman, artist, or anyone who you deem is earning “way too much,” please consider all this.

Make a choice

Eventually, you have to make a choice. When you are 50-60-100 years old, will you be happy “As Is,” or would you wish you could return the product and get a refund? Will you complain, or will you try to understand? Will you talk about your plans and then fire up the grill or the gaming system, or will you write down simple, actionable steps to go through with your project?

You don’t have to do anything. That is the best thing about being an adult. It is all on you. But once you make a choice, you have to own it. You have to live with it forever. If you leave the Success Hotel, do not linger around in the Lobby, criticizing everyone that comes out of the room to walk around the city. Remember, you chose your life. Or at least, how you reacted to what you were given. A lot of successful people had impossible upbringings and illnesses or afflictions that would stop many on their tracks. You could have what they have if you put in the work.