Meditation isn’t just a spiritual practice. If done properly, meditation can be a practical one. Through taking more traditional meditative practices and altering them to fit my needs, I’ve found it can serve many purposes:
- Focus. Meditating can cut through distractions and focus your mind. I’ve found certain meditations to be useful to give myself an extra edge in directing my thinking.
- Imagination. Visualizing different scenes can give your creative muscles a workout.
- Introspection. Remove the noise from your surroundings and you can actually hear yourself think. I’ve used meditation to solve problems, understand situations and better explore ideas.
- Brain Reboot. Done properly, I’ve noticed an effect on my brain similar to rebooting a computer. With the right meditations I can often spend twenty minutes meditating can remove that feeling of mental fuzziness that comes with a hard day.
Use the Right Exercises
Meditating isn’t simply sitting in a chair cross legged and saying, “ommmm,” to yourself. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. However, if you want to meditate for a practical aim, say recharging your mind or enhancing your imagination, you have to focus.
When I first started meditating I’d often grow restless after a few minutes because I wasn’t sure what to do. Entering a meditation with a specific purpose will help you if your goal is practical and not spiritual.
How to Enter a Meditative State:
- Be comfortable, but don’t fall asleep. Get yourself into a position where you can be comfortable but aren’t at risk of falling asleep. Too much muscular tension or bodily pains can be distracting when trying to meditate. You don’t want to move much once you start meditating, so make sure it is a position that can last a few minutes.
- Breathe. I always start any meditation with a breathing exercise. It usually takes about five minutes to enter the meditative state and patience is key. My goal is to stop moving and focus entirely on my breathing. I generally count to ten on the inhale, and once again on the exhale. Do this for a few minutes until you can keep the breathing pattern without counting.
- Flow with Distractions. Here’s a task for you: Don’t think about polar bears. Of course, trying to accomplish that task is almost impossible. Trying not to think about polar bears causes you to think about polar bears. This paradox applies with distracting elements too. Thoughts, emotions, sounds and disruptions can hamper with your meditative efforts. Don’t force these distractions out, but simply recognize them and let them pass.
The Meditation Toolkit
The first five minutes of practical meditation are always the same. After that things get interesting. I don’t profess to having a library of meditations or being a Zen expert. But here are a couple useful exercises I’ve found and developed to meet my needs:
For Focus: Isolating Senses
Meditation can be used to enhance and practice your focus. To do that I isolate my senses, focusing on just one element at a time.
- On each exhale, pick an element to focus on.
- With the next inhale, focus on that element exclusively.
- With the exhale, release your focus and pick another element, or the same one.
Elements here can include parts of your body, sounds in the background, thoughts, visualizations or emotional states. Think of each breath like a mental rep, flexing the mental muscle until it gets released again.
For Imagination: Eating the White Apple
A recent meditation I’ve found challenging and interesting I call: eating the white apple.
- Visualize a white apple. Hold it so that you can see it, feel the sensations of touch, even smell it.
- Take a bite from the apple. Not only should you experience the sensation of eating it, but the image should adjust with where you took a bite.
- Repeat this process until the image degrades. This happens when you can’t keep track of where and how you ate the apple. I can usually go about ten bites before the mental image gets fuzzy.
This is just one of many visualizations for flexing your ability to think.
For Refreshing: Brain Reboot
All meditation is relaxing. Your breathing is slowed and you are eliminating distracting thoughts. A brain reboot goes further than other meditations in that aim. Here your goal is to enter a deep relaxation and leave feeling completely refreshed.
- Start with your normal meditations. You may want to spend a few minutes with another exercise before starting this one.
- Try to slow your breathing even more and make it smoother. I can usually go up to as much as fifteen counts per inhale and exhale. Don’t slow it so much that you start to feel uncomfortable as that defeats the purpose.
- Next your goal is to become aware of everything but detached from it. This mental alertness means that any thoughts, sounds or bodily discomforts enter your consciousness, but you simply observe them. This means holding off any reactions or instincts to inputs.
- Continue this for a few minutes before ending your meditation.
I’ve found this brain reboot works because it starts by deeply relaxing your body (slow breathing, no moving) and moves to relaxing your mind. The detachment is the mental equivalent of going completely limp. Observing what is happening but not passing any judgment, strategy or action on it.
Not sure whether meditation is right for you? I suggest you spend fifteen minutes of your day for a week trying out these and researching other meditations. Mediation can be used for spiritual quests, but you can also make it practical.
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