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Reboot Your Brain With Practical Meditation

Reboot Your Brain With Practical Meditation
Meditation

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:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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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.

  1. On each exhale, pick an element to focus on.
  2. With the next inhale, focus on that element exclusively.
  3. 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

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A recent meditation I’ve found challenging and interesting I call: eating the white apple.

  1. Visualize a white apple. Hold it so that you can see it, feel the sensations of touch, even smell it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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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.

  1. Start with your normal meditations. You may want to spend a few minutes with another exercise before starting this one.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Meditative Challenge

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.

More by this author

Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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