What do you think when you hear the word meditation? Do you immediately envision a Buddha-like person or a yogi sitting on a pillow, maybe burning incense and listening to new-age music? You’re probably not the only one, but  in truth meditation is a very simple tool that can be used by everyone. The pillow, incense and music are completely optional.

Sitting on a pillow in peaceful surroundings is like meditating for beginners – it is mediation under ideal circumstances.  It can be helpful to start out like that – By learning to meditate when it’s easiest, you will eventually be able to meditate no matter how noisy or hectic the situation where you find yourself.

In its essence, meditation just means completely allowing everything to be as it is, and focusing on the present moment.

People meditate in many ways and for many different reasons, but we are only going to discuss two purposes here:

Staying focused on the present moment

Maybe you have heard of mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means staying focused on whatever is in front of you and giving it your complete attention – without distracting, stressful thoughts.

You might want to try this little test. Find a quiet place where you can be alone. Simply sit in a comfortable position and breathe. You don’t have to take on a “meditating posture” just sit with your back straight and both feet on the ground. Now, as you breath, count every exhalation. See how far you can get before you start thinking about something else. If you can’t make it to 100, you have some work to do. Don’t feel bad though, because most people can’t even reach 10 at first.

Staying focused on the present has many benefits. First, it’s impossible to be your best at anything if you’re distracted thinking about other things. Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. It can move back and forth rapidly between several things, but it can’t think of two things at once. If you want to develop your talents and strengths fully, you need focus.

  • It is impossible to be stressed when you are completely focused on the present moment. Stress and anxiety come from reliving unpleasant memories or imagining unpleasant things that haven’t happened yet. Stay in the present moment, and there is peace of mind.
  • You get to experience your life fully. When you’re living in the past or the future, you are not really living your life. Life is always now – it only happens in the present moment. Everything else is just imagination.
  • You are more efficient and get more accomplished. You’ll be surprised at how much more you get done in a seemingly effortless manner when you are totally focused on the task at hand.

Dealing with fear and anxiety

It is our fears and resistance that prevent us from achieving our full potential. It becomes almost impossible to fail if you have a goal and steadily continue towards it until it is accomplished. Remember, it is our doubts and fears that stop us from trying.

When you know what it is that you should do, but just can’t get yourself to do it, focus on the issue. Close your eyes and visualize it. See yourself performing the task in your mind’s eye and notice the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that arise. Continue doing this until you feel nothing. Any feeling that you examine long enough, disappears.

It may take more than just one meditation session. It is not enough to just think about it for 2 minutes. You’re  already doing that and you know it doesn’t work. Take your time! If necessary spend 30 to 60 minutes to examine it.

Present moment awareness and meditation are incredible tools and perhaps the two most important skills that a person can learn. They don’t require talent – Anyone can learn to do them well. The key is to start where you are and keep improving. 

Before long, you will have the focus of a Zen monk and developing your full potential will come easily to you.