how-to

How to Meditate

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How to Meditate

by John Onorato

Lots of people think meditation is about “emptying your brain of thoughts.”

It isn’t, though!

One of the brain’s primary functions is to generate thoughts. Thus, it’s counterproductive to expect it to be blank.

The purpose of mediation is to notice your thoughts.

It’s actually rather similar to when you “get in the zone” while biking, running, swimming … or any other sport, actually.

It’s also similar to finding your creative groove when drawing, painting, writing, knitting, or whatever else might be your jam.

Meditation is deceptively easy! And as with many things worth having, much success can be attributed to preparation.

Setting the Stage

  1. Find a place where you won’t be bothered or distracted. I like to sit for 10-20 minutes, but when starting out it’s better to start out with 3-5 minutes.

    Don’t stress about the amount of time you meditate. It’s more important you do it regularly. If you’re trying to start a “meditation habit,” it helps to do it at the same time every day. This primes your brain for the task at hand.

    I like to meditate at least once a day, shortly after I wake up.
  2. Get comfortable. Keep your back straight and upright. It’s not advisable to lie down, but you can sit in a chair. If you do this, make sure both feet are on the ground.

    But however you get comfy, know there is no set way.

    I like to do it semi-traditionally, sitting with both knees on the floor, and a hard pillow under my butt.
  3. Set a timer. I recommend a soothing, gentle timer. Don’t use a jangly one that will upset you.

    There are many smartphone apps to use for meditation. The first one I used was Calm.com— in addition to having a course for beginning meditators, it provides pretty music and nice things to look at, should you want to keep your eyes open. It also has a non-intrusive bell to tell you when you’ve reached the end of your scheduled time, and it keeps track of the days you’ve meditated.

    Pro Tip: Seeing the “streak” you’re keeping is great motivation for starting a daily practice!

    I also like InsightTimer. It has a great timer that’s very customizable. It’s also free, and has over 20,000 guided meditations, spiritual podcasts, and pieces of music.

    Headspace is another good one. I used it for a while and liked it, but you had to pay to continue past the introductory class.

    Please note: If you’re going to use an app to meditate, then I suggest you mute the notifications on your phone. When you’re trying to turn your concentration inward, the last thing you want is some external stimulus drawing your attention outward again.

    In time you’ll be able to weather little interruptions like this. But at first … mute the phone.

How to Sit

Now that the stage has been set, we’re ready for the fun part. It’s as easy as counting your breath!

First, set up your environment. Light a candle, dim the room, put on soft music, whatever works for you. Be sure you won’t be interrupted for a while.

Next, sit as described above.

Inhale. Count ONE with this breath.

Hold it until your body is ready to exhale. Don’t stress, just let go.

Count ONE with that exhale.

Hold until your body is ready to inhale again. Remember to just let go.

Count TWO with the next inhale.

Count TWO with the next exhale.

Inhale, THREE.

Exhale, THREE.

Just let go.

Proceed until TEN, then start again at ONE.

If you lose count, no big deal. Just restart at ONE.

Your mind will stray. That is fine. That is natural. This is what brains do!

Simply observe these thoughts and let them pass. 

Imagine yourself at the bank of a river. Imagine your thoughts passing by you like leaves floating in the water. They flow downstream and out of sight, along with your breath.

Another good metaphor is traffic. If you’re standing on the side of a road, waiting to cross the street, the cars move in front of you, back and forth. You can’t affect them, and they don’t affect you.

Don’t worry about trying to “make your mind empty.” That’s not how brains work! The very function of the brain is to generate thoughts. The trick is to observe those thoughts and not engage with them.

If you are having trouble with your thoughts, try labeling them. When a thought comes up, say “thought.” To yourself, of course! If an emotion comes up, say “emotion.”

About Breathing: Most folks breathe from their lungs. Their shoulders move up and down with the breath. This is more like a “half-breath,” though.

To get a deeper, fuller breath, use your diaphragm. Moving it down will push your belly out a little and elongate your lungs. Doing so will enable you to take in a roomier breath.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with breathing the first way. Breathing without diaphragm action will make your shoulders move. Just be aware of how you’re breathing.


As You Meditate

While meditating, you can repeat affirmations or other phrases. These are called mantras.  Some examples: 

  • “I am awesome” 
  • “My body is healed”
  • “My mother is well”
  • “I am grateful for our abundance”

Pro Tip: Practicing gratitude on the regular is an awesome way to level up your vibrations!

Simply count your breath, and keep your mantra in mind.

If you want to say your mantra phrase out loud, that’s cool too.

If you feel more comfortable keeping your eyes open, then try and keep your focus on one point: The flame of a candle, your bedroom doorknob, that spot on the wall. It’s all good.

If you have to scratch some part of your body, that’s OK too. Scratch that itch, just don’t focus on the scratching. Do it and be done.

All this said — there really isn’t any “right ” way to meditate, any more than there’s a “wrong way.” (Hint: There isn’t.) There’s only what works, and what doesn’t work.

This is what works for me, and I hope it makes a good starting point for you. If something I’ve suggested above doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it that way. Do it your own way.

And that’s really all there is to it.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Book a call with me using the friendly purple button, or shoot me a message using the Contact link in the menu above.

Posted by John Onorato in Portfolio, Visionary, 2 comments
Sharing, Don’t Overshare: The Key to Making Friends Fast

Sharing, Don’t Overshare: The Key to Making Friends Fast

by John Onorato (ghostwritten for SpeedFriending Events)


Stacy Jules didn’t know anyone in Austin after she moved.  She had spent 38 years in San Francisco, and making new local friends was a priority for her. “It was pretty devastating to be so anonymous,” the 66 year old artist says.

Jules made herself leave her house every day for the express purpose of meeting people. She visited a tea house, took yoga classes, went to senior centers, joined a gym and a community garden. She describes herself as being a shy person, but she still compelled herself to strike up conversations at the grocery store and on the bus.

Lasting relationships were still a problem, though. Most people were nice, but they had nothing in common together. Others simply didn’t want to get close.

Then, a short time ago, a woman complimented her blouse when Jules was in a store. They began to chat, and discovered not only that they both liked to write, but they liked to work with textiles as well. After a few minutes,  Jules asked a risky question. “Would you like to come over to my house for coffee … now?”

The other woman accepted the invitation, and now the two are extremely close.

Jules thought that all good friendships had to be “slow cooking,” based on years of experiencing life together. This contrary experience was a marvelous revelation.

Is it really possible to forge such an intimate relationship so quickly?

Yes it is, say research psychologists. “Fast Friends” is a protocol that many use to study friendship in the lab. It takes about 45 minutes, and helps strangers attain a certain level of interpersonal closeness. The key is for both parties to disclose personal information – and do it gradually.

Curious? People working in pairs are given three sets of 12 questions. The questions must be answered in order, with partners taking turns. Questions in the first set are only slightly personal, like:

  • “Do you ever rehearse what you are going to say before making a telephone call?”
  • “When did you last sing to someone else? To yourself?”
  • “What small things make you happy?”

 In the second set, the personal-ness is edged up a little.

  • “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?”
  • “What is your scariest memory?”
  • “Which of your possessions could you not live without?”

And the last set is the most personal:

  • “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”
  • “Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find the most disturbing?”
  • “What are your top 5 most beautiful things in the world?”

Each set of questions also includes an exercise, for instance “Tell your partner what you like about them,” which is intended to
build the relationship.

The idea is to grow the connection slowly and organically.

Arthur Aron, professor of psychology at Stony Brook University, developed the protocol. “You want to be slow and reciprocal,” he says. “If you disclose too much too fast, you put someone off.”

If you’re not sure how to find that sweet spot between disclosing too little and way too much, just think of this: Remember how desperately you wanted to get off that plane the last time someone in the next seat did a brain-dump into your head?

Yeah, that.

Dr Aron says that oversharing is often seen as overwhelming, one-sided and generally socially inappropriate. If the other person seems tense, shifty, fidgety or at a loss for words, then you might be oversharing.

There are a plethora of situations that the Fast Friends technique can be used in, to great effect: Improving business connections, romantic bonds, and relationships between neighbors. Researchers have also used it when studying how to create closeness between groups that typically distrust each other, such as police officers and residents of low-income neighborhoods. It also helps between people of different ethnic backgrounds.

I’ve made friends quickly while waiting in line to vote, talking to homeless men outside of Target, and delivering packages to offices. Sure, I strike out from time to time. There has to be some chemistry there in the first place. When I meet someone I might like to know better, I like to share something about myself that is both personal and slightly self-deprecating. People often appreciate it when I tell them that I’m divorced.  That tends to spark their curiosity and opens them up some.

If you want to establish intimacy, the only way to do that is to be willing to open up about yourself. It’s easy to open up about more intimate details, once each person sees the initial connection.

When Jules’ new friend, Susan Simmons, came over to her house on the day they met, they talked about their creative projects. The more they talked about themselves, the more they realized that they were very much like each other.

It wasn’t long before Simmons alluded to a sad time in her own life. Then Jules shared a story she usually keeps under wraps, about how she had to rebuild her life after the end of her first marriage. The sharing was careful, a consciously building thing.

The two now describe their friendship as as unexpected gift. The sharing and spontaneity are beneficial in a mutual way. It has been exciting for the both of them to discover that they could forge deep a friendship so quickly.

“I learned that life can be shared in the moment and be just as alive as if it had been experienced together,” Simmons says.

Published Link:
http://speedfriendingevents.com/the-key-to-making-friends-fast-speed-friending-events-reports/

Posted by John Onorato in Portfolio, Relationships, 0 comments