3 Step Guide to Get Started with Mindful Meditation - For IT Folks
One of the perks that comes bundled with an IT employee's package (in addition to good salary and benefits) is stress. An individual's mileage may vary but it's a given for the majority of folks working in IT. The good news is that there is a simple and effective way to train yourself to be able to manage it well - mindful meditation.
What is meditation? Simply put meditation is like a Machine Learning model for your brain but instead of training it with past data to predict future outcomes, you do it with present data happening in your body to sit still. Unlike ML where you need beefy GPU machines, mediation is a simple practice available to all for free. Contrary to our general beliefs, it's not just for monks and babas who for the most part live in isolation but it's a practice that can help anyone including us - IT folks.
While we are at it, just to be clear - meditation is not a magic wand that Harry Potter carries which can auto-magically clears your brains from stress and leaves you problem free. Instead, it's an effective tool when practiced consistently for a long period can change how you see and react to situations - which eventually reduces your stress levels in your life. Now that it's out of our way, here is our 3 step guide to get started with basic mindful meditation.
Step 1: Prepare yourself
The first step is to prepare yourself for the meditation both physically and mentally. Pick a time that suits you the best. I feel morning times are good where you are less likely to be distracted but if that timing doesn't work for you simply pick the one that works. Now that you have chosen the time, here are some steps to prepare yourself.
The first and the most important part of your preparation is to get yourself comfortable. This includes wearing comfortable clothing to your preference and finding a spot (and sticking to that spot) that will have the least amount of distractions. If you are like me and enjoys relaxing music - put some nature relaxation music along with nice aroma to go with your set-up like scented candles or essential oils.
Stretch your body
It is good to stretch your body before sitting for your session. I usually bundle this activity with my Yoga or Gardening but your lifestyle maybe different so whichever works best for you. Relax your neck, shoulders, and back with a quick couple of mins of stretches.
Decide the amount of time
Chose a time that you want to meditate like 15 or 30 minutes. In the beginning it is good to start with a realistic time more like 5 mins or so and slowly start increasing as you practice more over time.
Simply forget about the stereotype pose for meditation 'the lotus pose' as not all of our bodies are that flexible. If you can do it great but if not it's important to find the comfortable one that works for you. I generally sit on my yoga mat with simple cross-legged pose. The other option is to sit on a bench or chair. The main part is to keep your spine straight and neck relaxed. You can place your hands on your knees or laps - again whichever feels comfortable to you.
Keep in mind that meditation journey is like running a marathon and not a 100m sprint. You are not going to see results in one sitting or levitate like a baba in a week. Just remind yourself that you are doing this exercise for easing your stress in the long run and not for any magic.
Step 2: Now time for action
Now that you made yourself comfortable, close your eyes and start meditating. There are few ways your can practice and what works for me is the most basic one - focusing on breath. Remember that it is very normal that your mind goes all over the place while you are trying to concentrate. Things like: Did I forget to send updates to my manager yesterday? I wonder if the offshore team finished the activity or am I in trouble? Am I prepared for the presentation that's due today? etc. Whatever topic is, all of this is normal and just bring back your attention back to your object of meditation - in my case breath.
Here are few general practices that you can choose for meditation. There are several others available but I have listed the options I find easier.
Focus on breath
The most basic yet works like a charm is focusing on breath. The beauty of it is that it's available no matter where you are. While sitting on meditation pose and closing your eyes, focus all your attention on the deep breaths you take. Inhale and exhale. Your mind finds it's own topics to distract you but don't get frustrated by it and just slowly bring your attention back to breaths. As a tip, try different variation of breaths like inhale with one nostril and exhale with other, take a deep breath and hold for a bit before exhale etc.
Focus on an object
Another relatively easy and effective way is to focus all the attention on an object preferably like a small house plant or tree to eventually get to the meditative state. In this option we mediate with open eyes so some people might not like it.
Visualize an item of interest
Another option is to visualize the items of interest while sitting with eyes closed. This can be anything like - sitting in a deep meditative state with energy flowing up and down or sitting in a nice calm beach with sunrise/sunset. The basic rule applies here as well - as in once your mind finds its own topic, slowly ignore it and bring your attention back to your item of meditation.
Mantra chanting is another common one but somehow didn't go well for me. However your mileage may vary. The idea here is to repeat the mantra (like Om) over and over again to go to meditative state.
Step 3: Keep Practicing
The next step is very simple and there is nothing fancy here. You just have to keep practicing the same exercise every day. To help maintain consistency try some of the following tips:
Stick to the same schedule for the meditation
Find a buddy in your workplace or near home with similar interests in meditation
Consider adding Yoga as a pre-step for your meditation
If you are into reading books, consider reading few spiritual books like Mindfulness in Plain English
And finally, keep reminding yourself that this is a marathon and not a sprint
That's all from me and hope this was helpful to you. Peace !!!
On a side note, if you have any other ideas or suggestion please leave them in the comments below for helping other readers.