I know you are thinking “meditation?” isn’t that just like, “sitting still” or “doing nothing”. When you hear the word meditation you may think of some older guy in an orange robe sitting cross-legged making strange humming noises. As a veteran who has probably been through some tough challenges or seen some things that no one should have to see, I’m sure the idea of sitting still with your thoughts for any given period of time could be tantamount to self-torture.
As a veteran myself, and a FITOPS Grad, I’ve seen my fair share of assumptions when it comes to the idea of meditation, but as a regular practitioner of it in different forms for the last 3 years, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have without it.
Let me assure you that meditation isn’t really a specific action like sitting down or processing thoughts or holding your hands a certain way, its actually just a “state of being”. What do I mean by that? Read further to find out 3 reasons why this mental state is where you want to be and how this can be part of a solid daily routine that gets you fired up to handle the challenges that come or wind down for the rest of the night.
What is Meditation, and Why Does it Matter?
According to Webster’s Dictionary the definition of Meditate is: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meditate)
Now out of all of that the main part to pay attention to is “to engage in mental exercise”. Mental exercise as in mental “training”. Meditation is essentially the act of training your mind on purpose to be more resilient, handle stress better, relax, focus and the list goes on.
You can literally change the structure of your brain creating positive adaptations with “wrinkles in the brain” by taking part in some form of meditation daily. Imagine being able to focus on the task in front of you ON COMMAND. Imagine being able to feel relaxed and loose by doing something we all do naturally(breathing). Imagine lowering stress and gaining clarity before you start your day.
Meditation can do this and more, so read closely for these three methods that can be used by anyone to start meditating NOW.
Technique #1 “Back to the Breath”
There are so many different explanations and tips for this but to put it simply, focus on your breathing. As human beings we have thousand of thoughts swirling around in our heads at any given moment. Given that its easy to become “lost in thought” a good way to bring yourself back down to earth is just to simply focus on your breathing.
When I say focus on your breathing, I mean pay attention to:
– The feeling of the air as it passes in and out of your lung.
– The cadence or speed of your breath
– Are your inhales or exhales longer?
– Are you breathing deeply or shallow?
– The rise and fall of your chest and stomach as you breath.
Just simply doing this has an amazing calming effect.
This can be done in the moment when you feel yourself “spinning out of control” as a mental tool.
Try it as part of a daily routine In the morning and Before bed by:
1. Setting a timer for as long as you are comfortable(1 minute all the way up to what you can tolerate)
2. During that time sit comfortably and focus on your breathing using the tips above as a guideline.
3. If any thoughts “pop-up” try not to be sidetracked, Lightly “examine” them and gently brush them to the side as you go back to your breath.
4. A couple deep breaths after the timer goes of and get back to your day or go to bed.
Technique #2 The Whim Hof Method
This method is based on three core competencies(Breath, Cold Exposure, Focus) that all encompass the idea of leading a life full of love, health and happiness. For the purposes of meditation we will only focus on the 1st of the three (Breathing).
This breathing method can be practiced by anyone and has POWERFUL effects that can be felt after just one round.
1 Round of the Whim Hof Breathing consists of:
1. 20-40 Deep Breaths in succession.
2. On the last breath, breathe out and then hold it(do not breathe)
3. Keep track of how long you can comfortably hold your breath(Do not force it!)
4. Once you reach your limit, Breath in DEEPLY and hold it for 15 secs.
Warning: Do not attempt this while driving or when in water.
The absolute best part about this method is there is a free app (Link to App) that will guide you through the process with timers for your breathe and guidance by Whim Hof himself. Definitely worth starting now.
Technique #3 Body Scanning
Similar to focus on your breath, with this method you will focus on your body in a purposeful manner. This will bring to your attention any pains, tension or sensations that you may not have noticed before. This has the effect of creating relaxation and focus.
To do this:
1. Set a timer(1 Minute and up)
2. Sit comfortably
3. Take a few deep Breaths and close your eyes.
4. Now start from the top of your head “scanning” slowly each part of your body down to your toes.
5. Pay attention to any pains, sensations or areas of tension and imagine the area loosening or the pain becoming lower.
6. Once the timer is up take a few deep breaths.
Often we all walk around tight and in pain without even realizing it. This method helps with that.
If you don’t get anything from this post at least understand that there are many forms of meditation and just because one method isn’t for you doesn’t mean there are no other options. The ability to meditate on command is BADASS and should be something every veteran receives training on.