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Feel Happier and Calmer in 11 Minutes: You On the Mat

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Find vast space in the mind by sitting still.

There are few habits that will, if repeated consistently, make you happier, healthier, calmer, and even more radiant and mentally resilient.

This one certainly will: a daily morning meditation practice.

I’ve recently committed myself to at least 11 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning and would like to challenge you to do the same.  Before showering, or sipping that beloved cup of coffee or tea, take a seat and honor your ability to find stillness.  Don’t make excuses.  Just do it!

Devote a space in your home for practice.

My preference is to sit on a folded blanket (meditation cushions, which can be purchased online, are also great) facing eastward.  This extra cushioning under the seat can help straighten the lower back and encourage a more upright posture.

If being on the floor is not appropriate, sit on a chair with both feet firmly grounded.  Whether on chair or floor, the spine should be straight but not rigid.

I love how Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh instructs seated meditation in his book The Art of Power:

“Release the weight of your body on to the cushion or chair, let your belly soften.  Bring all your attention to your in and out breath.  When your mind wanders, because it will, just gently bring your awareness back to your breath.

Sitting meditation is first of all doing nothing and allowing yourself to relax.  If you know the art of breathing and smiling, the pleasure of sitting will grow greater and greater.  Then, with mindfulness and concentration, you can begin to see more deeply into the reality of your body, the reality of your consciousness, and the reality of your situation.”

How do you time your meditation?  Here’s where technology can help us out! While a simple clock will do, there are quite a few apps with more Zen sounds, such as i-Qi and Meditator.

Like all practices, some days will be more challenging than others.  Likewise, remember that powerful results come with time.

I love how Russell Simmons, a longtime meditation practitioner, encourages readers in his book Super Rich:

“The Key is simply to not give up.  Most people will quit in the first two or three minutes and never experience the stillness inside of you.  Don’t be one of those people.  There’s no need to beat yourself up if the stillness doesn’t come easy at first.  Do you look ripped the first time you do a set of pushups? Of course not.  Meditation is the same way.  It might take a while before you start to ‘see’ the results.”

By the way, Russell also provides a great intro to transcendental meditation in this book.

Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.

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Comments (10)

  • I just needed this little push to be constant!.. I'll right away!

  • Good luck, NEL!!

  • I really had to begin in a very mechanical kind of way. I used to set an egg timer and began with 5 minutes. I remember getting up and checking if the battery worked its way loose or something because, even though only 3 and a half minutes had elapsed, it felt like an eternity. It's unbelievable how difficult it is to basically not DO anything, especially think. We're all such DOERS and FRETTERS. Asana practice should be plenty enough to do, and they complement each other so well. I do a 30 meditation in the morning and yes, before coffee. No way are you going to meditate with a caffeine buzz. It's unbelievable the thoughts that will come into your head sometimes, i.e., from 20 years ago or a projected 20 years into the unknowable future. You cannot fight them off. You'll loose that battle every time. They will go away on their own, only to be replaced by others naturally, but if I have to I mentally count the counts of my inhales and exhales. At least that's better than really getting bogged down in some self induced existential dilemma. My 30 minutes of meditation is not 30 minutes of experiencing "nothingness." I don't know if I've ever truly been thought free for any significant periods of time yet. It takes a lot more time than I have been at it to really turn off the monkey chatter in my head completely. What I have perceived happening is a change in the relationship I have with time itself. The less I think the "faster" time seems to pass. My experience of sitting for 30 minutes is not the same as a total beginners. Just like these masters who meditate for days, their experience of this time interval is not the same as mine would be. They are not sitting there in agony. 30 minutes would have seemed like agony to me a year ago. If there really is an "eternal," there really cannot be any time, except in our heads. It's so wise to start off slowly rather than sit there for longer than you really should when just starting, just because you can, but your whole meditation is focused on how much mental and physical discomfort you are in. It's not a race, it's definitely quality not quantity. If one is diligent and consistent the day will come when you can have quality sitting meditation for......, who knows? That depends on you

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