Forget what you think you know about meditation: You don’t need to sit cross-legged, you don’t need to light candles and you definitely don’t need to be a Buddhist monk. All you need, according to Jeff Cannon, author of “The Simple Truth,” is a willingness to quiet your brain for a few moments.
“Most people think of meditation as having to sit for half an hour, or going away on a weekend retreat,” he says. “It’s really just a focus of the mind. You can meditate walking. You can meditate standing. Scientists have found that with as little as 15 minutes a day, your brain actually starts remapping itself. To meditate for a couple of minutes gives you stability.”
And it’s not just good for improving your mental health: Your physical wellbeing benefits from meditation, too.
“There are almost endless studies right now on lower blood pressure, ability to control anxiety. They’re using it for people with ADD, cancer patients — they’re using it for pretty much anything that stress can negatively affect. More and more in the medical community are finding that it’s an important part of healing [and] recovery. After a 10-hour brain surgery I was out of the hospital in about three days, and the doctors were stunned because I wasn’t taking any pain medication — I was going back to meditating.”
Indeed, Cannon’s interest in meditation reached its height while he recuperated from a 10-hour surgery that removed six tumors from his brain.
“In the six months I had to seriously recover, I not only watched my brain slowly reboot itself, but I started reading more and more about neuroplasticity. [Scientists] used to think the brain was just a static organ, it didn’t change. But what they started learning was the brain actually remaps itself all the time. I started exploring more and more to say, ‘Well, if the brain can change, then why can’t we change the brain?’”
Cannon swears that if you pick up the habit, you’ll see results “within the first week.”
“You start noticing that instead of making rash decisions or responding to issues by habit, you all of a sudden start pausing your life.”
Cannon’s guide to meditation
If you’re sitting, move to the edge of your chair and make your back straight. Or, stand up straight.
Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose, into your stomach and hold it there for a couple of counts. Then breathe back out.
Slowly breathe in for a count of eight and then hold it for a count of two, then breathe back out for a count of eight. Place your attention on your breath, either on the tip of your nose, at the feel of your stomach as it moves or at the travel of air coming through your throat into your lungs and then back out.
Repeat the process.
Distractions will happen: It’s OK
“Your mind is there to be distracted. Just acknowledge that you have a thought. You can tell yourself, ‘Not now, this is my time to meditate,’ and come back to focusing on your breath. This morning I was meditating and you could hear a fire engine go by. You just acknowledge, ‘That’s a fire engine, OK, that doesn’t bother me right now.’”