This is the fifth and final post of my series on “my willpower routine”. Please see this post for a greater explanation of the routine.
Five Minutes of Meditation
Three different people or ideas have been combined to create my meditation routine.
1. The books the “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal and the book “Open Mind Open Hearts” by Thomas Keating.
2. My friend, Moises, and his use of mantras in his life.
3. A “TED talk” by Amy Cuddy on how “Your body Language Shapes Who You Are”.
#1: The Influence of books:
The book that inspired “The Willpower Routine” suggests meditation as a tool for helping to train the brain to use its willpower muscle more efficiently and effectively.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better
not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines. Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness.”
McGonigal Ph.D., Kelly (2011-12-29). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Doto Get More of It (p. 24). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
I read that and thought, “I want all of those things that people who meditate have! That sounds awesome.”
Kelly McGonigal also says that 5 minutes of meditation a day is all that necessary to start to see these benefits. Of course, she also suggests increasing the time of the meditation when 5 minutes seems too easy. One week wasn’t enough to make 5 minutes seem too easy, so we’ll see if/when I should increase my meditation dosage.
There are a lot of different ways to meditate. In graduate school I read a book called, “Open Mind, Open Heart” by Thomas Keating. It taught me a way to meditate or contemplate that really resonates with me.
The book explains it far better than I will here, but just so you get a quick picture, here is the short version:
step 1: Get comfortable
step 2: focus on breathing and try to clear your mind
step 3: repeat a centering phrase, increasing the amount of silence between each repeat … attempt to not have to repeat the phrase
step 4: when thoughts come up, imagine them being put into a row boat and send them down stream and return to repeating the phrase
#2 Mantras, care of my friend Moises:
My meditation technique is a combination of a way I learned to meditate in graduate school with an idea on creating my own mantras that my friend, Moises, shared with me the other day.
Moises was telling me about the mantras he had been using in hose life. These mantras each start with the phrase, “I am perfect”.
For example, “I am perfect teamwork, compassion, success”
The idea, he says, is that you pick something you are struggling with or an area in which you are lacking focus (like understanding at work) and then you pick three words that relate and you say it over and over again. The cool thing is that these are all self made so you can arrange them in whatever shape or form that speak to you and your unique situation. Its all about what will help you gain focus and clarity on something you are struggling with so that eventually you aren’t just saying these things but you’re giving yourself the tools you need to work through your struggles.
#3 TED talk: Amy Cuddy “Your body Language Shapes Who You Are”
If you have a NetFlix account, search for “TED talks Life hacks”. You will be brought to a series of 8 videos. Amy Cuddy’s talk is video number 1. In this video she shows the science behind how our body language influences the way we think about ourselves and, thus, how we inadvertantly present ourselves to others in either a more positive or a less positive light.
She suggests that just a few minutes in an open but powerful position (imagine your boss at her/his desk with her/his elbow behind her/his head and her/his feet up on the desk), will influence the way you present yourself to others all day.
Want to guess what position I am now learning to find “comfortable”? I’m sure you guessed it, a power position. I sit at my desk at home, with my feet up and my hands in my lap. I don’t put my hands behind my head (because after a few minutes, my arms get tired and I find that distracting) (For those who are wondering, yes, I did try the full pose one day during my meditation and that is how I know I find it distracting.).
Do you meditate? If so, how do you meditate? When do you meditate? Do you think you can add 5 minutes of meditation to your day?
What did you think of this first series of the new blog? I’d love to hear any feedback, room for growth or positive that you can provide. What part(s) of the series did you enjoy? Were you hoping to hear more specifics about any particular part? Thanks, in advance, for your feedback!