Meditation Made Easy
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place for exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
“They call it ‘peace of mind’ but maybe it should be called ‘peace from mind.’”
— Naval Ravikant
A few weeks ago, I ventured to the dentists to get my teeth checked. The first time in over two years. I suffer from chronic pain in my temporomandibular joint; which, in other words, means I get pain in the area connecting my lower jaw to my skull and controls my mouth. I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Since I was a kid, I had problems with stress, anxiety and excessive teeth grinding in my sleep. My jaw likes to tighten up and, as a result, I sometimes wake up with jaw pain. It’s one of the most uncomfortable sounding habits you can imagine hearing at night—something my girlfriend knows best.
While I never suffered damage or wear to my teeth, it got to a point where I couldn’t ignore things any longer—jaw clenching is an unhealthy habit and a clear sign of stress. But aside from arranging a set of mouthguards to be made, my dentist gave me a solution I wasn’t really expecting.
She told me to practise mindfulness. And in particular: meditation. I’ve regularly meditated for a while now, but to hear my dentist recommend it—albeit it does make sense—was rather profound, when I was younger, there was little chance I would be told to do this by a professional.
It seems strange; to be able to fix my jaw pain by sitting still and doing nothing or thinking of nothing. But this is exactly what’s helping me now.
When I meditate during the day—even if it’s only five minutes in the morning or 20 minutes after work—I find an improvement in my mood and my night’s sleep.
Yes, there are other factors; meditation alone doesn’t fix chronic and deeply enmeshed traumas or problems. But what meditation can do is bring you to a starting point, one that lays out your problems clearly and helps you break them down to manage each one individually. It gives you a chance to think, see and judge things in a better way.
That alone can transform your perception of your problems and stress. It both calms you down in the moment and gives you a long-term, sustainable solution to tackle what upsets you.
Meditation isn’t an easy habit to form. I was like many people in that I’d always plan to meditate, but I’d never get round to it, then whenever I did sit down and begin the work, I felt awkward, timid. “So, now what?”.
For years, I was unsure if I was doing it right. I believed I was. I thought it was shutting the mind down like a laptop, and leaving your thoughts completely blank; yet, this only made my practice inconsistent and an overreaching struggle.
Eventually, I read deeper into it through the books I was into years later; books that articulated the concepts of self. And from there, I had to admit I didn’t understand meditation at all. I only overcomplicated it.
So, I changed my approach to a more flexible, though specific way of meditating. I adopted Transcendental Meditation, a lesson of observing your thoughts without judgement. It requires making a conscious effort in focusing on the body, like a brain-training exercise, and empowering yourself to make conscious choices and avoid being mindlessly controlled by your thoughts.
Meditation aided my jaw pain, but also helped me fix something deeper. I found myself less angry and irrational about things. I learnt to slow time down. Because, sometimes, life can feel like we live to rush around and achieve everything quickly. That was contributing to my stress.
I couldn’t ignore my problems any more, meditation helped me realise that.
For most people, meditation is seemingly too difficult. Still, it’s grown significantly in popularity and praise from people of all directions. Meditation guides you in easing the resistance your ego creates. This alone nurtures your sense of calm, clarity and patience within your inner world.
The way to practise meditation is to be fully present in the moment via your senses, calmly observing your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations—from a distance, without any judgement.
Meditate here and now
I’d like you to try this exercise. If there’s any value I want you to get from this week’s newsletter, here it is. Follow the steps below:
First, how would you rate your vibration level from one to 10, if one is: “I feel low and don’t want to do anything”, and 10 is: “I feel great, peaceful and full of joy”. Write down the first number that pops into your head—and don’t question it.
We’ll begin to move into a meditative state. Find somewhere you can completely relax, or, if you’re at the desk, for now, make sure you’re relaxed, and your posture is correct. With your eyes open, wherever you are, become aware of your body.
Are you sitting?
Are you standing?
How does your spine feel?
Don’t change anything; just become conscious of your physical body.
Now, become conscious of your breathing. Just observe. Let the air dive deep into your lungs, then breathe out. As you take a deep breath, imagine you are filling your lungs with a wave of air, then expelling all that stale air as you exhale.
Feel your belly move up and down with every breath. Feel your lungs expand and deepen, then relax and return to their resting state. Feel your chest moving up and down.
Look around you. Notice the colours and the patterns you see without judgement. Let your eyes absorb everything around you. Then, close your eyes.
Watch what comes to the screen of your mind.
Let your thoughts pass. There’s no pressure. No right or wrong. Relax your eyelids while observing what comes and goes, like a train passing through a station without stopping. Keep in touch with the pattern of your breath; expansion and contraction.
Listen to the sounds around you.
Where do they come from?
What are the tones?
Are there any sounds that stand out?
Can you distinguish the background and foreground sounds? Can you feel each sound whizzing through your environment? Then, listen back to the sounds of your breath. In and out.
Bring your awareness to your entire body.
Is there tension? There’s no need to change anything, just notice any sensations in your body.
Are there any feelings arising right now? What are they? Where are they?
Observe, feel and listen. Stay still for the next minute. When you’re ready, slowly start to move your hands and feet. Now, open your eyes.
This is the end of the exercise, so let’s check your level of energetic vibration. How would you rate your vibration level now? Write down your number. Is it higher than before? If not, try the exercise again. Eventually, you’ll find that this brief practice raises your vibration and soothes your mood.
Keep a note of this exercise. Write or record the steps on your phone so your voice can guide you through them. Speak slowly and clearly if you do, and allow pauses for silence while you read the instructions.
Meditation is far from complicated. Buddhist master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche claims that to meditate, you only need to be aware of your breath: when you breathe with awareness, you’re meditating; it’s as simple as that—and that’s why you can meditate anywhere, at any time.
“Everything and anything done in a state of consciousness can be meditation—even the washing up”
— Vex King
Try meditating for 15 minutes a day, for 30 consecutive days. Start at five minutes, making it as easy as possible for yourself. Then build it up.
Breathing is a crucial element of our life. We inhale when life starts, and exhale when it ends. With every breath, comes a transformation that occurs inside us. We die and are reborn with every breath we take.
Think about a time something angered or upset you. You’ll find that when you take one or two deep and meaningful breaths, your entire body experiences a revitalisation of new energy. You calm down. You slow down. Your shoulders drop, and you release a portion of your pent-up emotion. This is the power of breathing.
It’s through breathing that we reinforce our life energy—often referred to as mana, prana, chi or ki, among numerous other names, depending on the spiritual tradition. And with each breath, we allow life force energy to enter every cell of our body so it can vibrate with new life. As we take fuller and more controlled breaths, we ask our nervous system to calm us down, increasing our vibration.
With meditation, we break down the walls of our conditioned mind and allow ourselves to become more authentic and more of who we are. And as you meditate more often, you’ll gain perspective on the restricting thoughts you’ve been playing over your mind.
What’s on My Mind
The problem with imposter syndrome that we ignore is everyone gets it. From the beginner to the adept, it’s a sincere problem that devolves through perfectionism and your social environment.
When we spend our lives waiting until things are perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena of growth, as Brené Brown puts it, “we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions we can make.”
Imposter syndrome is a sinister feeling that pulls us from pushing through the barriers we should. Everyone gets it, from time to time, but it’s down to you to strip it of its meaning.
PSA: at the time of writing, this newsletter just made it to 30 readers. It’s a small milestone that conquers a big step in this journey—and I thank you for being a part of it.
“Your choices are the bow. Your trajectory is determined by where you aim.
Your habits are the string. Without their power, a perfect aim is useless.
Your results are the arrow. Everyone cares about where it lands, but the magic happens before the shot.”
— James Clear
Article of the Week
This week’s article looks at the Gap and the Gain; they are two overarching points of view for progress. The gap looks at where and why we aren’t where we want to be; while the gain appreciates the journey so far.
Interesting Thing of the Week
A Twitter thread about dozens of psychology truths: much of the points here I had already seen in books and research studies, so I knew this would be legit. But this opened my eyes to many things I had to admit about myself. See if any of them resonate with you too.
Question of the week:
What’s been your happiest personal accomplishment this year so far?
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This is a newsletter about self-mastery; the path of continuous improvement and genuine well-being. Follow me on Medium or Twitter if you’d like to read more during the week or ask any questions.