You’ve probably read in an article somewhere that meditation has numerous benefits to health and wellness. Indeed, a large number of studies have shown that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, chronic pain, as well as improve overall quality of life. Yet despite growing recognition of these benefits, finding time to meditate is often too difficult that we end up not doing so, despite earnest intentions. So for those of us who are busy juggling erratic schedules, emails and endless ‘to-do’ lists, is it possible to ‘hack’ the benefits of meditation? The answer is a resounding Yes! In fact, it’s even possible to meditate in your car (make sure it’s parked), with eyes open!
Meditation doesn’t have to mean seating crossed legged on a cushion with eyes closed, and forcing yourself to ‘not think’. It doesn’t even have to go for an hour. Studies have shown that spending just 5 to 10 minutes meditating can provide benefits that extend beyond the time of meditation.
If you’re curious about meditation but are unsure how to start, why not try an outdoor meditation, with eyes open? Think of it as meditating with training wheels. To get started, bookmark this page and follow these 10 easy steps (Tip: It’s easier if you record the following steps and listen to the playback at a time and place that suits you best):
1. Find a spot where you’ll be undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes. A quiet seat on a park bench during your lunch break is great, but you could also try this while sitting in your parked car or in the subway. It’s normal to feel self-conscious at first, but remember, this is an open-eyed practice, so no one will know that you’re actually meditating!
2. Next, sit up straight but make sure you’re comfortable. Focus your gaze on a spot about 2 to 3 feet in front of you. Place you hands on your thighs or interlaced on your lap. Start to bring your awareness inward as you breathe deeply for a couple of breaths. Begin to count up to 4 as you inhale, and 4 as you exhale. Do this for about 5 breaths. Remember: Thoughts will come in and out of your mind. This is completely normal. Just observe when this happens and turn your attention back to your breath.
3. Now we are going to focus on various points of the body. Stay on each point for 2 to 3 breaths. First, without moving your feet, notice how your feet feel in your footwear. Notice how it makes contact with the ground. Notice where the weight is – whether it’s in your toes, your heel, or the entire soles of your feet.
4. Now shift your attention to your sit bones. Notice how it makes contact with your seat. Does it feel symmetrical? Continue to be aware of your breath.
5. Next, imagine a light shining on your navel. Notice the belly expand and contract as you breathe.
6. Now imagine the light is now focused on the center of your chest. Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
7. Next, bring the light to the center of your forehead. How does the weight of your head feel? Light or heavy? Notice how the back of the skull feels.
8. Slowly shift your attention to the crown of your head. Continue to breathe in your own time. Try to extend the exhalation so it’s longer than the inhalation.
9. Finally, imagine shining the light on your entire body. Notice if it feels different from when you first started, and how it feels different.
10. Turn your attention back to your breath. Take a deep breath in, and an even deeper breath out. Repeat this twice, closing your eyes on the final breath. Slowly blink your eyes open.
We hope these steps serve as a start to your meditation journey. Try this meditation the same time everyday if possible. You’ll get more out of meditating with regular and consistent practice. If you’d like to learn more about outdoor meditation see the next post on outdoor sensory meditation.
Written by: Leona Tan