This is a brief introduction (5-10 minutes) to practical and quick meditation techniques for the non-meditator
At its easiest it’s just one breath. One. It takes a few seconds, and that’s really it.
If you can’t make time to read the entire article, just take one deep breath right now, and exhale every last bit of air slowly. Relax your shoulders. Then get on with your day.
NB: This article is all about breathing, but I’ll write more in the future about other forms of true relaxation, including saunas, barefoot walking, camp fires etc, in contrast to just sleeping or lying comatose in the TV sofa (which absolutely won’t recharge you – except sometimes). Consequently, make sure you have bookmarked my site and subscribed to my free newsletter.
Invest 10 seconds and gain 10 years
Do you generally feel enthusiastic, energetic, ready for a challenge, ready to meet new people, try new things? Perhaps not often enough if you are currently camping in “whore village” (temporarily working a day job until you can fulfill your true aspirations)
Or do you feel frustrated, apathetic, exhausted, worn down, cornered?
If you are anything like me*, I guess you don’t meditate to recharge – or at least don’t do it regularly. Maybe you’ve tried it once or twice but decided it was yet another ‘must’, weighing you down instead of revitalizing you.
Here is my short and easy take on meditation techniques that I think everybody can do, as well as like.
*just to be clear, now I do meditate regularly, with the techniques mentioned in this article
Just do one single breath
Yup, just the one. And there is no “just one more” trick built into this one.
I’m not even saying you need to do this every day. No weird yoga positions, no sounds or mantras, no need for a new meditation wardrobe, bandanas, harem pants and whatnot.
So, one breath, and not even every day. I think you can fit that into your schedule without feeling burdened by it.
- Start at the end of a normal breath after breathing out.
- Let out just a little extra air by simply prolonging the exhalation by about a second.
- Then draw in really deeply and a little slowly. Fill your lungs to their maximum capacity.
- Hold slightly, maybe a second or two, and experience the calmness of doing exactly nothing.
- Exhale slowly, deliberately for several seconds, actually continuing for a few extra seconds when it feels like there is no more air escaping
Did it feel good?
You can do this as much as you like. From just once a year to hundreds of times a day.
Here’s how to make it even better:
- Breathe in through your nose, and out through the mouth (relaxed, half-open)
- Keep your eyes almost or fully closed
- Use your diaphragm to breathe (your belly)
- Relax your shoulders when breathing out
- Do several in a row. 3? 5? 10? It depends on the situation. One is least invasive and infinitely better than zero
Are you a day trader? Breathe once to calm down when you feel stressed, feel forced to place an order, can’t focus, are being hijacked by cortisol and the amygdala.
Doing a test? You have time for one deep breath.
If you make it a habit of regularly controlling your breath in order to calm down, you’ll lower the risk of heart attack, inflammation and other stress and cortisol related issues. Can you gain 10 years of quality life from just 10 seconds of breathing every now and then? Who knows? I think many could. And even if that isn’t so, it feels good.
Level 2 meditation
Okay, that was meditation Level 1. Let’s move on to Level 2.
Wait, what? Was that meditation? You said nothing about “think of nothing”, “acknowledge stray thoughts, let them fly by, say goodbye, and then find your center again” etc.
No need. Just breathe once. That’s meditation à la sprezzatura.
Alright, Level 2: Do a body check before going to sleep. You are already lying in bed. You could just breathe as above. But you cold also close your eyes and go through your body parts mentally, silently, all but completely still.
Close your eyes and think of your right foot. Think of how the cool air feels against it, or the mattress, sheets and cover if you are one of those people not sleeping with your feet sticking out from the bed.
Think of just one of the toes, the big one. Is it there? Don’t wiggle it but make sure mentally you know exactly where it is and imagine wiggling it without actually doing it. It’s okay to fail the first few times and happen to give it a little wiggle. Move on to the next toe. And the next… Then think about the rest of the foot, part by part; the arch, the heel, the top.
Remember to lay still, quiet, with your eyes closed. You are not wasting anytime whatsoever here. You are in the bed anyway and about to go to sleep. Actually the goal here is to fall asleep while doing the exercise. I typically only get to the knee of the first leg before falling asleep. Just give it ten seconds, or 30, or whatever it takes to go through five toes (or however many you’ve got).
This should not be a burden, feel like yet another ‘must’. Do it when you’re in the bed trying to sleep anyway. It’s much better than, e.g., exposing your eyes to screen light right before trying to sleep.
Level 3 – breathe like a seal
Navy SEAL breathing. There seems to be a couple of variations here. The simplest one entails breathing in for four seconds and then out for four seconds. The more complicated version entails holding your breath for 4 seconds after inhaling as well as after exhaling; 4×4. The latter takes some getting used to but is definitely better at getting you focused (and centered- to invoke some yoga guru speak).
Level 4: synchronized breathing
Breathe in synch, in coordination with one or more other people. Now this is just meaningless at the one breath level. Aim for at least a few minutes of synchronized breathing for full effect. Please note that this takes time and effort and is way above the level of a lonely single deep breath at the bus, in bed, at your desk or waiting for the traffic lights.
If you have a partner, and are open to get a little weird, lock your lips with wide open moths, and breathe the same air in and out of each other.
Did you try it?
What? Why would you do something like that? What’s wrong with you?!
-just kidding. Cool isn’t it? …I’ve heard… from other people.
Too calm for you?
Johnny Drama meditation
Use your whole body to yell and roar “Hoyaaaa! Ughhh!” like Johnny Drama. Just one of those releases important hormones to make you focused, energetic, pumped and ready for just about any challenge. It works even if you feel silly doing it. Just like power posing (which I do whenever I come to think of it -straightening my back, pulling my shoulders back, chest out and the arms a little out to the side).
Kapal(a)bhati breathing – the end game
Not really, you can go wayyyy further down the meditation rabbit hole. Nevertheless, now we’re at the foreign words, weird positions and time consuming yoga guru meditation level which I guess is much more than you bargained for so I’ll stop here.
Sit comfortably, preferably in some kind of a yoga (tailor) position on the floor and exhale in short, frequent energetic bursts, using your diaphragm. Don’t breathe in deliberately, that should be done by itself as a kind of muscle reflex, a bounce. You are doing it correctly when you’re only controlling the exhaling, letting inhalation take care of itself.
Kapalbhati and Johnny Drama breathing are actually variations of the same principle. I guess you never thought Johnny Drama was meditating for a second in plain sight right before his auditions…
My dog goes crazy when I do kapalbhati breathing. Hmmm, come to think of it she’s not to keen on the Johnny Drama shouting either. Neither are my neighbors. Well, at least I am centered.
Bonus – a non breathing every day meditation technique
Lift your gaze. Don’t keep your eyes fixed at street or eye level. Tilt your head back a little and watch the top of building, trees, wall signs, birds etc. Just watch, let the colors and shapes flow, instead of looking at the same walls, people, cars, cobblestones and asphalt day in and day out.
Assume you enjoy it, assume you are seeing it for the first time. Pretend it’s your first day up and out after a period of convalescence or illness. No? OK, just breathe instead.
Pretend it’s your first day up and out after a period of convalescence
You need to relax
You need to recharge
Try just one breath
And, maybe, just maybe the body check exercise at the end of the day to fall asleep.
Then tell me you could refrain from doing a Johnny Drama :)
PS: remember you can observe a lot by just watching