Practice hack: Meditation

Meditation is a word with baggage. For some people it means a simple relaxing technique. Others envision strange Eastern mystics levitating while chanting “ohm.” Fortunately, meditation is really much more of the former than the latter—and the latter is a stereotype that may or may not exist.

Lawyers and non-lawyers alike lead stressful lives, so anything we can use to help reduce the stress is worthy of consideration. Meditation is a terrific tool for the task. It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t need to sit in the lotus position, and it only takes ten minutes day.

The key to meditation is to understand what the goal really is: to clear the mind of everything except one thing. That one thing is usually breathing, meaning that for ten minutes you try to think only about your breathing—nothing else. You sit quietly, breathe in and out, and try to keep other thoughts from invading your mind.

It’s far easier said than done. As one meditation teacher put it, your mind is like a monkey that wants to run off constantly and has to be dragged back and made to sit still. Thoughts will invade while you meditate. What you do with the thoughts, though, is what makes the difference. Do you let the thought stop once “inside” the mind, or do you let it lead your mind to other thoughts?

Like anything else in life, meditation takes practice if you want to be good at it. Thankfully, the practice isn’t hard. Here’s how I go about meditating.

  • I find a room (at home or at work) where I can sit undisturbed for ten minutes. I put my phone in do-not-disturb mode and shut the door.
  • I sit down (office side chairs are great for this) and get comfortable.
  • I start a timer (there are TONS of them for iOS and Android devices) for ten minutes.
  • I close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
  • To try to keep my monkey brain in check, I count to ten with each breath. If my monkey brain starts to run off, I restart counting at one.
  • When the timer goes off, I open my eyes and go about my day.

I’ve found the counting-to-ten routine to be very helpful. Usually, my brain runs off at 3 or 4. Once in a while I make it to 7. If I have to start over at 1, it’s not a failure or a big deal. The goal is meditating with the mind clear as much as possible during the ten minutes, not to count to 10.

After even three or four days of meditating you’ll probably notice something different. For me, I am not as irritated by the “little” things that normally might get under my skin: bad driving, rude sales clerks, etc. My wife has noted that I’m not as grumpy after work when I’ve been meditating daily.

Meditation is no longer the property of religions that might be unfamiliar. It is an effective relaxation tool that helps reduce stress. You can go as “Eastern” with it as you want, or you can do as I do and keep it simple. Either way, you and those around you will be glad you’re doing it.

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