As mentioned in last week’s blog post (TWEAKS 2 MYC #20), “focus” can be improved not only during a performance, but also at home by practicing sitting meditation. Sitting meditation, which should not be confused with the Western idea of yoga (i.e., exercise in which you move your body and hold various positions), involves sitting down quietly and focusing your full attention on your breath, while keeping a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts.
Research has consistently demonstrated that sitting meditation is associated with a variety of health benefits. More specifically, sitting meditation can improve memory, “focus”, and overall brain efficiency as well as decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain (Sharma, 2015).
Below are the basic instructions on how to properly practice sitting meditation:
- Practice this exercise every single day
- Set your timer for 5 minutes
- Sit down in an armless chair
- Place your feet firmly on the ground with your knees at 90 degrees
- Keep your back straight
- Place your hands on your thighs
- Relax your arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw
- Close your eyes
- Take 3 deep breaths
- Focus your full attention on your breath going in and out of your nostrils
- Let your breathing flow freely
- Don’t try to force anything
- If your mind wanders (e.g., you are thinking about the past or future, you feel anger or boredom, you label your sensations), simply recognize it and then bring your full attention back to your breath
- Think of this as a “repetition” (just like when you lift weights at the gym)
- Your “focus” should increase if you repeatedly work on bringing your full attention back to your breath every time your mind wanders
- When you notice that your mind is wandering, you can tell yourself “breath” to help you bring your full attention back to your breath
- Keep a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts
- Just view your thoughts as thoughts (don’t label them as good or bad)
- Don’t try to stop your thoughts (let them come and go as they please)
Here’s a metaphor that I like to share with my clients to help them gain a deeper understanding of what sitting meditation is all about. Begin by visualizing your mind as a clear-blue sky and your thoughts as clouds floating by. If you decide to entertain your thoughts and/or try to stop them, then they will turn into menacing dark clouds and eventually create a storm, leaving you uncomfortable and anxious. However, if you take a “mental step back” and simply observe your thoughts, then they will become small clouds that float by less frequently, leaving you with a clear-blue sky and a feeling of peace and focus.
Once you feel comfortable doing this 5-minute sitting meditation exercise, you can add 2 minutes to your total time, if you desire. However, if increasing your total time means increasing your chances of not doing it, then keep your sessions short (around 5 minutes). If you have the time and enjoy sitting meditation, then try going all the way up to 20 minutes!
Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.
Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36, 3.