By Erica Moss
Meditation may not be at the top of your boss’s to-do list, but it can help you reduce stress, improve focus and boost productivity. If you’re accustomed to caffeinating, smoking or snacking on your breaks, and if you find that those activities contribute to your stress as much as they combat it, meditation may be the alternative you’re searching for. The practice of meditation is both surprisingly simple and surprisingly challenging, but with a little discipline, it produces remarkable results.
When to Meditate
One of the best things about meditation is that you can do it anytime, anywhere (although meditating while your boss tries to give you important information is not advisable). The most common physical circumstances for meditation are sitting, stretching and walking, although the goal of Buddhist monks and yogis has always been the development of a completely meditative life. That means you can meditate on your walk to work, at your desk, in the elevator and before the meeting starts. You can meditate for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, and the more often you do it, the easier it will come.
How to Meditate
The most basic form of meditation begins with finding a comfortable pose in which you can keep your body still for several minutes. Lotus position is traditional, although for people with certain joint problems, sitting in a chair may work better. Close your eyes or choose a single point far enough away that you can focus your eyes on it in a relaxed manner. Allow mental preoccupations to fall away as you focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths while allowing your lungs to fill from your navel to your diaphragm. Hold each breath for a moment before exhaling completely, pulling in your navel to squeeze out the last of the air.
While doing the exercise described above, you will likely find it difficult to remain completely still. While fidgeting is counterproductive, many people (particularly sedentary office-workers) find stretching or walking meditation to be an excellent alternative to sitting meditation. There are a nearly infinite number of yoga poses, many of which can be done on in an office or even sitting in your desk chair. What all of these practices have in common is the synchronization of breath and movement, increasing awareness of the body and association with a meditative / spiritual tradition. A good place for beginners to start is the sun salutation sequence.
As you begin to incorporate the practice of meditation into your day, remember that this tradition has been developed over thousand of years by extremely intensive practitioners. If you find yourself deeply attracted to it, you may benefit from a deeper exploration of its origins and practices, but in the short term, it probably makes more sense to focus on very basic exercises that yield quick results. Try not to become frustrated on days where it doesn’t seem to work, and keep trying! Failure is only the first step toward mastery, and success is sure to follow for the disciplined practitioner.
About Erica Moss: Erica is the community manager for the online Master of Science in Nursing program at Georgetown University, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse practitioner programs. She also enjoys photography and meeting new people.