If you can breathe, you can meditate: A practical, secular how-to guide to meditation

Getting into the Habit of Meditating
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In fact, my life has improved in a few significant ways since those experiences. I went from stressed, anxious and unfocused, unable to write code and barely able to do my job, to happy, light-hearted and focused, working on projects that I care about and with a newfound capability to deliver. All are practical and require not much more than somewhere to sit quietly for a few minutes.

I still remember coming down to the sitting room where my father had hooked it into the TV imagine that! I fell in love with its rubber keys and their mysterious symbols. I was enthralled by the ability of those keys to make stuff happen on the screen! I had to code throughout, becoming expert in being terrible at C programming quite quickly. It was the early days of Google I graduated in and the world of the web was widening in front of us.

Five years at the University of Edinburgh building apps in science, as well as exploring the Grid or what would become the Could… much better branding! NET and Java stacks, PHP and a number of its frameworks, all the fun front-end stuff the recent explosion of JavaScript has been quite amusing — who knew? I like to think I know a bit about code! My mind came with me through all of these experiences.

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My mind kept me able to meet all the demands placed on me. Life is mysterious and wonderful and tragic. When I was 27 I lost my father he passed away from cancer , which, to say the least, was a BIT stressful. It actually made me completely anxious at times, which manifested in extreme hypochondria.

Ok no more philosophy…. Someone important in my life at that time saw how anxious I was, and suggested I tried meditation. I used some guided audios by a guy called John Kabat-Zinn and had quite a bit of success I stopped thinking I was going to die all the time for starters, which was pretty cool! I started teaching meditation for primarily selfish reasons! I had finally realised that my life was better when I meditated. I was more focused, clearer in my thinking, less emotionally reactive, felt more creative and I hit states of flow much more easily.

I had wondered for a LONG time how to make a meditation practice work for me. One day, I decided the best way force myself to show up for regular meditation practice was to set up a group in my office and play the teacher! If people were dependant on my being there, it was much more difficult for me to avoid meditating myself!

And it worked…. I started being invited to speak about and guide meditation practices in different parts of my life. As I realised I was being lead down the teaching path, I deepened my own meditation practice with a series of retreats and trainings with a number of different teachers.

These days, I still spend a good chunk of my life building software systems. I work on my own meditation app. And I teach about ten public, drop-in guided meditation classes every week here in Sydney, Australia, as well as numerous private seminars, talks and other events for a variety of companies and organisations. I see this guide as an offering to the wider coding community.

Please enjoy! Mediation is becoming quite a mainstream activity. Some of the commonly held views about meditation can put people off from trying, or are just not useful when actually learning how to meditate. That baggage is slowly being shed. Being able to break down complex problem domains into deterministic steps that can be followed by general purpose computing machines is basically what we get paid for.

Thinking is non-optional for a programmer. I teach meditation to many people every week. Many people come to meditation seeking respite from an overactive, busy mind often at 4am or just before bed…. Many new meditators quit at the first hurdle, because they have the experience of trying to meditate and feeling they have failed because their mind maintained some degree of activity during the process. Has this happened you? Trying to stop yourself from thinking is really, really, difficult. If I tell you right now not to think of, say, pink elephants, what do you find yourself thinking of?

How hard is it to stop? So drop that expectation now! The good news is that there is no need to silence the mind to benefit from meditation — thoughts within meditation itself are not a bad thing at all. There is no need to stop your thoughts or for your mind to go blank, so if this is something that you have been concerned by with previous attempts to mediate, then you can safely drop this idea right now.

One of the side effects of meditation is that, with practice, you develop a better relationship with your thoughts. You become more adept at recognising useful and less useful thoughts. Most people find that the intensity of thinking diminishes, thoughts can slow down and thinking becomes clearer — but it never needs to stop completely!

I explain a better way to approach meditation below, in the section on the Standard Meditation Algorithm. However, meditation is a state of being accessible to all people regardless of their religious beliefs. For the most part, I embrace evidence-based practices and critical thinking. Modern meditation is a secular practice that is more concerned with getting to know more about yourself and how you operate in the world. There are three main ways that the skills I have learned in meditation directly apply to my coding activities. They are:. Increased focus I lose focus all the time.

Morgan D. Rosenberg (Author of Dark Buddhism)

But I still know that meditation has helped with my ability to stay concentrated on coding tasks for extended periods — which is bloody useful! Like most humans, I find my mind off-task multiple times a day. There are a couple of major ways I find myself distracted when trying to cut some code. But learning to meditate has given me a better relationship with distraction. In general. The first job I had out of university I once worked a 21hour shift! I got rid of some bugs, but I definitely introduced some more.

There is no doubt — the foggy mind, elevated physical tension and emotional reactivity associated with the condition of excessive stress get in the way of writing solid code. We need to think clearly to code clearly! Optimising experience My overall experience of life has been enhanced and improved by my meditation practice because it has taught me self-awareness.

Many times a day I remember to ask myself — how am I feeling right now? I can optimise my experience to suit the circumstance.

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind

Perhaps I notice that anger as a physical feeling of rage, and a desire to lash out. Knowing this is powerful. I can make a call on how best to use that anger. Lashing out might not be the best thing to do — perhaps a more measured approach might serve my long-term interests better. Meditation is a deliberate, intentional act.

To meditate, you decide that you will carve out some time from your day. During meditation, you maintain a mental intention to remain aware of your breathing, or some aspect of the sensory world of your body, as best you can, for the period of meditation. At the heart of every meditation practice is something I call the Standard Meditation Algorithm. If I were to write it down in code, meditation would look a bit like this please ignore the potential infinite loop! MANY people find this process relaxing, often finding that their focus has improved, or they feel mentally clearer such important qualities of mind for a programmer.

You can try it right now.

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Close your eyes, relax your body deliberately with a few sighs or yawns and just focus on the next ten breaths you take — about a minute or so you can count to yourself mentally. See how you feel after — perhaps even just a little more relaxed? Maybe, maybe not but be curious. Either way, you just meditated. Remember I asked you about why you were reading this guide? Does how you are feeling now tie in with that goal? If you do that ten times, great. A conundrum that modern humans face is that we have an ancient nervous system that is, in many ways, poorly adapted for the environment we live in today.

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Because the mind has more sources of information to process than ever before, modern minds are in overdrive. Pretty much every person I teach meditation too feels that their mind is busier than a typical mind! Our brains are still adapting to the changes. We receive so much input in the form of emails, social media, television, work and so on that it overloads our ability to process this information.

All because we are thinking excessively. One of the biggest struggles most people have with meditation is excessive thinking. The nature of thinking Have you ever considered why we have thoughts? Thinking is pretty amazing. I love being able to think. From the point of view of evolutionary biology, the ability to think is an advantage that allows us to solve the problems we face in the world. This in turn allows us to ensure our survival as an individual and hence as a species.

According to evolutionary psychology, the mind and its subtleties are adaptations that help us to survive and thrive in our environment. Every feature of your mental world is an adaptation concerned at a basic level with keeping you alive. The most obvious way that your mind does this is by giving you killer problem solving abilities.

You have the superpower to think your way out of and in to!

What is mindfulness?

You can do this using the power of abstract thought that eludes most other species. In times gone by, this might have been as simple as figuring out a safe way through a ravine to get to water or food at the other side. The ability to think, when harnessed correctly, is a source of major benefits to humanity. But sometimes our capacity to plan, predict, calculate and create can work against us. Excessive thinking Sometimes, traits that have evolved in one environment can become a little less effective when the environment changes.

This is known as maladaptation. In certain circumstances, the thinking mind can behave in a maladaptive manner. Overthinking, on the other hand, is often a sign of stress. Imaginary threats and information overload make us prone to overthinking. The mind, which evolved to solve the problem of how to keep us alive — to help us to ensure our safety — is doing anything but! Meditation and excessive thinking The preoccupation with survival often means that our minds are caught up with the past and the future. Because it is so concerned with our survival, our mind likes to predict where threats will come from.

It also likes to reflect on the past, analysing events to see what it might learn from them for next time something similar occurs. You can easily verify by observation of your own mind. Take a second to observe what you are thinking right now. Chances are, you are engaged in some form of thinking about the future predicting or the past learning. Worry, anxiety, fear, regret, bad memories — the mind at its worst is full of these! The Standard Meditation Algorithm gives us a practice that helps us to connect more with our Present Moment Experience.

Instead of an active, task-based approach to solving the problem of excessive thinking, by making the decision to direct our attention elsewhere, we are starving the thoughts of fuel. Most people find that thoughts will settle themselves, to some extent, without any action by themselves, by simply choosing to focus and refocus on the present moment during a meditation session. So, enough talk. The type of meditation we introduce here uses a very fundamental capacity of the human mind — the capacity to pay attention.

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To meditate in this way is to selectively tune our attention to be aware of a particular thing, and to remember to redirect and refocus our attention as it naturally wanders. Set aside some time in your day to intentionally practice meditation — typically minutes is about right;. Instructions 3 tells us to direct our attention at something. We need to consider what that something should be.

You can choose any one or even a combination of each to be the anchor point for a given meditation session.

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Catmas may seem silly to you, but it represents something very important: appreciation of the simple joys in life. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Choosing to act in response to a situation, rather than only reacting, is a good way to live and fosters a strong sense of self, but putting your energy into trying to control or change a hurricane is a waste of time and will cause you nothing but suffering. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw heart. This principle doesn't apply solely to eating, of course.

The first and second of these are extremely common anchor points for attention. Pretty much every meditation tradition that has ever existed has included a variation of each of these. A good meditation session starts by bringing some relaxation to the physical body. As we go about our day, our stress response is continuously activated, which can if left unchecked lead to a body that carries too much tension. This often shows up as physical aches and pains think tense shoulders. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

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Thank you for notifying us. The page you are attempting to access contains content that is not intended for underage readers. This item has not been rated yet. Broken down into a series of step-by-step chapters, If You Can Breathe, You Can Meditate guides the reader through the various aspects of meditation, providing convenient, easily referenced resources, including a section addressing frequently asked questions and a comprehensive bibliography that will assist with further investigation and reading on the subject. If You Can Breathe, You Can Meditate demystifies the practice of meditation, stripping away religious and philosophical associations to bring clarity and focus to something that is entirely normal, completely human, and positively habit-forming.

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A Guided Meditation on the Body, Space, and Awareness with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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