A Primer on Meditation

by A Manly Guest Contributor on September 7, 2011 · 84 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

Editor’s Note: This is a guest collaboration with my friend and long-time meditator, Jason Marshall. Check out Jason’s blog, Living in the Now where you’ll find practical info on self-development.

When you hear the word “meditation,” you may think of Buddhist monks or Hindu swamis sitting with legs crossed and eyes closed, a New age pony-tail guy communing with nature in the woods, or wealthy folks sitting in a meditation center in San Francisco.

You likely didn’t think “manly.” And you may not think that meditation has a place in your practical, workaday, red blooded American life.

But you might change your mind if you give meditation a try. It’s truly a practice that can be useful for any kind of man, whether you’re a granola-loving hippie, a straight-arrow lawyer, or a rough-around-the-edges firefighter. Wherever you are in life, meditation can help bring you closer to becoming the man you want to be.

The Manly History of Meditation

Meditation has a long and storied manly history, and it has been utilized by men from many different walks of life for thousands of years. It has of course famously been a tool used by adherents of many religions, from Buddhist monks to Jesuit priests. But philosophers of all stripes have always seen its value as well; the Stoics used meditation as a tool to develop their fortitude and self-control, for example. And warrior classes across cultures used meditation to instill in their soldiers a keen mind and a fearless heart. The ancient Samurai are perhaps the most famous warrior/meditator class. They meditated upon death daily so that they could fight without fear.

Many of history’s greatest thinkers also happened to be meditators. For example, Darwin and Kant unknowingly practiced what is called “active mediation.” They would take a daily walk where they would ponder some idea they’d been working on. Oftentimes it was during these walks that they had their biggest insights.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll find corporate leaders and star athletes using meditation to reach their full potential. Executives from companies such as Google, Target, and General Mills practice meditation. Many people in high-stress (and often testosterone-fueled) jobs such as stockbrokers and attorneys are starting to pick up the practice in order to find peace and calm, as well as regain focus.

Champion boxer Vijender Singh uses meditation as part of his pre-fight training regimen. He explained, “Mental conditioning is very important as it keeps you focused during the bout. When you have a large crowd watching you, the pressure starts building on you, and it’s meditation that helps you at that time. I usually invest 15 to 20 minutes on it every day and it has helped me a lot.”

Phil Jackson, one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, with 11 NBA titles to his name, is also a longtime meditator. Jackson not only practices meditation in his personal life, he also taught meditation techniques to his players to help them stay calm and collected under pressure, as well as more focused during games.

Even the U.S. Marine Corps is testing meditation as a way to increase soldiers’ mental performance and clarity under high stress conditions. Also, many groups and agencies are employing meditation techniques to help soldiers with PTSD and other psychological issues when they return home.

We could go on, but you get the picture. The takeaway here is that meditation isn’t just something for dudes who use crystal deodorant instead of Speed Stick. It’s a practice that is not only compatible with manliness, but can be a vital tool in developing it.

Why Meditate?

Everybody meditates for different reasons. It is a practice often undertaken by those seeking to develop their spirituality or trying to work through emotional problems. But even if those reasons don’t call to you personally, you can still benefit from meditation for several reasons.

First, meditation serves as a defense between our fast-paced, technological world and our psyches. We’re surrounded by a multitude of distractions from smart phones to 24-hour news channels. You probably surfed through at least half a dozen different websites before you started reading this article. The onslaught of input we receive each day can do a number on us emotionally and psychologically. Meditation allows a man to take a much needed mental rest from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It restores our brain’s balance and our sense of overall calm and well-being.

Second, and related to the point above, is that meditation can help increase your attention span and focus. You exercise your body at the gym, but what do you do for your brain? If you find it difficult to concentrate on your work, your studies, or even your interactions with other people, you need to meditate. It’s a workout for your brain and can give you the strength to focus better and longer on your daily tasks.

Third, meditation can help a man “be his own man” and feel comfortable in his own skin.  That constant stream of input we face each day often carries messages of what we’re supposed to think or feel.  Talking-heads spout off opinions as if they were facts. Advertisers try to convince us that buying such-and-such product will make us feel more virile and manly. Meditation allows us to be alone with our own thoughts and discover what we really think about the world and ourselves.

Meditation is mental training that enables you to control your own thoughts, instead of letting others control them. It creates a deep inner discipline, which is incredibly manly.

If those aren’t enough reasons for you to start meditating, scientists are learning that meditation can actually change your brain and body in very positive ways, such as lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your empathy, and boosting your memory.

Bottom line: Meditation can make you a healthier, smarter man!

Getting Started With Meditation

Meditation is a fascinating subject, but it can be difficult to explain or summarize because you’re sure to offend someone, and you’re sure to run across someone who disagrees with you no matter what you say (usually a self-styled “expert”). While I disclaim any expertise, I have been a practitioner of various forms of meditation for almost a decade, and I believe that a simple, practical approach to meditation is essential for the modern man.

Meditation isn’t difficult; generally it’s “gurus” who can make it sound needlessly arduous or dogmatic. To get the benefits of meditation, all you need is a bit of time and the dedication to stick with the practice. You can literally do it anywhere, without any fancy supplies or gadgets. While meditation pillows, bells, incense, etc. can be effective tools (I own them), they’re not necessary. In fact, some of my most intense meditation experiences have been spur of the moment meditations in the woods, on my back porch, or even during lunch in my office.

There are really five principle types of meditation, which go by various names in the various spiritual traditions.

1. Mindfulness

The goal of mindfulness meditation is to relax and calm your “monkey mind.” What’s the monkey mind? It’s the constant and restless shifting of thoughts that goes on in your head all day. Mindfulness meditation seeks to quiet the thoughts clamoring for your attention and to direct your attention to one thought or sound that serves as your “anchor.”  Your anchor could be the sound of water flowing, the repetition of a word, or even your own breath.

This is normally done in 15-30 minute sets. It’s a wonderful tool for relaxation, or to act as a primer for spiritual work or another form of meditation.When thoughts come into your mind (and I promise they will) simply try to dismiss them. You may find that a single and pressing thought keeps reoccurring. If that’s the case, take the time to ponder why that thought is so important right now. Ask things like “Why is it important? How does it affect me? How can I effectively deal with it?”

Of course, if your reoccurring thought is something trivial like a funny YouTube video you saw earlier that morning, dismiss it and and try to get back to focusing on your anchor.

One useful mindfulness meditation technique is the Buddhist breath meditation, “vipassanna.” In vipassanna you simply observe your breath or use a “breath set” to anchor your thoughts. For a breath set, inhale and count (1, 2, 3, etc.), and once you reach your set, exhale and count (1, 2, 3, etc.). Repeat.

Simply observe the sensation of the breath entering your nose/mouth, entering and filling your lungs, and then being released through your nose/mouth. As thoughts come into your mind, try to dismiss them and get back to focusing and observing your breath.

2. Active Meditation

This type of meditation involves physical activity to allow your body and mind to get into sync, which allows you to experience peace, calm, and clarity. Many people practice/experience this without even knowing it.  Ever feel “in the zone” while playing a sport? Perhaps you’ve heard of people “losing themselves in the beat” while dancing. Or maybe you’ve experienced the “runner’s high.” All these are examples of people taking part in active meditation in some degree or another.

This type of meditation can be as simple as going for a walk, practicing yoga (Not just for chicks. It’s a heck of a workout if done properly), dancing, or simply working out. Just as in mindfulness meditation, the key is to clear your mind and use the workout or physical movement as an “anchor” to clear your mind of mental garbage. Simply focus on the movement of your body, and the activity immediately in front of you. And if thoughts keep popping up, dismiss or explore them based on their importance. You can also repeat a mantra or positive affirmation in the activity to provide another anchor or stimulation.

3.  Mantra/Affirmation

This type of meditation involves repeating a phrase or word repeatedly. The phrase acts as an anchor to clear your mind. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement  has made mantra/affirmation meditation a popular form of meditation. In TM, adherents repeat a mantra (word or saying) over and over again. This is what many people think of when they think of “meditation.” A bunch of people sitting around on pillows chanting Aum! Aum! Aum! Or something similar. Basically the vibrations of the word or phrase are supposed to act as an anchor, as well as a stimulant to allow for a clear mind and spiritual progression to take place.

One of my favorite things to do is to repeat the Lord’s Prayer one word at a time. Start with “our” and say “our” in your mind.  Try to visualize it in your mind’s eye and just focus on “our” for 10-15 seconds (Don’t worry about being exact because that defeats the purpose).  Then clear your mind and either mentally or audibly repeat Aum! deeply and slowly three or four times, then move onto “Father”…. Continue through the prayer until you get to the end.

You can also repeat a positive affirmation or phrase (Tony Robbins style) such as: “I am great, I am a good person, I am a strong person, etc..” Or meditate on any particularly motivational or inspirational quote that will force you to focus on positive aspects and dismiss negative aspects.

What you use as your mantra or affirmation is completely up to you. Just use what works for you and what you’re comfortable with.

4. Insight

Insight meditation is designed to explore and focus on one thought or feeling. Before starting an insight meditation, it’s important to have a very calm mind.  It might be useful to begin with a breath (mindfulness) meditation to quiet your monkey mind. Once you feel calm and relaxed, you’re ready to move into your insight meditation.

Pick a topic. Any topic. It could be “love” or “anger” or “justice” or even “death.” Once you have your topic, allow your mind to just run. Don’t try to control what thoughts come to you. For example, if you pick “love,” you may think about your family, wife, child, romance, Mother Theresa, your grandpa, an old couple holding hands, etc.  Just let these thoughts pass. Don’t judge them or try to self-edit them. Just explore what love is and what it means to you.

Sometimes it is helpful to think of a negative topic like “hate” and let your mind run. You might be surprised by what pops up in your mind, but don’t judge. Just let your mind do its thing. Sometimes it’s helpful to explore why you associate the images popping up into your head with the word “hate,” and then try to release that negativity.

If you are going to do an insight meditation with a negative topic, it’s important to end your session focusing on something positive. You don’t want to leave your meditation on a sour note. Plus, ending on the positive may give you a better picture of how you really feel about a topic. You may discover that a thought you associated with a negative topic ends up returning as a positive association.

Insight meditation is extremely useful in clearing your mental garbage.  It forces you to explore and make connections you may have long forgotten about, but that are still affecting you on a subconscious level.

5. Guided

These meditations are guided by someone (in person or via audio) who takes you through a certain scenario, or even an archetypal dream-type world. You can create your own guided meditation by developing a “plan” for your meditation. Where will you go? What people will you talk to? How will you react to challenges along the way?

Guided meditations allow your imagination to run wild and to really explore mental associations in a very active way. Think of guided meditation as watching an amazing movie where you’re the writer, director, and star.

For example, in your guided meditation you can imagine visiting your younger self to work though issues, have a conversation with a deceased loved one to finish some unsettled business,  or even ask advice from some great man that you admire. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

We could write a whole series of articles on meditation, but hopefully this one provided you with enough information to pique your interest and get you started on meditating today.

Have any meditation tips? What’s your preferred way of meditating? Share your thoughts with us in the comments. 

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike Haydon September 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm

These are all very useful ways. I’ve do Mindfulness and Active meditation regularly and it’s been extremely beneficial. Might give the other three a try at some stage.

2 Alex H. September 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Great overview on meditation. The actual process of dismissing a thought took me a while to grasp. This might be helpful for others. The key is to just label it literally as a “thought” and then go back to whatever anchor you have. No point thinking anymore about it or beating yourself up.

For anyone who wants a basic non-spiritual book on meditation I’d recommend Calming Your Anxious Mind. It’s a great introduction.

3 Leif September 7, 2011 at 11:33 pm

I the exact same technique with the Lord’s Prayer for about a year and half. I just sit on the floor leaning against my bed and just focus on each of the words and picture myself resting in between the words. When I’m done, I usually feel better.

Don’t force it. If your mind drifts, just go back to the meditation when you catch yourself. Happens to me all the time. It took a while for me to get into it because I expected some sort of great metaphysical enlightenment thing to happen. It never happened obviously, but I’ve realized that when I come home stressed and just do it, my anger/stress/blood pressure/heart rate dropped. And now that I do it after I started martial arts training, I feel better. Just my $.02

4 Sameer September 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I’d recommend that anyone interested in meditation check out http://www.dhamma.org. I been practicing (off and on, admittedly) Vipassana meditation for almost 5 years and it has had an incredible impact on my life.

5 Brian September 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Where did I learn meditation? First in Judo in high school, then years later I relearned it in Karate in college.

I still meditate from time to time.

6 Seth September 7, 2011 at 11:50 pm

I’ve been practicing Qigong for about a year and the meditation has been extremely helpful in stress management.

7 Edman September 8, 2011 at 12:28 am

I’ve meditated off and on for years. I got started with these tapes(yes, tapes, for you youngsters). They really helped me a lot. Years later my sister and I were talking about meditation and how every time I try, I get this light that comes at me and makes my whole body jump. Anyone else know or have that experience? So, now I just try and focus on my breathing when I walk. It does keep me grounded. Which is all I can ask.

8 Michael September 8, 2011 at 1:17 am

Great stuff, Jason! I’ve advocated meditation for men for years now, to push aside all the debris of life and regain a focus on what’s important. I started to meditate using chakras, which can seem kind of freaky but really serve to focus the mind and kind of overlap with affirmations. Now I just clear my mind and breathe – seems like it should be easiest, right? Turns out that really clearing the mind, no thoughts whatsoever, is hard.

Another benefit – the ability to quiet your mind can prevent insomnia.

9 Eric September 8, 2011 at 1:39 am

I learned meditation as a member of AMORC, The Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosy Cross, or “Rosicrucians”. It’s a system of study about everything concerning both the ordinary and the esoteric. It teaches you, step by step, how to strengthen your own psychic abilities and how to “get out of your own way”, which is the best way I can describe it. Go to http://www.amorc.org for more info. All I can say is that it worked for me.

10 swells September 8, 2011 at 2:06 am

I attended a 3 hour meditation class lead by a Buddhist monk last weekend. this was my first real meditation experience and i’m eager to go back. i was far more calm and alert with very clear thoughts afterward. highly recommended

11 FrankV September 8, 2011 at 2:14 am

My preferred way of meditating?
It involves a rag, a can of shoe polish and a shoe brush

12 Mike September 8, 2011 at 2:15 am

Sadly, if you suffer from tinnitus, meditation is agony.

13 Nils September 8, 2011 at 2:46 am

What is a good length of a session for a beginner to begin with? How do you know when it’s over? i can imagine an alarm clock can be quite shocking at a moment of total relaxation.

@Mike: I heard from some folks that they use noise-generators to suppres the sound of their tinitus (eg when going to sleep or in this case meditation). http://simplynoise.com/ (also as app) I use that quite often though i don’t have tinitus – e.g. when reading a book in a train/tramp/bus or when needing to concentrate at work and a lot of people talk.

14 Mato Tope September 8, 2011 at 3:36 am

Having practised TM meditation over the last ten years I can honsetly say it is the best thing I have done regarding self-improvement.
It made me realise just how much time and energy is wasted going over old issues, memories, futile worries about the future, daydreams etc. Basically it brings me back to the here and now.
Not only that, it sharpens the reasoning process whereby I can see clearly what I should be doing next. Problems assume their rightful place. The ability to focus on one thing at a time becomes easier. Experiences become deeper and richer.
If you liken the mind to a computer; being fed non-stop data and information – then meditation acts as a defrag for the brain.
I can’t recommend it enough.
Well done AoM for highlighting this subject.

15 Ant September 8, 2011 at 4:55 am

I can never meditate but i like my time where i can wind down, weather im hiking or reading a book.

16 Andrew September 8, 2011 at 5:16 am

“in your practical, workaday, red blooded American life” Why so insular? Anyway don’t you mean “in your fat, pampered, ignorant American life”

17 Daren Redekopp September 8, 2011 at 5:57 am

I like to give 15 minutes of each week to meditating on each of my family members individually: my wife, my older son, my younger son. I find that giving each of them they’re own 15 minutes of my meditation time helps me to be ever so much more present and deliberate in my relationships with each of them.

18 Bob Hougher September 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

As a child of the 1950s, I enjoy the way your site brings back the fundementals of life that often get overlooked today.

I have been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1974. I do it twice a day everyday and never miss. The technique uses a mantra to keep the mind alert but not directed. The mind’s nature is to be attracked to areas of more and more happiness. When alert yet not directed, the mind will naturally go to areas of more peace and happiness. TM is becoming more respected as a way to enhance all areas of life. People use it to reduce stress, the military is using it as a way to ease PTSD, and doctors recommend it as a way to reduce blood pressure.

I would recommend it to anyone looking to start meditating. There are many ways to meditate. I find TM a very simple way to begin enjoying the effects of meditating immediately.

19 Danny September 8, 2011 at 9:12 am

I carry a lot of stress and I have found that mindfulness meditation is an amazing tool to relax and let some things go. I enjoy lying in the “corpse pose” a yoga move used at the end of a session. The corpse pose is done by lying flat on the floor arms at your side legs spread slightly. This is one of the most relaxing positions and I love it.

20 Jarie Bolander September 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

I usually do 10 minutes a day and have found it a great way to center myself for the day ahead.

I would highly recommend the book 8 Minute Mediation by Victor Davich (http://www.8minutes.org/). Lots of great techniques in a simple to understand format.

21 JonathanL September 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

I’ve never really understood meditation, though I do think lots in the shower and as I drive to work in the morning. But I also don’t carry a lot of stress. No matter what’s going on in my life, I don’t stress out about it too much. Even a staggeringly big deal takes maybe a day before I turn the page and move on.

22 bobster September 8, 2011 at 9:33 am

transcendental meditation is a back door to Hinduism, and I rejected it with its unnecessary baggage.

The simple key is this: in human emotion there is a continuum going from boredom on one end to stress on the other. As we go through the daily pursuits of life, we end up packed in on the stressful end.

It really re-charges you to give the goal-seeking/problem-solving portion of your mind a rest every day. A simple relaxing daily walk works wonders for me as I let the cares of the day float away.

23 Jason September 8, 2011 at 9:35 am

“Why so insular? Anyway don’t you mean “in your fat, pampered, ignorant American life”

Andrew, heaven forbid anyone reference their own nationality and culture in an article. You must be highly enlightened to be able to make such broad generalizations about an entire country and its population. Then again, you sound like a very small minded little man, perhaps you should meditate about what you may be lacking in yourself and reason why you need to project your own inadequacies on others. I hope you find peace.

24 Tim B September 8, 2011 at 9:38 am

Great stuff here. Most of us just get used to our “monkey mind” and don’t do the work it takes to keep our minds in shape. One thing I’ve learned from eastern Christianity is the Jesus prayer. It’s similar to a mantra and helps to focus one’s breathing. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Great way to focus, slow down and get your thoughts in order.

25 Jason Marshall September 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

Thanks for the positive comments guys!

@ Mike (Comment 12) If you have some sort of physical problem, try to just meditate in a comfortable chair, or even try lying down. Again, I advocate a very simplistic approach, if something hurts or causes discomfort… don’t do it! When I am at my office I meditate in my office chair, and I still receive powerful benefits.

@Nils (Comment 13) Try a session of any length that works for you. Start with 10 or 15 minutes, and then work your way up from there. I rarely go over 45 minutes in a session, because after the 30 minute mark I tend to start losing focus. However, some people go for hours at a time, and if it works for them then great! I normally will set an alarm of some sort, and choose the alarm sound to be a gentle bell or something that won’t be too startling. Some companies sell specialized meditation timers, but a phone alarm, or even a meditiation timer app should work great.

26 Jonathan September 8, 2011 at 10:02 am

Being hypomanic, mindfulness meditation is a boon to my life. Generally I just focus on my breathing as it helps to use something internal for me other than the rampant thoughts in my head.

Active meditation is also a great thing as once you really fall into the zone, everything else is no longer of any concern. You’re at your best and it just flows.

There’s this exercise I that I’ve referred to as “hyper-sleep” but leads along the lines of insight meditation. Essentially, I position myself sitting mostly upright, generally leaning against a couch cushion or similar and close my eyes. Than I just allow my mind to wander. I allow myself to start to fall asleep but can hover on the boundary of the subconscious, almost like those final moments between dreaming and awake. Done right, I can hold this for 20-30 minutes and just let my mind sort itself out. When I come out of it, I feel like I’ve had weeks to meditate on my problems and everything is taken care of. Absolutely the most calming and enlightening thing I do!

27 Ryan September 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

Oddly enough I was thinking about meditation (meditating on meditation?) this morning. I was curious as to how people with young children/noisy households (like my own) find time to do this daily? For me, spending 30 mins by myself can be near impossible – and possibly viewed as selfish by my spouse etc… Any tips?

28 Thomas September 8, 2011 at 10:16 am

As a Catholic and a musician, I find that if I don’t take time to meditate both my musicianship (performance ability, effective practice, musical sensitivity) and my spiritual well-being suffer. And meditation, like you said, isn’t just sitting still with your eyes closed, repeating a mantra (though it very well can be). For musicians, I believe effective practice can only be achieved with a keenly focused mind that can visualize and auralize your music and your movements accurately – the same kind of mind required in meditation.

Thanks for the sharing all the different methods of meditation!

29 Blake September 8, 2011 at 10:30 am

Along with seated meditation, three-breath meditation throughout the day works wonders. Basically, at any point during the day, stop and focus on three breaths.

30 Chris September 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

As a practicing Buddhist, it’s nice to see meditation made accessible to all on this site. I can’t impress how influential and beneficial meditation has proven to be in my own life, and I hope it helps all who read this article.

31 Inspired September 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

This is phenomenal article Jason (your articles always gives me so much insight on this crazy life when I tend to fall away from myself) I am definately going to incorporate this in my life daily. At some point if not daily we are going through so much weather it be stressed, depressed and aggravated by the simplest of things I think mediation would be something instrumental in our lives that helps clear our thoughts of the negative & take minute for our self in “between the gap” (a good friend shared that with me) often times we tend to be consumed with the worries we have & not take the time to nourish our minds & spirit. I am definitely going to start doing this on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing this with all of us I look forward to more.

p.s. dont forget to check out *living in the now* always a great way to jump start your day.

32 Ian September 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

Along with writing a novel (which you covered last week), this is another goal on my three-month plan. Thanks for the article and thanks to all the helpful commenters!

33 Brandon Moore September 8, 2011 at 11:17 am

ive always felt playing guitar was a great form of meditation. weather it was focusing on playing 1 thing over and over or just improvising in the dark with the LEDs of the amp lighting the room, its always made me feel better after playing. sometimes i can get completely lost in it and what has seemed like 10 minutes of playing has actually been an hour.

34 Matt J. King September 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I came to the realization a couple months ago that I had really stopped showing up for life. My body was usually where I planned to be, but my mind was somewhere else. I really started to miss my younger years when my mind wasn’t constantly being torn from one thought to another mid-sentence.

I used to be a prolific journaler, so I got back into that and started doing some reading on meditation. I started using a Mindfulness app that I bought from the iTunes store for $1.99 (Yes, there’s an app for that). I used to start my day with news websites, now I start with meditation. What a difference! I have more peace and quiet between my ears now, and I find it easier to focus on what I choose to do throughout the day. I’m gradually becoming a more mentally disciplined, and therefore productive person.

Thanks for a great article, Jason. I’ll give some of these other types of meditation a try.

35 Moses September 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

@ Tim B,
Dead on. I just returned from a retreat to St. Anthony’s Orthodox Monastery last month, and seeing dozens of black-clad, hard-working monks maintaining continuous focus on the Jesus Prayer day and night (emphasis on night … they start their day with prayer @ 1 am) was bracing, challenging, humbling and encouraging all at the same time. I am now committed to growing into that practice myself -little by little.
The triple entry on your post was very Orthodox, btw.

36 Pete September 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I know many men dismiss things like meditation and yoga. I’m in my late 40′s and began meditation skills when I was serving in the military in a Special Warefare group. I have used it off on on during my life and have now made it a principle part of my ‘work out’ routine. I still powerlift, compete as a Highland Athlete (yes, the guys who wear kilts and throw trees and boulders for fun) and meditate as well as do yoga. I think both meditation and yoga help not only with the physical demands I face, but also the cognitive and emotional demands as well.

37 Claude September 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I believe in the value of meditation, but I struggle with actually doing it. Maybe Im ADD or something, but an activity that looks like “doing nothing” seems to be about the hardest thing to do.

38 Bryan S. September 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm


That’s why meditation is practiced! It is very difficult at first. Calming your mind and thinking of nothing is like trying to calm a caged monkey that has been stung by a bee. Keep at it and you’ll see improvement. You have to learn to invert the common notion of “Don’t just sit there, do something!”

Instead, don’t just do something, sit there!

39 Andrew from Canada September 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

When I saw the post on routines a few days ago, I started looking for ways to improve my meditation and do it properly. Thank goodness you guys followed up with this.

40 Jeff September 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I’ve only been practicing meditation on a regular basis for about three months. I’ve experimented with many different methods and undoubtedly the most profound one I’ve found is basically the entire book called “Undoing Yourself with Energized Meditation.” by Christopher Hyatt. I was seeking any and all spiritual books, seminars, churches, etc…, but I found the language inadequate and too much Dogma for my Catma personality. This book, along with “Angel Tech” have been instrumental to my personal development and I would highly recommend both to any and all. A simple meditation that I’ve worked with is as follows:
1) Sit in a position that is comfortable and with spine erect
2) Watch your breathing. Keep your eyes open or half shut but not shut
3) Remain motionless. First for 10 minutes, then 20, then 40…
4) Everytime you detect a thought, say, “Thinking.” Remain consistent
5) Sustain awareness of all previous four guidelines, simultaneously.
“the act of Transcendence is more important than what is being Transcended.”

41 Leland September 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Walking meditation is good for beginners – you kind of hint at it in #1 and #2, but it’s a combo of them really. Walk very slowly in a set path, using mindfulness techniques at each step. Not everyone is ready to sit still for 15 min on their first day. Try alternating for the first few weeks. I did it as a (very antsy) teenager and it helped.

42 Liam September 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

For Christians why not try Meditation in the Christian Tradition. The website for Christian Meditation is wccm.org as thought by John Main recovered from John Cassian and has its roots going back to the first Christian Communities.

http://wccm.org/content/what-meditation describes the process as follows:

“Sit down. Sit still with your back straight. Close your eyes lightly. Then interiorly, silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or mantra. We recommend the ancient Christian prayer-word “Maranatha”. Say it as four equal syllables. Breathe normally and give your full attention to the word as you say it, silently, gently, faithfully and above all – simply. The essence of meditation is simplicity. Stay with the same word during the whole meditation and from day to day. Don’t visualise but listen to the word as you say it. Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and other words. Don’t fight your distractions but let them go by saying your word faithfully, gently and attentively and returning to it immediately that you realise you have stopped saying or it or when your attention is wandering.”

meditate morning and evening for between 20-30 minutes

43 Scott September 8, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Those who are looking for a Western Tradition of meditation might also look to the Centering Prayer of Father Thomas Keating. http://www.centeringprayer.com/. I’ve found it to be slightly easier than the mantra method (from which it differs only a little), and it has really helped me focus my brain. Meditation can help initiate a process of slow change, and as with most things, you might find it works better with everyday use.

44 Adam September 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I found this to be a very helpful article. I have been meditating on and off for the past seven years and have found it a wonderful way to help deal with stress and anxiety.

45 jeff September 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Meditation is much like any practice, you should spend time looking for a form that fits your lifestyle, your temperament, and world view. There are resources in your community that will be more than willing to help you with the early steps, such as concentration, and visualization,; with your investment being nothing more than showing up. You might start with your YMCA or try your local library for information on meditation groups that will be of help. After training in meditation for over forty years the best bit of advice I would give is to simply try it with reasonable passion, with regularity, and a little bit of documentation in the form of a journal to keep track of what you learned. Meditation is one of the most natural things you will ever do, just don’t be put off by some of us who are advocates of a particular system; we all find our own way of meditating in the end.

46 Matt September 8, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I like to use music as my anchor in meditation, probably a combination of Insight & Guided meditation. Usually I’ll turn all the lights out, light a candle and put on an album that is themed or possesses some logical progression of ideas (i.e. a concept album). The more edifying the lyrics, the better. Most commonly I use Tool’s “Lateralus”, as I find it musically and lyrically complex enough to keep me focused for extended sessions.

To avoid visual distraction, I focus on the candle, while mentally I ponder the lyrics I’m hearing and what they might mean, or the overarching theme of the album. Or for a diversion I’ll pick a single instrument and try to isolate its part from the surrounding sound. Otherwise, the concept is the same: as other thoughts work their way in, simply name them and dismiss them and get back to the anchor.

47 Robert September 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Sweet article. While reading I couldn’t help but notice how much the techniques reminded me of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises.

48 Evan September 8, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

49 AW September 9, 2011 at 12:29 am

Buddhist meditation is pretty good. I’m talking about the no-frills meditation where you focus simply on the breath and nothing else. It’s a very powerful exercise to boost your focus. It’s called “Anapanasathi” (literally: “mindfulness of the breath”).

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do this. It’s just a mental exercise.

50 Leify E. September 9, 2011 at 1:38 am

A few choice quotes from the Hagakure:

Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one
should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves,
being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake,
falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day
without fail one should consider himself as dead.

In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takanobu said,
“If discrimination is long, it will spoil. ” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will
turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.”
When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense,
fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being
determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.

The proper manner of calligraphy is nothing other than not being careless, but in this way one’s writing will simply be
sluggish and stiff. One should go beyond this and depart from the norm. This principle applies to all things.

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and
run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you
are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding
extends to everything.

51 Alberto Parres September 9, 2011 at 2:15 am

Excellent Article. Everybody should read it, but best, practice meditation to fin out with our own experience all the benrfits. Meditation today is not anymore an oriental attitude. It is western as much as cocacola.

52 Zeke September 9, 2011 at 5:38 am

I have to agree with Andrew and his cynicism. Kudos for pointing that out, old chap.

53 Frank September 9, 2011 at 5:40 am

I could give example after example of the harmful effects of this “peaceful” mind-cleansing, but I’ll pass. If you’re Buddhist you should already know; if you’re not, do some research before you take part in yoga/meditation/whatever. Eastern mysticism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, to use an Americanism.

54 duse September 9, 2011 at 6:44 am

I thinking about starting yoga. My girlfriend mentions that she would like to do it.
I offer her to drive her to the studio next week… After this article i am thinking about testing it by myself.

55 Gabe September 9, 2011 at 7:17 am

Don’t know specifically which research Frank is talking about, but when it comes to mindfulness and a number of other forms of meditation, there’s a hell of a lot of peer-reviewed research attesting to the *benefits* — http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070625193240.htm gives just one example. The prestigious psychological journal “Emotion” devoted an entire special issue to the topic last year. Dan Siegel’s Mindsight is a great place to start for anyone interested in the science behind mindfulness in general — gets a bit heavy on the neuroscience detail at times for a lay audience, but still pretty accessible.

56 Jason Marshall September 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

@Andrew & Zeke- it was meant only as tongue and cheek humor, alluding to the fact that most people feel they are too busy to meditiate. No reason to be so easily offended or defensive.

@Ryan- my tip would be to simply find a few moments whenever you can. Meditation doesn’t have to be an elaborate ritual, or even involve a great deal of time. Try meditating for 5 or 10 minutes before bed, or even 5 or 10 minutes in the morning. As a parent, I can attest to the importance of “me time”, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about alloting 10, 20, or 30 mintues of “me time” to meditate, read, or just relax. If you don’t get some “me time” you may go insane! :D

@ Gabe- spot on. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but many people have negative associations with meditiation based on pre-conceived notions, hearsay, false information, or outright lies. As you, myself, and others have alluded to there is a great deal of scientific and acedemic research which shows the profound benefits that meditiation can bring. Also, there is such a wide range of meditative practices, that you can try and adapt various techniques to suit your personality, emotional, and spiritual view points. If you want to practice a Buddhist, Eastern Mystic, Christian, Islam, Humanist, New Age, or even just a relaxation and/or contemplative style of meditiation, then go for it! Do what works for you. If you don’t want to practice TM or repeat a mantra, then don’t do it. If you don’t want to pray on the Lord’s prayer, or other religious saying/sutra/verse/etc., then don’t do it, just try another technique. ;)

Without sounding too “New Agey”, the point of meditiation is to go within in order to discover and work on who “you” really are, basically spend some time with “you”. Some people have time for a meditaition routine, while others do not, so just try to meditate whenever you can. Although I try to meditate every day, sometimes work, parenthood, and social obligations are such that I might go weeks without meditating. Also, Since each person is unique, what works for someone might not work for you or others, so just do what works for you and don’t get hung up on the details.

Sorry for the article in the comment section ;)

57 Jason Marshall September 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

@ Mike (Comment 12) Sorry, I originally misread your original comment as being that you suffered from “tendinitis” (Frued…), instead of “tinnitus”. I too have ringing sensations in my ears from time to time. I would recommend playing some nature sounds or ocean sounds when meditating, you could buy a CD, some .mp3 files, or even an app on your smart phone and listen to them through headphones while meditating (this also works for meditating in noisy environments).

Here is an interesting article that I ran across several months ago, which discusses research showing that sufferers of tinnitus can actually benefit from meditation. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1281129/Tinnitus-Try-meditating.html

58 Ilan September 9, 2011 at 11:27 am

I have been practicing a version of this guided meditation daily, for a few years now. It would take pages for me to describe how it has changed me for better, besides providing me with amazing sensory experiences of all sorts. I’ve introduced this meditation to dozens of people and they all have experienced positive effects and changes.

Twin Hearts meditation (a.k.a. Planetary Meditation for Peace)

Here are the guidelines for practitioners:

Please keep in mind it is necessary to carry out these physical exercises before and after the meditation:

You can read more about the meditation and its proven effects here:

I urge you guys to try it out. Though there are a few religious references, it is not affiliated with any religion; it simply makes use of these references to achieve certain purposes, and can be practiced by atheists, agnostics and people of any faith.

Hope you enjoy it! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

59 Nik September 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I enjoyed this article and applaud you for promoting a healthy mind. I have a few suggestions based on my experience and study of meditation.

One commentor mentioned using the corpse position used in yoga- this involves laying on your back, legs slightly apart, arms at your sides with palms facing up. This is a useful tool for anybody, but is exceptionally helpful for those who have trouble quieting their body in addition to the mind.

Steps: lay in the position described above
-bring your attention to your toes; focus on them, feel them (not physically), acknowledge the feeling, and consciously tell yourself to relax that part of your body
-continue this process with each part of your body, moving from your toes to your head, consciously moving your awareness to each part and relaxing it
- once you have completed this process, you have relaxed your body and primed your mind for further meditation or relaxation….just try to not fall asleep!

Breathing techniques are another great way to center yourself and quiet your mind by giving it a task to focus on (useful if you have add/ADHD or just trouble focusing)

-there are many different methods of breathing as well as various breathing patterns…the Internet is full of resources to explore these options

I’m partial to a 4-4 (as mentioned in the article) and a 1-4-3 pattern. The 1-4-3 involves inhaling-holding breath-exhaling in some multiple of this pattern: I use 3s as my multiplier, so that translates to 3s inhale deeply-12s holding breath-9s slowly exhaling.
This will help calm your mind and body, and in the long run help improve your lung capacity/function. Experiment with different patterns, intervals, lengths, and find a few that work for you.
-try and notice the differences in your mind an body with each different breathing exercise*

***this can be applied to all meditations- before and after meditation, try to identify how your body feels, what your state of mind is, etc. Identify the changes in these feelings and what causes or contributes to them.
By becoming aware of how to achieve different states, you can learn which meditations are best suited to you.

Most importantly: don’t feel rushed or pressured to achieve some transcendental state. Take your time and discover things- be aware of the journey as much as the goal and don’t restrict yourself too much by focusing on time.

I never time my meditations- I sit or lay quietly and meditate until I feel I have achieved something or until I feel I have done enough- I have found that if I try and go for a set period of time, finishing early leaves me worrying about finishing out that time rather than the meditation itself.

Sorry for the wall of text- hopefully it is useful to someone.

60 Fernando September 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I would suggest anyone trying Meditation for the first time to make this committment:
do it for 100 days straight; at the same hour: preferablely for the same time length (yet, if someday you’re unable to, practice it for 1 minute) If you miss one day, start again at day 1. I got the idea from the Los Angeles Zen Center and found it to be helpful, indeed.
I succeeded on my third attempt in 2006.
Nothing changes, but it is not the same.

61 Gary Huber September 11, 2011 at 1:00 am

For you Christians out there, one good mantra is one used by the Eastern Orthodox: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. You could even spend a year or two to pop out a magnificent beard like those sported by the Russian and Greek monks. And for those of you who are also Catholic, it might be time to dust off those Rosary beads. If the pretty ones given to you by Granny for Confirmation aren’t quite your thing, you can find some nice ones with wooden beads that any real man would be proud to hang from the rear view mirror of his pickup truck. All part of the great tradition of meditation.

62 Evan M September 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

@ other Evan (#48)

We can all learn a thing or 2 from the Bene Gesserit.

63 Brent September 12, 2011 at 7:04 am

I have been doing an 1hr breathing meditation everyday for 5 months straight now. I am now beginning to see some of the changes to my life from it. I find that I have better focus. I don’t let little things take my mind away from my tasks. I find that my emotions are more balanced. I don’t get angry or sadden like I use too. Those high emotional events that I kept repeating in my mind are now far and few in between. The best change of all is that I know can hear my voice. I can listen to my body it has changed my diet and I have lost weight and I also have found I have a more positive outlook about things in general.
This was no easy task in begging my monkey mind fought like hell.
1. Start small I started at 20min a day before working up to an hour
2. Don’t judge thoughts: all kinds come; sexual, murder, hate, hate revenge. It can be overwhelming just let them float out away from you like a fart. Your mind is cleansing itself and there’s a lot of junk that has got to go. This is the minds way of doing it
3. Never compare or judge meditation sessions. Some times you will have a great session focused and relaxing, other times your monkey mind will keep you busy till the last five minutes. Like thoughts each mediation session is just another passing that has come and gone.
Good luck with your meditations………..

64 Vince September 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Great article. One thing to note about Christian meditation is that it is less about finding “yourself” and more about finding God. We are called to communion. Even God is a communion of three persons. Thus by going inward, we are truly going outward to seek the Lord. In finding the Lord, we find our truest destiny, desire and selves.

The two biggest stumbling blocks to meditation and prayer are boredom and a spirit of busyness that tells us we are accomplishing nothing. Before meditating, I believe we need to put our other problems into perspective and remind ourselves that it is okay to put them on hold. Also, remind yourself of the importance of what you are doing. In the next life, things that only come with great challenge and discipline here on Earth will be as plain as the nose on your face.

65 yasser September 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm

by definition the description of insight meditation was slightly misleading. for those who would like to do a crash course in insight meditation visit http://www.dhamma.org and look up any available courses that are held near you. one of the main goals of insight meditation is to rearrange negative habit patterns of the mind which have been so deeply engrained that persistent repetition is require to receive any significant gains. a 10 day crash course in insight meditation will give you a solid foundation from which to continue work. i spoke to a monk who once stated that learning meditation via books/tapes is the equivalent of learning to swim in a bathtub.

66 Jake Rhodes September 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm

When I meditate I generally lie down on my back in the corpse position and use a variety of mindfulness meditation techniques.

I try to do this everyday for 15 minutes or so. It helps me focus throughout the day and the position is also good for my back.

67 jersey_girl September 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

It is important for men to meditate, because I feel that they have a lot of stress built up that they do not want to express, because they feel it will make them look less manly. Honestly, some women would rather see the true emotions of their men when something is upsetting them. I think that both men and women should engage in some form of meditation several times a week to relieve stress and negative vibes that may occur over the course of the week due to work, school and just life in general. I am the type of person who would love to perform yoga several times a week, if I had time, just because I worry a lot and I am always stressed about something. I think I would be more calm and less of a worrywart. Everyone should try meditating at some point.

68 Larry F. September 15, 2011 at 6:16 am

If you don’t have any inhibitions or qualms about visiting a Buddhist temple, another good source for meditation training can be as close as your nearest Thai wat (or Lao wat). You’d be surprised at how many there are in the US and how close one may be to where you live. Many of them offer meditation classes for free (or for whatever you want to donate). I live in Northern Virginia and I know of at least three between 15-60 minutes drive from my house. In my experience, they don’t proselytize or try to convert you to Buddhism. But then again, I don’t think that’s even possible.

As for books, take a look at Ming-Dao Deng’s “Scholar Warrior” and Daniel Reid’s “A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung”. I’ve used the techniques in both of these texts to achieve good results in augmenting my other, “live” training.

69 Larry Li September 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

Great article, good introduction for the masses!
Thanks for sharing!

I am a long time meditation practitioner as well and the practice has allowed me to overcome my own OCD and much much more. I have a blog for those interested as well.

Thank you for sharing again.

Take care.

70 JTGrace September 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

@Ryan: Make it a equal opportunity thing. Explain to her why you think meditation could help, make a deal with her that if you get your meditation time, she can too. Take turns watching the kids, whatever. If shes happy to take a break, but doesnt want to give you yours, you need to talk to her about that. On the other end, you better be giving her the time she deserves as well. If meditation ends up helping you out (it almost definitely will, when your stressing out over taking care of a family) it will become indispensible to the whole family, and together you will work out a way to make it happen.

Unrelated, any time I get to meditate, my confidence shoots up and I go into Action/fight movie-mode. Its crazy what a little calm collectivity can do for your stamina.

71 Ray September 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Thanks for sharing. Very interesting.

72 Horse September 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Growing up Catholic this gives more insight to praying the Rosary. I am not an overly religious person any more… alright I may or may not burst into flame setting foot in a church again but I do find that breaking out the beads and going through the routine brings a sense of calm with it. I could speculate that using similar beads and placing whatever thought, mantra or affirmation you want on them could have a similar effect when used in the same manner.

73 Alex September 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I’ve been telling myself to ‘get into’ meditating. I know it’s good; I know it’s healthy. And it would be nice to cut through the clutter of an over-stimulated mind.
Now, I just need to actually sit down

74 Matt January 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Batman meditates. ‘Nuff said.

75 Lenin August 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm

@Matt LOL. In fact, comic traditions hold that Bane meditated to increase his minds powers, don’t they?

76 Pandey September 6, 2013 at 9:50 am

For people trying to find an easy method of meditation…look no further than Osho Active Meditations.

For Example: Nataraj Meditation : It is an hour long technique involving dancing and then relaxing deeply. I can use the word miraculous to describe it’s impact. Download the Music for Osho Nataraj Meditation and start investing one hour everyday for yourself. Cheers :-)

77 Chris October 29, 2013 at 8:26 am

The Bible was the first to teach meditation for sucess. Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Not oly do we need to meditate it is important what we meditate on… IT MUST BE GOD’S WORD.
Psalms 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Regards, Chris

78 Kyle November 19, 2013 at 4:52 am

Great article. So many people don’t realize that there’s way more than just one kind of meditation. It’s nice to see that there are people with an actual grasp on the topic, rather than just telling everyone to ‘empty your mind’ and ‘relax’. Meditation doesn’t exactly require calm or a blank mind. It’s probably better if you allow yourself to drift, really.

79 Gita December 8, 2013 at 5:52 am

Brahma Kumaris centres offer courses in meditation and spiritual knowledge…There is practise of meditation that relaxes the mind and nurtures a healthy balance between our inner and outer worlds.

80 Tab January 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Why aren’t Buddhist monks manly? I find the Shaolin temple to have some of the manliest, well-adjusted men on the planet.

81 Ben February 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

Excellent article. I incorporate mindful meditation and guided meditation in my daily life. For guided meditation, there is an excellent free guided meditation resource at this website


82 Tim February 27, 2014 at 11:26 pm

One of my favorite orchestra directors was fond of a philosophy called “Flow State”. The theory is about a state of mind very similar to meditation; your mind goes into a state of “effortless attention”. It explains “being in the zone” for sports (or music), going into “hack mode” for computer programmers, or any other heightened state in which the skill level and difficulty of task are extremely high.

It’s easier to understand with a chart. I can’t put a picture here, but think of a simple rectangular graph. On the left side is the difficulty of the task, and on the bottom is the skill level of the person. Near the origin (bottom-left), there is a state of boredom, above that (high difficulty, low skill) there is a state of anxiety, in the bottom right (high skill, low difficulty) there is a state of restfulness. In the top right (high skill, high difficulty) there is a small section of “flow”.

One important thing to note is that you cannot know when you are in flow state, only realize it afterwards (once you realize you’re in flow, you aren’t).


83 andrea March 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm

thanks for article, I have been looking for a way in to meditation for my son. Meditation is for hippy’s and yoga freaks… but now I can also show him it is for the manly man…. yeah thanks…
I teach a meditation called iRest Yoga Nidra (guided)… as an addit.. check out ‘The Quiet Caucus, where Warriors at Ease and a couple of Congressmen have taken meditation to Capitol hill, twice a week. That’s another one to include into your very good intro on meditation.
thanks again.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/tim-ryan-quiet-time-caucus_n_3653247.html

84 Kylaila March 21, 2014 at 4:11 am

Thanks for this simple, but great compilation!

I use mainly mindfulness and Affirmation.
I used to concentrate only on my breath when I was suffering from insomnia (and depression) and was quite surprised that this is actually a meditation technique

but I have a hard time with Insight, I just cannot bring myself to associate freely without my input.
But I admit I haven’t put too much effort into it, as I am quite comfortable with my thoughts

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter