Noah Shrader

A Simple Meditation Exercise

Posted
January 21, 2020

Meditation is a core practice in my daily routine, strategically planned at specific times to provide moments of center and effective transition from one part of the day to the next.

But, it wasn’t an easy habit to form. For someone always on the move, preoccupied with endless projects and ideas, any time not engaging those pursuits was a distraction. The mindset was that if I wasn’t working on something, I wasn’t being productive. The problem wasn’t a lack of understanding of the need and benefits of meditation (or exercise or sleep for that matter), but rather priority. I was succeeding fine without it, so why justify the time? Until something becomes a necessity, our brains continue to follow what is — it’s our basic survival instinct.

Long story short, the struggles and anxiety from maintaining that lifestyle eventually forced a change. The result was a renewed life plan and focus, which featured two blocks of time for meditation each day. After much trial and error, I found that the most effective placement of these time blocks are during transition periods: before the start of my work day, and from my work day into family time (one in the morning and one right before the evening). This allows me to reorient and adjust state so that I approach the next sets of events with a calm, renewed energy. After months of consistent practice (like most habits, it took a while to build), I’ve noticed:

  • A significant drop in stress.
  • An improvement in overall happiness.
  • A better presence and and feeling of calm as I enter each part of the day, and consequently more depth and enjoyment from those parts.
  • The feeling of accomplishment that comes from self control, and empowerment knowing I’m ultimately improving my well-being.

Meditation comes in many forms, and I‘ve experimented with a number of them. But, if you’re busy like me and want something abbreviated and highly effective, the following exercise is a great starting point and can be done anywhere. It’s also beneficial because it helps train how we handle thoughts — seeing them as they are; observing, not judging; and letting them pass without the need to hold on. That alone has been the most transformative aspect of this exercise, and I hope that it’s the same for you.

The Exercise

The goal of this exercise is intense concentration and a focus on the breath. There are three variations/scenes — choose the one you find most comfortable. The exercise should last for a minimum of 10–15 minutes.

Optionally, you can include a mantra during your session. This is a repeated word or phrase (verbally or mentally) to help guide concentration, and is usually positive-focused. If you don’t have one, here’s one I find particularly effective:

I expand in abundance, success and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.

Mountain Scene

High and away from the commotion is the vastness, stillness and serenity of nature.

Directions:

  1. Open Spotify and find a nature recording deep within the mountains. Click to have the track repeat. Begin playing.
  2. Sit straight in your chair with your arms comfortably on your lap. Or, sit with your legs crossed, arms resting on your knees.
  3. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Slowly inhale for 4; hold for 2; release for 8. Do this 4 times. Slightly smile as you continue to take breaths. This is your happy place.
  4. Visualize sitting at the edge of a forest, alone, looking out onto a vast mountain range. Out in front of you are mountains with trees perfectly line the ridges. Below, you can see a lake stretching far and wide surrounded by a lush forest; the waters flowing gracefully. The centerpiece of this view is one gigantic single mountain. Keep focus on it for the remainder of the session while using your peripheral vision to keep sight of the immersive landscape.
  5. You might find your attention drifting during the exercise. This is normal. Gently bring your attention back to the mountain in front of you. If thoughts or worries arise, avoid judging them. Simply observe them and let them move on. Picture each thought as a bird flying across the sky from side of the mountain range to the other, until out of sight.
  6. As you maintain intense focus on the giant structure in front you, occasionally recite your mantra in your head. Feel the power of the words alongside this magnificent view of the mountains. Embrace the depth and wonder of the universe at this moment.
  7. At the end of the exercise, slowly bring your attention back to the room and when you’re ready, gently open your eyes.

Ocean Scene

A secluded beach affords the sights and sounds of a roaring ocean brushing its waves across the sand.

Directions:

  1. Open Spotify and find a nature recording of ocean waves. Click to have the track repeat. Begin playing.
  2. Sit straight in your chair with your arms comfortably on your lap. Or, sit with your legs crossed, arms resting on your knees.
  3. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Slowly inhale for 4; hold for 2; release for 8. Do this 4 times. Slightly smile as you continue to take breaths. This is your happy place.
  4. Visualize sitting on a beach, alone. All you see in front of you is the vast ocean stretching far and wide. The waves are calm and the breezes come and go. The only sounds are the crashing of water on the shoreline which gently makes its way up to your feet. As you look out into the distance, the sun is setting, dipping down into the line where the sky meets the sea. Keep focus on it for the remainder of the session while using your peripheral vision to keep sight of the immersive landscape.
  5. You might find your attention drifting during the exercise. This is normal. Gently bring your attention back to the sun setting in front of you. If thoughts or worries arise, avoid judging them. Simply observe them and let them move on. Picture each thought as a ship making its way across the waters, from one end of the ocean to the other, until out of sight.
  6. As you maintain intense focus on the sunset in front you, occasionally recite your mantra in your head. Feel the power of the words alongside this magnificent view of the ocean. Embrace the depth and wonder of the universe at this moment.
  7. At the end of the exercise, slowly bring your attention back to the room and when you’re ready, gently open your eyes.

Grassland Scene

Out in the country is a lush grassland with gentle winds that caress the soft grassy sea.

Directions:

  1. Open Spotify and find a nature recording of a grassland. Click to have the track repeat. Begin playing.
  2. Sit straight in your chair with your arms comfortably on your lap. Or, sit with your legs crossed, arms resting on your knees.
  3. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Slowly inhale for 4; hold for 2; release for 8. Do this 4 times. Slightly smile as you continue to take breaths. This is your happy place.
  4. Visualize sitting on ground, alone. Around you are endless, rolling hills of soft, green grass. Far in the distance, a wall of forest trees line the fields. Occasionally, you feel gentle breezes, and the air is crisp and warm. The centerpiece to this splendor is a single large tree propped up on the highest hill. It’s tall and wide. Keep focus on it for the remainder of the session while using your peripheral vision to keep sight of the immersive landscape.
  5. You might find your attention drifting during the exercise. This is normal. Gently bring your attention back to the large tree. If thoughts or worries arise, avoid judging them. Simply observe them and let them move on. Picture each thought as a deer making its way across the hills, from one end of the pasture to the other, until out of sight.
  6. As you maintain intense focus on the large tree in front you, occasionally recite your mantra in your head. Feel the power of the words alongside this magnificent scenery. Embrace the depth and wonder of the universe at this moment.
  7. At the end of the exercise, slowly bring your attention back to the room and when you’re ready, gently open your eyes.