So, if that is the case, what level of complexity is needed for meditation? Well, not much. Lots of research has shown that the simplest types of repetition can be very effective. They have also looked a lot at timing, frequency, time of day, and situation, so I will tell you about all of those things. They looked at ten-minute sessions, twice daily, being very effective. Between ten to twenty minutes is ideal (you may see more improvement over the longer time frames). Above twenty minutes – between twenty to sixty minutes – the level of improvement is rather small. You can see clear shifts in even ten-minute sessions, so this is not much time commitment at all.
What about the time of day? Whatever time you can practice is the most effective time. If you do have some options, morning is helpful. In many cases, if you have a ritual or practice that you knock out in the morning, it leaves you with a certain amount of confidence and accomplishment that can benefit you throughout the day. Also, for many people, they have a better chance of guarding and controlling their morning in a way to make meditative practice more plausible. So, mornings are great, but again, do not let that be a barrier, as anytime can work.
Where should you meditate? There is no wrong setting. Some people have done this even on commutes on public transportation. It is possible. Ideally, you want a quiet space in which you will not be interrupted. If you have access to a natural setting, you will probably receive even more benefit. Just seek a quiet space where people will not interrupt you, and you have all distractions, like your phone, put away. It is helpful to have passage of time calibrated, so have something like a timer that will gently chime (not one that is loud and abrasive) after your time has passed. Make sure it works properly. I have been in meditations before where I am thinking, “Okay, it should have been twenty minutes. How long has it been? Is the timer going to go off? Is it going to be done sometime soon?” – you can get stuck in a spiral! I actually have done sessions where I did not set the timer right, and after a half hour, I checked and what I was thinking was right – it was too long. So, choose your setting and use a good-working timer.
How do you want to be situated when you meditate? You want to be anywhere your back is straight. Sitting in a chair is great. If you are flexible in certain ways, you can do lotus postures or sit cross-legged, but the important thing is having your back straight and aligned, comfortable and supported. You do not want to be lying down, or you will totally fall asleep and zone out!
When meditating, what goes on inside your head? There are two parts to this: What you intend to do and what is inevitable. We will talk about both. First, let’s talk about what you intend to do. I am going to encourage a variation of meditation, called mantra meditation. This has had one of the largest amounts of research and the least amount of complexity. You want to choose things to repeat. What I love to do is simply count while I am breathing. There are no overtones, no concepts and nothing for your mind to pattern off. I inhale and mentally count, “one-two,” then exhale and count, “one-two.” So you want a pace about like that. As you sit there for a few moments, your breathing often gets slower, so you can then move to a “one-two-three, one-two-three,” or a “one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four” count. Using simple numbers is easy to maintain. The idea here is that you are using a pace that will keep your mind engaged. Your conscious mind stays more occupied and more focused. This seems to shift us toward the state of repair, rejuvenation and resiliency. Again, you are really just sitting, breathing and mentally (not verbally) counting on the inhale and starting your count again on the exhale. This a simple, intentional, mental technique.