How 10 Minutes a Day can Change Your Life
By: Adam Katzen
Do you dwell on the past or worry about the future? Does your mind feel like a hurricane sometimes and keep you up at night? Have you ever felt alone or disconnected? Wish you had more control over your thoughts and emotions?
Congratulations, you’re a human being. The good news is you’re not alone.
Every day I hear from people who change jobs, the location of their homes, their diets and daily routines, social circles... only to end up right back where they started.
They’re unfulfilled at work, don’t have enough money, unhappy with their bodies, feeling disconnected, concerned about their health, stuck… Can you relate? I can.
In fact, I spent decades trying to change or control everything around me so that I would feel content, happy and fulfilled. I tried everything - money, power, success, influence, spirituality, sex, drugs, material things - nothing worked, at least for any length of time.
But then I found something that did work.
It’s a 2,500 year old practice that can ease anxiety, create lasting peace and serenity, reduce stress and even boost energy levels. It will help you process information more effectively, make you more productive and help you make better decisions. Plus, it only takes 10 minutes.
But before I show you how to do it, I want to be up front that there are some side effects...
Feelings of empathy and compassion for others... more control over your emotions, better communication and even deeper relationships are all benefits associated with this practice.
You may have heard of it before, it’s called meditation. But here’s the problem…
A lot of people have the wrong idea about meditation. They think they can’t do it… They become discouraged because their minds won’t stop… They are attached to a result... Can’t sit still… don’t have “time” to meditate…
I hear excuses like these from people all the time. That’s why I want to give you a detailed roadmap, a step by step instruction guide on how to meditate.
Are you ready? You may want to grab a pen and paper to take notes. Here it is:
Step 1: Sit down
Step 2: Breathe
Step 3: Continue breathing
Yep, that’s it. I know, a bit anti-climactic… but that’s really all there is to it.
See, meditation is not complicated. It’s not about changing the way you feel, transcending, attaining enlightenment, having some cathartic, magical experience, making your problems go away… it’s not even about clearing your mind.
There’s a Zen story (that I’m probably about to butcher) which goes something like this…
Many years ago there was a man and a horse. The man lived in a small village in the foothills. Every day the man could be seen galloping through the village on his horse, speeding back and forth wherever he went.
This went on for years and the villagers became accustomed to it. One day, as the man was speeding by on his horse, a young child called out, “sir, where are you going?”
“I don’t know!” the man shouted back. “Ask the horse!”
Of course, the horse is your mind. And meditation is not going to make the horse disappear. All you are trying to do is slow it down little, maybe get off and walk beside the horse for a bit.
It sounds simple, but meditation is not easy. It’s not an escape from reality. It’s learning to sit in equanimity (or acceptance) with the truth of your experience. All you’re trying to do is create space. Let me explain what I mean.
See, space contains all things. But space isn’t attached to, or affected by those things. And the more space you create by sitting quietly with your mind, the more space you have for thoughts and emotions to exist without them making you crazy or controlling your actions.
Here’s a different way to look at it.
Several years ago I was hiking through Denali National Park in Alaska. I remember standing at the base of Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley), staring up at all 20,300 feet of it.
From the bottom of the mountain, it dominates everything in your field of view. If you’ve never seen pictures, it’s massive. But so is the park. In fact, the mountain is set in 6 million acres of wild, untamed lands.
Later on in the trip I was in a different section of the park, standing on top of another peak, probably 50 miles away from Denali.
I could still see Denali in the distance, but set against the enormous expanse of space visible from this new vantage point, it didn’t seem big or daunting anymore.
Now imagine Denali is your problems. If you’ve got no extra space around the mountain, those problems create a much different experience than if they’re set in millions of acres. Make sense?
The challenge is that most people take a backwards approach. They try to change the mountain.
How often have you tried to change, manipulate or control your external world because things aren’t how you want them to be, or you don’t feel how you want to feel? While it might work for a second, it’s not usually sustainable. But here’s some good news.
Once you stop trying to change and control everything outside yourself and work on changing your mind and creating space, life gets easier, more peaceful and a little happier – even though nothing actually changes. That’s what a meditation practice is all about.
Adam Katzen is a writer, business development consultant and leadership coach with a debilitating penchant for adrenaline fueled adventures and making the world a better place. He leads our Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism class every Monday at 7pm.