Focus, Energy and Clarity: Getting Started with Meditation

November 10, 2020
Posted in Focus
November 10, 2020 Zach Parcell

I was in the middle of a stressful project. Had a great team to work with, but the work was intense and the deadline was quickly approaching. I needed a way to find a little clarity, slow things down a bit, and regain focus daily. I finally tried meditation.

For years, I’ve spent time learning how to manage time, increase focus, or just be a better person. Time and time again, the practice of meditation would be mentioned. From all walks of life and all backgrounds, meditation was constantly a habit used by those explaining their journey. After giving it a try, it soon made a much larger impact than I expected and has been a steady habit for years.

There are many forms of meditation and I’m certainly not an expert. Mindful meditation is what I’ve found to be the best for me. My goal is to break down that initial barrier and just get you started.

Key Takeaways

  • Meditation is more than just chanting a mantra or sitting cross-legged on the floor
  • It takes time to really find the rhythm
  • Noting where the mind wanders can tell you a lot

Getting Started with Meditation

There aren’t many activities in life that can compare to meditation. When many tasks include actively doing something, meditation is a bit of the opposite… it’s slowing down and letting everything rest. The first few times you try and sit down to meditate, it might not click or seem helpful. This is a long-term practice. It will take a little time. This might be a week, or even a month, until it really clicks.

For me, I first saw signs of “getting it” about two weeks into a daily meditation practice. It was only in flashes though, but I loved the feeling I got in those specific moments. It was only 5-10 minutes at a time and within those sessions, maybe only “felt it” for a minute or two.

As I continued to build up this exercise, I could really get into the right mindset and feeling for many minutes at a time. I slowly built up to a 30-minute session. It was great, but a little too long for my taste. I’ve found 10-15 minutes to be my sweet spot for a single sitting.

Start with three minutes just to get the rhythm down, then five, then 10, and so on. You have to give it a very slow burn here. This is not something to rush.

Let the Mind Wander

Being able to “think of nothing” is a common misconception with mindful meditation. In my experience, it’s much of the opposite. While you will spend time focusing on your breath and letting your mind relax a bit, it will always wander on you. It’s virtually guaranteed.

Through guided meditation, when the prompt is to “bring your focus back to the breath” you then realize that it did wander again. This happens all the time. What is important though, especially to me, is noting where the mind wandered. You were easily focused on your breath and all of a sudden, you’re deep into some completely other thought. Make a mental note of that and come back to it.

I’ve always taken stock into where my mind went. This helps identify what is likely a priority for me that I didn’t realize before. It might be an upcoming project, meeting, activity, etc… You’ll have to ask yourself why your mind went there and why now, but it can often uncover something that might be worth taking care of sooner rather than later. If you’re worried about something, handle it now while it is fresh rather than let it fester for hours or days ahead of you.

This is clearing that mental noise. It might not be the most urgent thing, but it’s becoming a distraction to you.

Your mind might also wander to the most important thing in your life At that moment. Good. Your mind is aligned with the outside world. Now look at what specific part of your priority topic it wandered to. Analyze that a bit and see what you can learn from it. This moment of clarity can be significant.

Zone Out

From time to time, I’ve really hit a deep focus during meditation. I went from focusing on the breath and my mind wandered into nothing. It just let go of everything. This doesn’t often happen, but when you snap back into reality, you really get a sense for how disconnected you were (in a good way).

Your mind really exhaled and just let things go for a moment. I often refer to this as “zoning out” — often times you can zone out and your mind is focused on something very specific. It’s almost a daydream of sorts. When you just really unplug though, that mental weight lifted off you is a really cool feeling.

In my experience, you can’t really go after this feeling or try and recreate it. It only happens naturally when your mind and body allow it to. It’s a really cool feeling.

When to Meditate

You can easily meditate whenever you can work it into your daily routine. I’ve found two key times of the day to be the most beneficial: first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed.

First thing in the morning is my favorite time. I haven’t fully started my day, I don’t have any unexpected distractions in front of me, and the house is still quiet. 10-15 minutes to get started is a great way to find where my mind might wander, fully recharge the mind, and then get going. I find myself with a little extra mental (and physical) energy at this point. It really is step one for me.

I’ve also enjoyed a late night meditation session right before bed. After a busy day at work, fun time with the family, and getting ready for bed, it’s a great way to allow a little reflection and wind down. Note where your mind went note how quickly (or not quickly) you could slow everything down. This also will allow your mind and body to know it is the end of the day and to slow down for a period of rest.

A third time has been useful for me, but isn’t always my favorite. If I am going to get some work done in the middle of the day, taking a few minutes to slow down and recalibrate my mind is helpful. It isn’t the greatest session for me, but it does allow me to focus on the task in front of me and complete that in a timely way.

The Best Meditation Apps

Two great mobile apps top my list of the best meditation apps: Headspace and Calm.

Form the Habit

Meditation wasn’t easy for me at first. It might not be easy for you either. It was just like learning to ride a bike. There are flashes, but it doesn’t happen immediately. Over the last three years, this has been one of the most impact habits I’ve built.

You go to the gym to help get your body in shape and stay in shape. That doesn’t happen overnight either. You need to put in the time. Meditation was a mental workout. It brings that clarity you seek, self awareness as to what is on top of mind or distracting you, and allows you to really identify those sources of stress. Learning how to calm the mind, and the body, can help you through those tough days or tough moments. It slows things down, gets rid of the noise, and helps put you in the right place to move forward.

Headspace

Headspace is my preferred meditation app of choice. I find Andy Puddicombe’s voice to be very calm and easy to understand. In recent months they have added a female voice as well to give you a second option. I have enjoyed the guided and semi-guided meditations along with their themed courses that often last 30 days. Each one builds on top of the other one. I find this the best meditation app for those who are wanting to get started.

I do subscribe to Headspace and find it worth every penny. The subscription is $69.99 per year. For students, they have a plant or $9.99 per year or you can get a family plan (six accounts) for $99.99 per year.

Calm

Calm is anther very popular meditation app. It takes a similar approach but has its twist on things. They introduce some settings for specific background sounds or situations to help you focus. Calm also has a number of dedicated courses, music to help you focus, and more.

Calm also includes a subscription that is $69.99 per year.

Form the Habit

Meditation wasn’t easy for me at first. It might not be easy for you either. It was just like learning to ride a bike. There are flashes, but it doesn’t happen immediately. Over the last three years, this has been one of the most impact habits I’ve built.

You go to the gym to help get your body in shape and stay in shape. That doesn’t happen overnight either. You need to put in the time. Meditation was a mental workout. It brings that clarity you seek, self awareness as to what is on top of mind or distracting you, and allows you to really identify those sources of stress. Learning how to calm the mind, and the body, can help you through those tough days or tough moments. It slows things down, gets rid of the noise, and helps put you in the right place to move forward.

Zach Parcell

Zach Parcell

Zach is a 35-year-old midwestern husband, father, son, gummy bear loving, digital communication professional. Zach has spent endless hours researching lifehacks, strategies, resources, tools, examples, and more in order to be a better person in the office and at home.

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