As professor David Levy describes it to USA Today,
“Meditation is a lot like doing reps at a gym. It
strengthens your attention muscle.”
Of all of the strategies outlined in this book, meditation
is the one that can have the most profound impact on
your overall well-being. Meditation has long been
touted as a way to improve concentration and focus,
but only recently have studies confirmed these claims.
- A study from the University of
Washington showed that meditation
increases productivity and promotes
- Another study published in Brain
Research Bulletin supports the claims
that meditation can decrease stress.
- A University of Massachusetts Medical
School study has shown meditation can
boost your overall brainpower in a
number of ways.
- Other studies have shown how
meditation can help preserve the aging
brain, improve the symptoms of
depression and anxiety, thicken the
learning and memory areas of the brain,
and help with addiction.
- Research has found that meditation also
promotes divergent thinking, a type of
thinking that fosters creativity by
allowing many new ideas to be generated.
Our main point in sharing this research is to reinforce
the profound benefits of meditation?benefits not only
demonstrated by thousands of years of anecdotal
evidence, but also validated by solid scientific research.
If you have any doubt that meditation is worth your
time and effort, hopefully you’re beginning to shift
Let’s get started with the very simple 10-minute
meditation Barrie and Steve practice that you
can begin today. There isn’t anything fancy or
complicated about the practice. You don’t need special
clothes or equipment. All you need is a quiet space and
the willingness to stick to it.
Here is a simple 11-step process you can use to build
the meditation habit:
1. Select a quiet, calm space for your
meditation practice where you can close
the door to be completely alone.
2. Determine a specific time of day for your
practice. If you’ve begun a deep breathing
practice, you can use this as your trigger
(and starting point) for your new
meditation habit. Or you can choose
another trigger and practice meditating
at another time of day.
3. Decide whether you want to meditate
sitting on a pillow on the floor or in a
straight-back chair or sofa. Try not to
recline as you meditate, since you might
4. Remove all distractions and turn off all
digital devices or other devices that make
noise. Remove pets from the room.
5. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
6. Sit comfortably either in a chair or crosslegged on the floor with a cushion. Keep
your spine erect and your hands resting
gently in your lap.
7. Close your eyes, or keep them open with
a downward-focused gaze, then take a
few deep cleansing breaths through your
nose?we recommend three or four
breaths at a time.
8. Gradually become aware of your
breathing. Notice the air moving in and
out through your nostrils and the rise and
fall of your chest and abdomen. Allow
your breaths to come naturally, without
9. Focus your attention on the sensation of
breathing, perhaps even mentally
thinking the word “in” as you inhale and
“out” as you exhale.
10. Your thoughts will wander a lot in the
beginning. Every time they do, gently let
them go and then return your attention
to the sensation of breathing.
Don’t judge yourself for having intrusive thoughts.
That’s just your “monkey mind” trying to take
over. Just lead your mind back to focused
attention on breathing. You may have to do this
dozens of times at first.
11. As you focus on breathing, you’ll likely
notice other perceptions and sensations
like sounds, physical discomfort,
emotions, etc. Simply notice these as they
arise in your awareness, and then gently
return to the sensation of breathing.
Your goal is to increasingly become the witness to all
sounds, sensations, emotions, and thoughts as they
arise and pass away. View them as though you are
observing them from a distance without judgment or
Rather than your mind taking control and running
away whenever a thought or distraction occurs, you
eventually gain more and more control of your mind
and your ability to redirect it back to the present.
In the beginning, you’ll feel you’re in a constant battle
with your monkey mind. But with practice you won’t
need to constantly redirect your thoughts. Thoughts
begin to drop away naturally, and your mind opens up
to the immense stillness and vastness of just being
present. This is a deeply peaceful, satisfying
Meditation masters refer to this space of stillness as the
“gap”?the silent space between thoughts. At first the
gap is very narrow, and it’s difficult to remain there for
more than a few nanoseconds. As you become a more
practiced meditator, you’ll find the gap opens wider
and more frequently, and you can rest in it for longer
periods of time.
You can experience a brief moment of the space
between thoughts by trying this exercise: Close your
eyes and begin to notice your thoughts. Simply watch
them come and go for a few seconds. Then ask yourself
the question, “Where will my next thought come
from?” Stop and wait for the answer. You may notice
there’s a short gap in your thinking while you await the
Eckhart Tolle, author of the book The Power of Now,
suggests this gap experience is like a cat watching a
mouse hole. You’re awake and waiting, but with no
thoughts in that gap.
You can also practice this “space between thoughts”
exercise by putting yourself in a state of deep listening.
Sit quietly and listen intently, as though you’re trying
to hear a quiet and distant sound. Again, you are alert,
awake, and waiting without the distraction of thought.
You may not experience a gap moment in your early
days of meditating. In fact, you may find you are
constantly redirecting your thoughts, noticing your
physical discomforts, and wondering why you’re
bothering with this silly practice at all.
You may judge yourself harshly for not “getting it
right,” or wonder if you are making any progress at all.
During meditation, your mind might wander off on a
meandering dialog about how you’re feeling and how
the meditation is going. Or, if you experience a space
between thought moment, you might get distracted by
the thrill of finally experiencing it.
Your job is always to simply observe and redirect your
mind back to the present moment, to your breathing.
The goal of your meditation practice is not to reach
nirvana or have a spiritual awakening. It’s simply to
strengthen your control over your mind until your
mind gets the message and gives in. The results of your
efforts will be a mental house that you control rather
than the other way around.
Some beginning meditators prefer to use a
guided meditation to help them get the feel for
the practice and stay focused. You can find many
free guided meditations online, and there are dozens of
smartphone apps available.
We recommend three to get started:
1. Buddhify has over 80 custom guided
audio meditation tracks on various
2. Omvana, with dozens of guided
meditations by very famous authors,
teachers, and spiritual celebrities.
3. Headspace has a series of 10-minute
guided exercises for your mind.
If you find you enjoy meditating, gradually increase
your practice from 10 minutes a day to 30 minutes. Or
you can try two 15-minute meditation sessions during
different parts of the day.
Steve and Barrie find it’s valuable to keep a meditation
diary to make notes about your experiences and
feelings during meditation. Try to write in it
immediately following your meditation so your
memory is fresh. Write down how uncomfortable or
distracted you felt, and whether or not you felt the
“space between thought” for any period of time. Also,
write about any changes in your daily mental state?
whether you are feeling more or less anxious, stressed,
Over time, you’ll have a document reflecting how
you’ve improved with your practice, as well as how the
practice has impacted your overall state of mind.
Now, if meditation isn’t your thing, then you might
want to consider a different habit where you learn how
to reframe the negative thoughts that often pop into
your mind. So let’s talk about that next.