Tweet me a meditation practice.
April 7, 2014 11:37 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to practice unguided, solitary meditation in a manner that is backed by evidence to have a positive effect on blood pressure, attention span, stress--all the things meditation has been demonstrated to impact. And I don't give a single damn about engaging with why it works, the history of meditation, a theory of body or mind, the history of the person who created it, a community of meditators, or anything else.

I want a single sentence that says "do this mental task, with your body in this pose or completing this action, in a physical space with these attributes, for this amount of time."

If you can provide that, and a link to a study or studies that used the practice, I'd appreciate it. Alternately, a link to a solid meditation study that contains a detailed description of the meditation practice used would also work for me, and I can come up with my own sentence.
posted by jsturgill to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
It's more than a sentence, but this page on the relaxation response tells you all you need to know. It's well-documented.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:45 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jon Kabat-Zinn (whose books are all wonderful and sound like they'd be of interest to you) brings it all back to breathing. Focus on your breath.

“It helps to have a focus for your attention, an anchor line to tether you to the present moment and to guide you back when the mind wanders. The breath serves this purpose…Bringing awareness to our breathing we remind ourselves that we are here now.”
posted by jbickers at 11:47 AM on April 7, 2014

Transcendental meditation is a practice where you sit, eyes closed, for a period of time while reciting a costs $ to learn, but has a lot of science backing it
posted by Kestrelxo at 11:50 AM on April 7, 2014

I want a single sentence that says "do this mental task, with your body in this pose or completing this action, in a physical space with these attributes, for this amount of time."

Here is your mantra: Om Ah Hum.

You practice like this: Breathing normally, join Om Ah Hum with the breath. Om on the inhale, Ah on the pause, Hum on the exhale.
Focus 100% on joining these words with the breath, until they seem to be one.

Do this for 5 mins every morning in a quiet room, in a seated position with your back comfortably straight.

Gradually increase to 10 and then to 15min.

If you want the research, pick up a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:30 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

Natural Stress Relief.
I find it to be incredibly helpful.
posted by brevator at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2014

Well, I got Vipassana boiled down to four tweets for ya --
Sit in one position for an hour each morning and night. Breathe through your nose. Let all thoughts leave your mind except --

Months 1-3: Focus on the sensation of air passing in and out of your nostrils, on your upper lip.

Thereafter: Repeatedly scan your body head to toe. Feel the sensations in every part, one spot at a time.

If sounds or thoughts distract you, no big deal. Just focus again. But without fail sit one hour each morning and night.
posted by salvia at 7:29 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Forgot to link the Google scholar search for Vipassana meditation.

Here is a link that will do a more thorough job of summarizing the Vipassana technique than I did. In the retreats, they have you move on from the nostril step to the full-body step after a few days. In my experience, it's difficult to make almost any progress in meditation in one's daily life. I found I had to spend, say, 45 minutes of the hour just coming down from the day (waiting for the very rocky and jumpy sensations to give way to the more fine-grained sensations). It was on that basis that I made the (quite possibly erroneous) assumption that a few days in a retreat would equate to a few months of practice in the distracting real world.
posted by salvia at 9:07 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've found Headspace to be a good guided intro to meditation. It's subscription based, but their 10 minute intro programme is free. Can't get much simpler than a pleasant-sounding English fella talking you through it.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:53 AM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure why you're looking for a single sentence. That may not really be possible.

Sit in a way that's comfortable enough without making you drowsy.

You may want to find a symmetrical and sustainable posture, such as half-lotus or kneeling. These postures require a cushion or bench. Lots of info is available. The exact posture doesn't matter much.

Next, incline your mind towards a smooth and clear attention, centered on your breathing. Kind of like biking with a comfortable gear on a spring day. When random thoughts pop up, and they will, just let them go and come back to the practice.

Sit like this for 15 minutes. Ramp up to 25 or 30 as you become more familiar and comfortable.

I honestly don't care that much about medical journal articles correlating specific meditation forms with statistical health benefits. For me it's like getting sunlight, sleeping, drinking water, or breathing fresh air. It's almost immediately obvious that the effect is beneficial and desirable. If it can be measured in terms of blood pressure or whatever, that's cool, but I'd keep doing it even if scientists weren't studying it.

It's also obvious, especially at first, that this kind of practice isn't easy. Some people say it's the hardest thing they've ever done. I always found it fascinating even when it felt difficult, though. And it's not actually "hard," if you just stick with it. You need both patience and vigor, as with any kind of exercise.
posted by mbrock at 5:07 AM on April 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure why you're looking for a single sentence. That may not really be possible.

You may consider that framing somewhat hyperbolic in nature.
posted by jsturgill at 8:22 AM on April 8, 2014

I'll give it a try: "Just sit; when your mind strays, return to the breath."
posted by onshi at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


This may not really be what you meant.
posted by slenderloris at 6:11 PM on April 8, 2014

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