c25k for concentration and meditation
July 24, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe

How to build concentration and learn to meditate

Hi mefites,

For those of you who are into meditation or have long concentration spans, how would you recommend building up and getting into a concentration/meditation habit? I have about 20 minutes I can dedicate to this every day. Are there any resources that I could look at to figure out my own programme or look at ones that are tried and tested for other people?

posted by dinosaurprincess to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimer: I haven't actually used this myself, but I recently read an article in Wired about a mindfulness/meditation app called Headspace that might be worth a look.
posted by KatlaDragon at 9:46 AM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is mindfulness part of what you want, too? Or only concentration?

Meditation didn't work for me when I treated it as concentrating really, really hard on whatever I assigned myself to concentrate on: my breathing, a mantra, whatever it may be. Because I just seriously can't. My mind wanders, and "wanders" is really too weak a word for the high-speed chaos. Trying less-hard to concentrate made meditation work better for me. This essay explains in more detail.

These are some free guided meditations, and quite a few of them are 20 minutes or less.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:51 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also came to recommend Headspace. I don't use it, but a dear friend has had good things to say about it.

As for me, I just jumped into my own "20 Minutes on the Cushion" routine years ago. Don't expect your brain to comply completely - or at all, ever! - when you're meditating. Even us long-time meditators have to just observe what our busy planning brains are doing and let it go...
posted by metarkest at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Reading long fiction (doesn't have to be fiction per se, but something that you'll read for the entire twenty minute span, optimally over the course of at least a few days, and with a continuous narrative -- so memoirs or biographies are probably OK, but not something that's more purely informational or shorter than that).

That's what I do to keep up my concentration, anyway, and it really has worked for me.
posted by rue72 at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2014

I will cut your available time in half (10 minutes a day, for 10 days) with Headspace's Take 10 Program. Free to use, and you can use their website or their smart phone app.

You can repeat days, so maybe do 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening so that you get into that habit as well.

HIGHLY recommend. They have a lot of supporting material to introduce you to meditation.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:00 AM on July 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

N'thing Headspace. It's excellent. The new app in particular is brilliant.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's another approach: the relaxation response. Perfect for your time constraints.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2014

the lovingkindness meditation is a concentration practice. You can find out all you need about it in Sharon Salzberg's book, which if I recall correctly comes with some guided meditations. Or you can go to dharmaseed.org and find guided meditations and talks on metta (lovingkindness).

There are a number of other concentration practices. Pretty much any mantra practice is a concentration practice, and you can choose the mantra that works best for you. For example, one that many Christian practitioners use is "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." Catholics might not use these words, exactly, but the rosary is a concentration practice.

Zen does not differentiate between awareness and concentration practices, but in general, zen practice is a mixture of both.

I'm not particularly fond of the lovingkindess practice, but many people are. Hit my inbox if you'd like a short, simple set of meditation instructions for awareness practice.
posted by janey47 at 12:16 PM on July 24, 2014

I could not even sit for the 5-minute meditations at the beginning of the aforementioned Headspace program and now am happily into a much further section of 20-minute meditations in the program, with the sitting being the easiest part for me now. I am still challenged by the focusing part but completely love the slow build of this program. A+++ would sit again.
posted by rabidsegue at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also recommending headspace. I'm up to the 20 minute sessions now and the app is a joy to use, even on my elderly phone.
posted by halcyonday at 2:33 PM on July 24, 2014

Some very basic suggestions:
1) A short sit every day is better than doing a long sits, but only every few days.
2) 20 minutes is great, but don't get upset if you can't sit that long to begin with. Build up. You have to train your body to sit still for that period of time, as well as training your mind.
3) Meditate with a group, if you can. It doesn't have to be every day, or even regularly, but Instruction from an experienced meditator and the feeling of community are both really valuable when you're starting.
posted by BrashTech at 2:35 PM on July 24, 2014

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