When we first sit down to meditate, there is a good chance that there are many plans, ideas and thoughts rushing through our head. The last conversation, interaction or email may still be sitting in the inbox of our mind. One technique I find helpful to get the mind focused and present is to think about one specific thing. Generally, when I lead sessions at a company or conference, I’ll have people close their eyes, sit comfortably, put their feet flat on the floor and bring all of their attention to the weight of their feet pushing down into the floor, which helps to ground us. The challenge is to continue to focus on the weight of the feet. We have given the mind a very specific task to perform which makes it easier to not get distracted. This exercise also serves as a challenge for individuals to
try and stay focused on one thing. I tell the participants that if they begin planning or thinking about the past, which is bound to happen, that they should recognize what they were thinking about and gently bring their awareness back to their feet. There’s no need to get frustrated or upset if the mind wanders off because that's just what the mind does.
The next step it is to bring the attention to the weight of the body pushing down into their seat. It’s a very simple exercise, but participants begin to realize how challenging it is to keep the mind focused on one thing. It’s sort of like having a puppy on a leash - there is no way it’s going to be able to walk in a straight line. A puppy will get distracted by every sight, sound and smell, and our mind is not very different. After spending about ten seconds focusing on the feet, and another ten seconds focusing on the weight of the body, I ask people to lean back into their chair, bringing the attention to the weight of the body pushing backwards. Next, I ask individuals to bring awareness to their hands and fingers and how they are situated. Are their hands on the armrest of the chair or on their thighs? Are the fingers intertwined with each other? The point is just to become aware and keep everything relaxed. Now, I ask if it is
possible for their mind to focus on all of the above simultaneously. Can they become aware of their feet on the floor, the weight of their body pushing down in the seat, and the position of their back and fingers all at the same time? Try this for the next 15 - 20 seconds and see if it’s possible. This is a fun and challenging exercise and most people come to realize the mind can’t focus on more than one or two things at a time. The more we do this, the more we realize that in reality, the mind actually only focuses on one thing before switching to the next. This connects back to the earlier point about multitasking and how it isn’t really possible. Learning to Breathe Now that the mind has come into the present moment and we have been able to go internal, we can go to the next phase - breathing. Breathing is something we do every single day. It’s an involuntary act; no one taught us how to do it. Our first breath happened the moment we exited the womb and we’ve just kept on going without giving it much thought. It’s time to become a little more intentional with our breath and experience the benefits of deep and focused breathing.