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The Path to Bliss

The amazing reality is that most people do not have a proactive daily practice of stillness and silence. If this sounds familiar to you, don't fret! In minutes, you will understand why and how you can get back on that meditation horse and ride into the sunset.
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Single sunflower in field
Single sunflower in field

Are you new to meditation or a crisis meditator looking for a deeper practice? You are not alone! Each day, as I teach meditation around the world, I begin my class by taking the pulse of the room. I ask how many students have never meditated, how many are on-again-off-again meditators, and how many have a long-standing daily practice. The results have been consistent for almost a decade: 10 percent have never meditated, 10 percent have a consistent daily practice, and 8 out of 10 keep falling off the meditation wagon or meditate in response to feeling stressed out.

The amazing reality is that most people do not have a proactive daily practice of stillness and silence. If this sounds familiar to you, don't fret! In minutes, you will understand why and how you can get back on that meditation horse and ride into the sunset.

First, let's review the top five reasons ex-meditators give for not meditating:

  1. I don't have enough time.
  2. I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.
  3. I keep waiting for something to happen.
  4. I still have so many thoughts.
  5. I'm not seeing the results.

All of these reasons to not meditate are grounded in an age-old misconception that something special is supposed to happen when you close your eyes. We are waiting for a physical sensation or a message from beyond or an aha! moment to unfold. But the magnificence of meditation happens NOT when you're meditating but when your eyes are open and you're back here with the rest of us interacting with others in the world.

Like any other practice -- whether that's going to yoga class, learning another language, or working out at the gym -- in order to experience the results, you have to show up. We live in a world of shortcuts, fad diets, and instant fulfillment, but just like you can't shortcut a good night's rest, you can't experience the powerful benefits of stillness and silence unless you actually spend some time in stillness and silence. That's why they call it a practice.

As science continues to validate the physical and emotional benefits of meditation and brain-imaging software makes leaps and bounds with technological advances, we are learning how meditation boosts our immune system, improves our memory, increases our sex hormones, lowers our blood pressure, fuels clarity and creativity, and restores us even more powerfully than sleep.

Yet somehow we choose to shop, watch TV, listen to music, go to a movie, text like a demon, or immerse into social media whenever we have some free time. That's because the results and benefits of our practice are so subtly revealing themselves throughout each moment of our day, yet we are looking for something to happen during our meditation. Recently one of my students -- a high-powered businesswoman who had meditated every day for a month, told me, "I don't see the value in meditating every day. Nothing is happening and I still have millions of thoughts." Then she revealed, "I just landed my dream job, met my soul mate, and reconnected with my sister after 10 years of not speaking." I just stared at her and smiled. There she was manifesting her dream life through the power of her practice, but she had all these expectations that something else was supposed to happen. We stood in silence for a few moments as her words lingered in the air and then we both broke into laughter at the miracles that were unfolding in her life because of her practice. There she was living the transformation, but she was too close to see it.

Again, it goes back to that timeless misconception that we are supposed to stop our thoughts through meditation. As if! We have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day -- that's one thought every 1.2 seconds. They're coming. Sitting with your eyes closed in full lotus position doesn't stop them. But when we can innocently follow our breath in and out or repeat a mantra or affirmation over and over, at a certain point we will disconnect from that tsunami of thoughts.

I've developed a technique that I use when I'm training those with high-stress lifestyles, members of the military, or those in law enforcement. I call it 16 Seconds to Bliss. Let's do it together now:

Observe your breath as you slowly inhale through your nostrils to the count of four. Then hold that breath in your belly to the count of four. Then gently release the breath and follow it out to the count of four. Then hold the breath out to the count of four. Now return to regular breathing.

That was a mere 16 seconds, and in those few moments you were fully present -- not in the memories of the past or in the fantasies of the future. You had no stress... no anxiety... no regrets... no grievances... and no expectations. You were right here -- right now. We didn't stop any thoughts; we simply drifted our attention to our breath in the moment. Essentially, we gave our selves a 16-second pattern interrupt -- a reboot -- unplugging from the drama, shifting away from the turbulence, and quieting the fluctuations of our mind. If you do that simple practice four times, that's one minute and four seconds; do it 20 times and you have just locked in a pure five-minute meditation of stillness and silence.

The power of this simple pattern interrupt can begin to transform your physiology, open your heart, calm your anxiety, soothe your stress, and spark your creativity. Over the past decade, I've taught a few hundred thousand people around the world to connect to their most genuine selves through real-world meditation techniques. Practice this simple method, and the next time someone asks you if you are a crisis meditator, you can reply, "16 seconds to bliss baby!"

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