I first came across the concept of meditation during my first few years in highschool nearly a decade ago. I was struggling as a cross country runner and wanted to have every edge possible to be the best runner I could be.

When practiced consistently, I did find my running to improve. I started to finish workouts and saw slight increases in my running times. My thinking was clear, and I was able to push myself to my limits both physically and mentally.

However, when I moved to Shanghai, I more or less stopped meditating entirely and never found time to put it into my daily routine – writing it off as something I “should do” but never actually making it happen.

Having immersed myself in the field of personal development for many years, I’ve come across the seemingly endless amount of blogs posts and books touting the incredible benefits of meditating on a routine basis. But for whatever reason, I could never quite make the habit stick.

Fast forward to the end of 2015 and I was increasingly convinced that I needed to make daily meditation a priority. I was struggling with depression and using significant willpower to keep myself from falling back into the terrible habit of compulsive gambling.

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to make meditation in 2016 a priority and as a result have meditated for at least several minutes every day of 2016.

There’s a lot of confusion on what exactly “meditation” means. Some view it as a woowoo spiritual practice that takes place of religion. Others see it as a time to calm your thoughts and focus intently on your breathing. Others use it as means to reduce stress and a time to disconnect. Others yet, have a entirely different point of view.

For me, meditation is the conscious act of disconnecting and returning to the now.

It’s no secret meditation has been a buzzword in various professional circles over the last few years. Many successful entrepreneurs swear by the practice. But often times what gets lost is the power of its simplicity.

To keep my meditation habit on track, I’ve been using the i-Phone app Calm which was created by Alex Tewy. It’s a free application that has several guided meditations that help you return to the now and focus on various areas of your life. For a small monthly fee you can upgrade unlocking dozens of new guided meditations.

I’ve also dabbled with another fantastic app called Headspace. And occasionally I’ll just go to my room and focus on my breath.

Contrary to popular opinion, meditation isn’t about “thinking about nothing” it’s about focusing your energy on the now. It’s amazing how difficult it is for our mind to sit still. Even having meditated every day in 2016 I still struggle with it immensely.

The benefits for me have been extraordinary. Taking just 5-10 minutes of my day to focus on my breathing has improved virtually every area of my life. I find myself much more positive in the face of adversity, my willpower has improved, and I’m less quick to get frustrated or lose my cool. Not to mention, I sleep better, my complexity has improved (really) and I find myself enjoying the “little things” more and more.

One of the reasons I believe so many haven’t given meditation a chance — is it’s often hailed as a cure all, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even the most seasoned meditators around will admit they aren’t perfect.

I still get frustrated. Some days I just can’t focus. And some days I yell at the guy who cuts me off.

But… I have noticed over time how less frequent these so called negative events occur. Perhaps the biggest difference I’ve seen is that I find myself getting into the state of “flow” much more often – which as you can imagine has proved immensely beneficial in both my personal and professional life.

Meditation has allowed me to take on 10+ tables at a time during my time as a waiter without losing my cool. 😉

Dig it? Let’s learn the ropes.

How To Meditate

It goes without saying, you must make your meditation practice yours. These guidelines will be a good base for you to get started.

Step 1. Schedule time on your calendar

The first step to making meditation a habit is to take it seriously. If it’s not on your calendar I question your commitment. Open up your calendar of choice and set aside 5 minutes each day to meditate. Do not skip this step.

Step 2. Disconnect From Distractions

Turn off your phone. Shut down your computer. Take your dog pee. Put a do not disturb sign on your door if you must.

Step 3. Get Comfortable

Find a place that you can comfortably sit for 5-10 minutes. While you can certainly meditate while lying down, I’ve find it beneficial to sit in a chair so you don’t turn your “meditation” into a 3 hour nap. Shake your arms and legs do a quick stretch.

Step 4, Use Your Tools

Turn your phone back on (if you’re a good boy or girl and followed step 2) and slide it into airplane mode. Open up either Calm or Headspace and choose your desired practice. If you prefer to do your meditation without a guide or music that’s perfectly okay to, but I’ve found a music or guided meditation is extremely helpful when first getting started.

Step 5. Focus on Your Breath

With your guide, music, or silent space close your eyes and take a deep breath. Notice how it makes you feel.

Deep inhale. Deep exhale.

Deep inhale. Deep exhale.

In the beginning, it is likely you’ll find this to be extremely challenging. You’ll want to check your phone. You’ll want to go check and see if the dog needs to pee again. You’ll wonder if you left the oven on from the pizza you just cooked. Resist these temptations.

As you breathe, you’ll also likely notice hundreds of thoughts waving their hands for attention.

Some of these thoughts might be pleasant, “Damn you’re good looking!” Others not so much, “Why did you suck so badly on your last presentation at work?” Others sport a more neutral feel, “I want to go for a walk.”

No thought or stream of thoughts is good or bad. When a thought enters your mind, “observe it” then once again focus on your breath.

Deep inhale. Deep exhale.

Deep inhale. Deep exhale.

Once your desired time of meditation ends you’re finished. You can go about your day until tomorrow.

That’s it. Really. Do this on a regular basis and you’ll begin to notice changes with both how you feel and act.

I encourage you to give meditation a sincere try for the next 30 days. You may not notice much difference immediately, but I assure you with time you’ll become a completely different and more empowered you.

Let me know your experience with meditation in the comments.