Book 12/24: 8 Minute Meditation
8 Minute Meditation, by Victor Davish appealed to me because of its cover, which claims that I could “develop mindfulness for greater clarity, lower stress, increased productivity and a happier life in just 8 minutes a day”. That seems like a pretty big claim.
When I bought it I’d been trying to learn to meditate, but wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, or what it should feel like or how I should be doing it. It’s something I’ve tried to do on and off (like yoga) over the past 20+ years, but only recently incorporated it into a more structured morning routine.
I felt like I needed some help, and this book seemed like it might be the help I was looking for. I didn’t see the statement on the top of the book that it was the most American form of meditation yet, because if I had I suspect that might have put me off buying it.
I didn’t read the book all the way through to start with. I decided to go with the eight-week program and stick with it week by week, so I began by reading the introductory sections over a few days and then the instructions for week 1, and once I’d done that I started the 8-week program the next day.
In a nutshell, the book gives a basic overview of what meditation is and isn’t, and explains that it’s “the ‘portal’ to mindfulness”. It describes mindfulness as “. . . the action of allowing. Allowing what is to be just as it is. Moment by moment. Experience by experience. Breath by breath . . . Mindfulness is allowing what is.”
It then goes on to explain the practice of meditation, what the benefits are and how to follow the eight-week program. It specifically refers to “the roving mind”, which is what happens when you sit down and try to meditate, follow your breath, be in the moment, whatever you call it, and your mind just keeps on thinking, thinking thinking. I’ve found the maximum time I can concentrate on my breath before I start to follow a train of thought is three breaths, and without realising it I’ve gone away from the breath and I’m thinking. The idea in mindfulness meditation is that you notice you’re thinking, acknowledge it and take your awareness back to your breath. As often as it happens. Which in my case is all the time.
The bulk of the book sets out the eight-week program. Basically all you do is sit down and meditate for eight minutes a day, and each week there’s a new set of instructions to follow about what to focus your attention on. Each week talks about some of the things you might be feeling at that time, and answers some common questions. It’s not difficult, but the key is to do it every day.
As I went through the program I found some techniques easier than others. Some my mind completely resisted and others I was drawn to a lot more. The one where you have to bring up pictures in your mind was a complete blank to me because I just can’t draw a picture in my mind no matter how hard I try. The one where you focus on sounds was really interesting, but I think I was most drawn to the one where you just focus on your breath. This is what I’m familiar with and what I would see myself as doing moving forward.
Once you’ve finished the eight weeks you can move onto the “Upgrade” section, which gives you some ideas on how to “deepen your meditation practice and apply it to daily life”. This includes ideas on increasing your daily meditation time; a technique called Meditation In Action, where you do an everyday activity but focus on that activity and only that activity 100 per cent; and some ways to practise the Lovingkindness Meditation, which is introduced during the eight-week program. There are also some additional resources if you’re interested in exploring further.
I found this book to be a nice basic introduction to several different meditation practises, some of which worked for me and some of which didn’t. Mr Davich writes in a very conversational tone that is very gentle and reassuring. The key message is that there’s no “right way” to meditate, and that it’s something that anyone can do.
I still struggle with not engaging with my thoughts, but the key is to be aware of them and to let them go. Apparently my struggle is normal, and so I persist.
So does the book live up to its claim? I certainly think I’m benefiting from having incorporated a meditation practice into my day. I feel calmer most of the time, but I don’t know if I’m specifically happier or more productive, and if I was, whether it would be possible to attribute it to one thing I was doing differently. Let’s just say that this something I intend to continue doing.
I don’t know if the book tells you this but over time, your wandering mind becomes easier to control and refocus. Meditation is something of a discipline in that way. I spent several years at a Zen Buddhist temple and we would have 3 hour meditation sessions. 45 minutes on, 15 minute break and so on. The longer you can go, the more natural it becomes to stay focused and return your focus.
If you have time to extend your meditation at least on some days, I would recommend it. You would feel the benefits sooner.
Eventually you will take this single minded effort into every day things that you do. Anything you do with full attention is a form of meditation.
Good luck with it!