As the world waited breathlessly to see whether the 12 young members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand would be rescued, we learned that their coach, trapped with them, not only helped keep them calm – but possibly kept them alive – by teaching them the meditation techniques he learned during the ten years he spent living as a Buddhist monk.
Ekapol Chanthawong, or Coach Ake, as he is known, used meditation in the cave to keep the boys calm and preserve their energy while they waited for a rescue they weren’t even sure would come.
Leah Weiss, a Stanford expert taught by the Dalai Lama, believes that meditating played a key role in keeping the group alive. The practice is a kind of mental training that improves focus and compassion, according to the expert. “For Buddhists, meditation is a go-to when distressed or in danger,” Weiss said. “Cognitive resources that would otherwise be hijacked by the threat can be accessed once again, meaning that problem-solving capacities increase.”
Meditation is a type of mental training that can increase your focus and compassion for others, among a wide range of other benefits. It calms you by slowing down your heart rate, your breathing and your metabolism, while decreasing cortisol levels, oxygen utilization and carbon dioxide emission – all of great benefit to the boys in the cave.
Some of today’s most successful business leaders rely on this practice to help them in their careers. Oprah Winfrey, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Thrive Global’s Arianna Huffington have all said that making meditation part of their daily routines has been key to their success.
10 minutes a day can change your whole life
A lot of people are skeptical about meditation. They either think it’s difficult or inefficient. But it’s neither of these things. First of all, it’s simplicity itself: you don’t need any special equipment or special yoga poses or secret mantras. And with an estimated 200 to 500 million people practicing meditation around the world, it has to be beneficial.
To get started with meditation, there are apps you can use (a popular one is Headspace) but grab a kitchen timer and follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way!
- Find a quiet space where you can relax. You can do this at home or at work, any time of the day. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Sit comfortably in a chair with your hands resting in your lap or on your knees. Keep your back straight, with your neck relaxed and your chin slightly tucked in.
- Unfocus your eyes and gaze into the middle distance. Take five deep, audible breaths: in through the nose and out through the mouth. On the last exhalation, let your eyes gently close.
- Take a moment to settle into your body. Mentally observe your posture and notice the sensations where your body touches the chair and your feet meet the ground. Feel the weight of your arms and hands resting on your legs. Be aware of your senses: notice anything you can smell, hear, taste, or feel.
- Slowly turn your mind inwards. Scan your body from head to toe, observing any tension or discomfort. Don’t try to change what you find, simply take note of it. Scan again, but this time notice which parts of the body feel relaxed. Take about 20 seconds for each scan. Now turn your awareness to your thoughts. Notice any thoughts that arise without attempting to alter them. Gently note your underlying mood, just becoming aware of what’s there without judgment. If there’s nothing obvious, that’s fine, too.
- Center your attention on your breathing. Don’t make any effort to change it, just observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your body. Notice where these sensations occur – your belly, your chest, your shoulders, anywhere else. Begin silently counting each breath: 1 as you inhale, 2 as you exhale, 3 on the next inhalation, and so on, up to 10. Then start again at 1. While you’re doing this, it’s completely normal for thoughts to bubble up. When you realize you’re losing your concentration, simply guide your attention back to your breathing. Don’t rush your breathing; just allow it to continue at its own pace and rhythm. Continue until the timer sounds.
- Release your mind, then open your eyes. Spend 20-30 seconds just sitting. You might find yourself inundated with thoughts and plans or feel calm and focused. Whatever happens is completely fine. Enjoy the rare chance to let your mind simply be. Now let yourself become aware once more of physical feelings: the chair beneath you, where your feet make contact with the floor, your arms and your hands resting in your lap. Notice anything you can hear, smell, taste or feel.When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.
Congratulations! You just completed your first meditation session! How do you feel? Do you feel more relaxed than when you started? Less stressed? Remind yourself of this pleasant feeling the next time you feel anxious or worried and know that with just 10 minutes of meditation, you might be able to change your mood – and improve your day.
And the more you practice, the better you’ll become at controlling your results – and that can enhance every day of your life.