by Leo Babauta

These are times of heightened change, disruption, uncertainty, fear, anxiety. It can feel pretty crazy for most of us.

So how do we cope? What can we do in the middle of chaos and crisis?

This is when meditation becomes of critical importance.

Without meditation, we have no way of dealing with the anxieties coming up.

All of our old ways of coping (which don’t normally work very well) are not working at all:

  • Distraction and ignoring (how can you ignore something that’s everywhere?)
  • Procrastination and avoiding (you can’t avoid this crisis)
  • Control of all kinds (you can’t control this, though we’re all trying to find ways to control)
  • Exiting, quitting (you can’t exit from the world)
  • Complaining, lashing out at others (you can do this, but it only makes the situation worse)
  • Worrying (yep, that’s happening a lot)

So if our usual ways of coping with worry and uncertainty cannot work right now … what can we do?

We can freak out. Or we can meditate. It’s our choice.

What Meditation Can Do Right Now

Meditation isn’t magic, but it is a medicine for uncertainty and anxiety.

Here’s what it can do for us in these times of heightened fears:

  • Help us to notice when we’re caught up in anxious thoughts — when you notice this, you can do something about it
  • Help us to see the feelings that are arising for us, which we might not normally notice
  • Interrupt the thought cycles we get caught up in, that might be keeping us from being present or sleeping, by dropping our awareness into the sensations of the body
  • Help calm down and see that in this moment, things are not dangerous, they are actually OK
  • Bring calm focus when we need to get some stuff done

These are just a few things you might see from meditation. Obviously, there’s much more to it. But it’s worth practicing.

How to Form the Meditation Habit

If you don’t already have a meditation habit, don’t worry … it’s absolutely doable. If you’ve done it before but let it drop, don’t worry … just let go of any guilt and start again.

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Pick a time. Let’s say 7am each day. Actually, it’s best to pick something you already do every single day, and tie the habit to that event — right when you wake up, for example, or right after you shower.
  2. Set a reminder. Put the reminder on your phone and calendar every day, so you don’t forget. Also put a paper note somewhere you’ll see it. Forgetting to do the habit is very common in the beginning.
  3. Set a timer for 2 minutes. When you’re ready to meditate, pick a comfortable spot (a chair or couch is fine), and set a timer for just 2 minutes to start with. Yes, that’s very short, but it’s a great way to start out a new habit — start very small, so it’s easier to stick to. You can increase it by a couple minutes every 7 days, if you do well at sticking to it.
  4. Just pay attention to your breath. It’s a simple thing to put your attention on — turn your mind’s attention to the breath, and leave it there for the 2 minutes. When (not if) your mind wanders from the breath to thoughts … simply notice, and bring the mind back to the breath. Don’t worry about getting distracted, it happens to everyone. Just keep coming back to the breath.
  5. When the timer goes off, thank yourself. A little gratitude helps to stick to any habit. Thank yourself for making the effort, and notice what good this small practice has brought you.

It’s pretty simple, but you have to notice the benefits or you’ll put off the habit