Robert Alan Anderson is a martial arts instructor and an AFAA-certified personal trainer. He's studied martial arts for over 10 years. He teaches wing chun kung fu, self-defense, and kickboxing classes in the Washington, D.C., area.
Robert recommends learning to meditate in two stages. The first stage, awareness, is discussed here.
Step 1: Before you actually sit down to meditate, you must first figure out who you are. In a notebook or private journal, list your likes and dislikes. Avoid making a list of material things, such as types of cars or styles of clothing; instead, make a list that contains information about what makes you happy or unhappy (for example, Likes: being with my family, creative projects; Dislikes: working late, cold weather grocery shopping). The purpose here is truthfully evaluate yourself — to find out who you are, and more importantly who you are not. Once your list is complete, compare your likes and dislikes (who you are) to your personal and professional realities (what you do). Then ask yourself: do a majority of the things that you like take place within your job and home life? If so, good. If not, take note and gradually start doing more of those things that you like, and minimize and eventually stop doing those things that you don't like. Easier said than done? Certainly. But try it! Create methods that gradually move actions or activities that you like into your life, and those that you don't like, gradually start moving them out, or at least find ways to minimize them. Little by little, the stress will dissipate.
The second self-study exercise can be compared to one of those home makeover shows. You can't create a new room if you don't first organize the clutter and then throw out the inessentials.
Acceptance and Release
Step 2: Create a list of your worries and stressors (for example, Worries and Stressors: deadlines at work, others opinions and expectations of me, wanting to spend more time with family). The purpose of this exercise is to truthfully evaluate what concerns can be dumped from your "worry wagon." After you have created your list, separate the stressors that are past worries — things that happened in the past that you can no longer do anything about. Then, separate from the list the stressors and worries about the future — the things to come of which you have very little or no control. Next, tally up what's left. The remainder of the list should be made up of stressors and worries that are constantly present in your mind — things that never seem to go away. Since you have consciously made yourself aware of your stress inventory, you must realistically let go of the stressors of the past and future. Be honest with yourself and recognize that they are not in your hands, so you have to mentally throw them away — you must learn to let them go. Now, take a good look at the list of stressors and worries that are left. You need to learn to accept them for what they are — the personalities of the people in your life, the deadlines — they are all simply must-have items. You can't control them, but, unlike the past and future worries, they are real. Accept them as the here and now, and deal with them individually as they come in and out of your life. By taking these steps you are starting down a pathway that allows you to be in control of you.
Congratulations! You have just completed a course in self-study. The way to continue to de-stress, to maintain your new awareness and to keep the worries in check is to practice disciplines that allow you to continue to discover, evaluate and improve your new self-awareness. Meditation is one method of practicing this self-maintenance.
Ready for phase two? Go to Meditative Discipline.