My psychiatrist’s business cards are 15cm long in order to fit his degrees. Needless to say, he doesn’t come cheaply. So if I’m not overly keen on forking out even more money on gym memberships, kayaks or running shoes, I’m sure you can understand.

There is, however, an exercise I know that is absolutely gratis and can achieve amazing results. Better still, if you’ve already mastered the art of controlled breathing discussed in the previous post, you’re 80% of the way there*. Having learned how to control your breathing it’s time to learn how to control your mind.

I tried meditation years ago. I was as successful as a dog driving a car. Still, that’s what happens when you don’t have a clue what you’re doing and you’re too lazy to learn. I was convinced that in order to achieve some form of inner peace I had to empty my mind of every thought.

As I sat in my darkened room staring at a candle and mouthing ‘ommm’ I would start thinking about tomorrow’s meeting, tonight’s dinner, whether I’d returned that library book, was I due for a haircut, did my jeans need washing and something or other about the difficulty of herding cats. As soon as I showed these thoughts the door another dozen would replace them and so it went. Minutes later I would blow out my candle, pack my mantra away and head back to the telly to ‘relax’ and let my thoughts run rampant.

As I learned some years later, you can never empty your mind of thoughts but you can control them – to some degree. So, without further ado, let’s learn some basic meditation. Find somewhere quiet and adopt your controlled-breathing pose.

Okay, start your breathing and your counting. Nice and deep and slow. Just concentrate on counting your breathing for a few minutes and get in your rhythm. Once you’re feeling good about your breathing it’s time to focus on your mind. The first thing you’ll notice is a thousand and one thoughts bouncing around like bees in a bottle. And here’s the trick. Don’t worry about them. As one comes to the forefront demanding your attention, just let it go.

My psychiatrist gave me a good analogy that might help you too. Imagine your thoughts are little trains running around in your head and your mind is a railway station. Every now and then, one of these trains will pull into your station hoping your attention might get on, but don’t let it. Just let the train leave without you.

So, for example, there you are trying to still your mind when a thought about your mum flies into your head. You realise you haven’t spoken to her for a while. Now at that time you can jump on board the train and think to yourself: I’d better give her a call. Wonder whether she’s home? Hope she’s okay. Hmm wonder how Dad is too? Suddenly it’s all stations to Mumsville.

Alternatively, the Mum train of thought pulls into your station and you think to yourself – Gees I haven’t spoken to Mum for a while – and that’s where it stops. You let the train go. Rather than letting this initial thought form the basis of ongoing thoughts you simply acknowledge the thought and wave it goodbye. It might sound complex but after a little practice you’ll find it’s dead easy. You simply stay on the station and refocus on your breathing and your counting as the thought disappears without you.

As you do so you’ll eventually find yourself actually meditating and without a candle or ommm in sight. Try it for five minutes today, ten minutes tomorrow and fifteen the next and pretty soon you’ll be meditating quicker than you can say Hari Krishna. I don’t know where our minds go when we meditate but I do know wherever it is it’s very quiet and beautifully peaceful. For more tips on one of the world’s best mental health tools visit:

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