It's the Best!
Meditation is the best thing you can do for yourself. It can also be one of the most difficult things you can do for yourself! I'll start with the good stuff first. Meditation has a long history and the first written records of it date back to about 1500 BCE. What is meditation exactly? Simply put, it is a technique used to quiet the endless stream of thoughts passing through your mind. It does not mean to create a blank mind, but rather one that is focused on one point of concentration. I'll share some techniques with you in just a moment. The benefits that come from meditation are astounding and are equally beneficial as other highly important types of self care like drinking water, vital to health and survival.
Here's a quick list of some of the benefits of meditation: reduced stress (who doesn't need that?), reduced heart, blood pressure, and breathing rates, reduced anxiety and general pain. Meditation shifts your body from the "fight or flight" of the sympathetic nervous system to the "rest and digest" of the parasympathetic nervous system. This means better sleep and eating habits. Meditation also helps you develop a sense of self awareness which can result in better control over emotions, reducing depression, emotional outbursts, and increasing your sense of calm.
Meditation can be a spiritual practice for some, helping them find a deeper connection to their beliefs. For others it is a secular practice done solely for the health benefits. Both are fabulous reasons to meditate.
I have practiced meditation on and off for 14 years, and finally committed to a regular practice about 4 years ago. Here's why it can be so difficult. It takes practice and commitment. When you practice any skill there are times when things don't go quite the way you hope they will. For me in my meditation practice it goes something like this: Ok, I'm going to sit down, close my eyes and be still for the next 10 minutes. Right after I let the dogs out. Ok, here we go. One eye peeks open to check on the cats. Deep breath, focus. Hmmm, I wonder if I should go answer that email. I think I want to go do a handstand. No, brain, we are going to sit here an be quiet. And on it goes until I give up. But I go back every day, and the more days in a row I go back the easier it gets.
Someone very wise said to me that commitment means doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the feeling with which you said it has faded. That means going back to meditation after those days when I didn't succeed in quieting my mind. And I am so glad I do, because now on most days I meditate for about 20 minutes, finding a focused mind and creating a calmer start to my day.
Over the years I've used different techniques, here are a few that work for me. Count the length of your inhale and match the length of your exhale and that's all the mind focuses on. Repeat a word or phrase in your mind as fast or slow as seems natural. My go-to phrase is "at peace". Use a longer mantra, which is a group of phrases repeated several times for a particular energetic purpose. Focus your thoughts on something you are grateful for and allow that feeling to flow through your entire body. Moving meditation such as walking or yoga, focusing your mind on each minute detail of the movement. There's lots of other ways to meditate, the idea is to find something that works for you that you can commit to doing on a regular basis.
If you are new to meditation start small, maybe 2 to 5 minutes, and increase as you feel comfortable. There is no right amount of time, any amount will begin to show the benefits in your life. Finding a time in your day and a place where you will not be interrupted is important. Close your office door, sneak into the bathroom at home, wait until the kids are at school, sit in your car a block away from home, where ever and when ever you can get those few minutes, take them and close your eyes, breath, get still in your physical body and patiently and lovingly encourage your mind to get still as well.
Do you meditate regularly? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us so we can learn from you! Are you brand new to meditation? Let us know how its going! Not sure where to start? Join Angela at the next Inner Journey Workshop to start you on your way. I'd love to hear how it's going for you!
"Meditation is the comfort in Life." ~Ravi Shankar