Does mediation overwhelm you? Do you tend to evaluate your meditation skills? Well, if so, It’s my hope that I can change your mind a bit around your thoughts about this practice.
There are so many forms of meditation out there, from mindfulness meditation to Transcendental meditation and loving-kindness or Metta meditation, to Vipassana meditation. And that’s just naming a few of the more well known ones. I am not going to go into the similarities and differences here, because I want to make it super simple. Anyone, no matter your experience, can begin to access the benefits that meditation has to offer in just minutes. We do not have to go on retreat, sit for several minutes to hours a day or be in complete silence to meditate.
Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds.
Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another and another and another, mindfulness focuses our attention to turn toward the now. Whether we practice for 5 minutes of 30, we are still moving in the direction of self-care and well-being. Research shows that meditation may physically alter the brain and improve the ways in which we are able to cope with chronic stress. As beautiful and joyous as life can be, it can also be moderately and super stressful. Whether it’s hefty mortgage payments, killer commutes, or bosses who don’t give us the credit we deserve, stress can come at us from all different angles.
Surveys have uncovered some pretty disturbing statistics about stress. 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress, while 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. And a whopping 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
What are some of these physical symptoms linked to chronic stress?
• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory issues
How Meditation Can Help
There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against physical symptoms of stress such as IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis. Meditation has been linked with improved immune response, reduction in pain sensitivity, and a shift from negativity to positivity.
The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they won’t benefit from it.
And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their first 20 minutes of meditating, all of their problems will magically dissolve. Many of my clients tell me that they’re “just not good at it.” But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (sound nutrition and exercise), it takes commitment to reap those benefits.
There is nothing to be “good at” in meditation. The practice of consistently bringing yourself back to “now” or your breath or your focal point is the process of mediation. The more we practice the “bringing back”, the better we get at bringing ourselves back to the present in real life outside of meditation. this helps us with self-regulation, increased emotional awareness and deeper connections with ourselves and others.
Tips for Beginner Meditators
If you are interested in trying meditation for yourself, here are a few key tips:
• Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose. You can sit in a comfy chair or even lie down. The trick is to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
• Don’t try and control your breath, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath.
• Start with just a few minutes and build from there.
• Don’t try to be perfect. There is no perfection in life or meditation, so just keep practicing every day.
If you find after you’ve been meditating for a little while that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with me. I’d be happy to explore treatment options with you and talk about how I may be able to help.