Updated: Oct 15, 2020
It is a chilly Saturday, October morning, when my alarm sounds. I slam back a cup of water, roll out of bed, and make my way downstairs. I put on the sweatshirt still lying on the couch from the night before, get in my usual Indian style sitting position on the couch, pull the blanket over me, and get ready to set my intent for this morning’s meditation practice.
Closing my eyes, I get to focus on my breath and repeat my mantra as I sit there in meditation.
The thoughts that swarm in get redirected as I practice bringing the focus back to my mantra each time they enter.
Over the next 15-30 minutes, life is still while I am in my meditation practice. I focus on breathing and the dark space that is the backside of my eyes. Peace.
Some mornings look more like continuous thoughts coming in. Thoughts of what I have on my schedule for the day, things I haven’t let go from the day before, or a journey into the future. I let them pass with each thought as I bring the focus back to the mantra I have set for today’s mediation.
Other days feel more like an instant transition into the practice that meditation has become for me.
I finally understand why it’s referred to as a practice. And what that means to me. When I first started meditating, and I could not “shut off” the thoughts, I would often make myself wrong in those moments. The longer I continue to practice, the more I appreciate how it has taught me to redirect negative thoughts and helped me learn how to control/minimize anxiety.
Surprisingly, when I looked up mediation on google, there were several variations in definition. Of course, everyone puts their own thoughts into it. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mediation as “To engage in contemplation or reflection” and “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) to reach a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” My definition is closer to the second; I personally would adjust it to read, “to calm and train the mind.”
If you had told me when I was in my twenties or even my early thirties that I would be enjoying sitting in a still position letting my mind be free of thoughts, actions, and all that is life, I would have probably said something like, “Ya, I think not.” It is interesting how time and experience can bring appreciation to silence and peace. I only started my meditation practice two or three years ago. The more time that goes by, the more I appreciate what brings to my life. My first year or so was sporadic at best. But, in the last year, I’ve become more consistent with daily practice in either the morning or later evenings.
At a time in our country when many of us are teams of one working from home, the reduced time of close interaction with people, the beautiful smiles that could be given or gotten to lift someone’s day now masked, not to mention all of the political stress and other divides currently going on in our country. Meditation can be that peace to let all the rest be set aside for some time.
Meditation has many health benefits. Five of the chemicals shown to be impacted by mediation include.
Increased Serotonin-Often referred to as the “Happy” Chemical. Serotonin is connected to our overall well-being and shown to be released during meditation.
Decreased Cortisol-this is your fight or flight hormone. When we are under a large amount of continuous stress, cortisol levels increase. Consistent meditation practice can be able to decrease cortisol.
Boosted Endorphins- Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland. They are responsible for helping to reduce pain and increase pleasure. Endorphins help increase self-esteem and help reduce anxiety.
Boost DHEA & GH-Longevity molecule DHEA is responsible for helping to fight off the signs of aging. Growth Hormone is released when your brain goes into Delta Waves. Increased GH is essential for overall health, healing and helps with aging.
Increase GABA-This calming chemical is shown to increase during meditation.
Meditation helps increase emotional health, attention span, memory, alertness, and focus while helping to reduce stress and anxiety. It may also help to impact addiction in some people.
For me, meditation has had a profound impact on managing anxiety. As a person who is often in “Do-mode,” it has also been the driving force to help me slow down to appreciate the journey more along the way. It has allowed me to gain focus on the direction I want for my life and helped me be more confident in my strong creative nature. Meditation has also helped me to be more self-aware and increase my “me-ness.”
Not sure how to start?
YouTube is a great place to try out various meditations and styles. I recommend trying out several to decide what works best for you.
Be patient with yourself. As I mentioned, it is a practice. I recently read in Jay Shetty’s book, “Think like a Monk,” it’s not about how long you meditate; it’s about how deep you go.” There is so much truth to this statement!
There are several great books in the market today about meditation. www.positivesychology.com/meditation-books offers a great list
My favorite way has become with no music/guided. I set my intent, close my eyes, and start.
Get comfortable, and give it a try.
Stay well, friends!