Meditation – that word is supposed to equal “calm” but can actually illicit a stress response.
It’s just another thing we “should” do but aren’t, we’re not sure just how to do it, we’ve tried but our thoughts are all over the place.
Know that meditation can be challenging for many people, and keep in mind that it’s highly beneficial so is very much worth the effort.
Some of the health benefits include:
• improves heart function
• lowers blood pressure
• improves immune response
• lowers the stress hormone cortisol
• reduces pain
• may increase longevity
• positively effects brain function
In one study, an eight week mindfulness course significantly increased activity in the area of the left brain associated with positive feelings and the ability to recover more quickly from stress.
So, why is it so challenging?
Firstly, we are a hurry up society where the more we “do” the more we receive. We also may think it’s a little woo-woo, so give it a negative connotation. It can also be uncomfortable to sit in the lotus position and the silence can be enough to drive you crazy.
And, it’s simply scary.
Scary to go inside and address our memories, fears (past and future), worries, disappointments and blockages to success.
Our self-judgment can also kick in – oh, I’m just not good at this, I can’t get my thoughts out of my head, so forget it.
Well, it’s practically impossible to get those thoughts out of your head. We can achieve calm when we don’t judge our thoughts, but let them go and breathe.
And in fact some of the best meditation results are when we ask ourselves a question and let thoughts flow in. This can give us answers we otherwise might not have thought of, new ideas, creative avenues.
So, first of all, find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. You don’t have to have candles, incense or music but you can.
You also don’t have to sit in the lotus position, but it is best to sit upright with feet flat on the floor and a straight (not stiff) back. Hands can rest on your thighs (palms up or down).
It is also good to pick a certain time of day to meditate to form a habit – the beginning or end of the day can work well.
And the length of time you sit is up to you, but commit to a certain time – it may be just 5 minutes to start building up to half an hour (in 5 minute increments for example). We can all find 5 minutes in our day!
So then what?
Simply close your eyes and be still.
Become aware of how your body feels, aches, pains and sensations.
Focus on your breathing – take deep belly breaths allowing your belly to push out on the in breath and come in on the out breath, letting go of all the stale air on the out breath.
You can silently think “in” and “out” with the breath or pick two words that you want to take in and let go of (such as “love” on the in breath and “anger” on the out breath).
When thoughts come up (and they will!), let them go without judgment with a visual that works for you such as: each thought is a balloon that you let go of to float away, or a bird takes the thought and flies away, or the thought is a cloud that moves on in the blue sky.
The key is: simply do it – sit for 5 minutes, every day if you can.
There will always be excuses (I’m too busy!), but remember, getting that 5 minutes can mean peace, calm, clarity, creativeness, new ideas, answers.
Life flows more smoothly.
Stress goes away.
It is always worth it.