What can I say about meditating? Apparently plenty, since almost every blog I have written for The Huffington Post includes a mention of the benefits of meditation.
The positive effects of a dedicated practice helped me transform my relationship to fear and stress and so deeply impacted the quality of my life that meditation became one of the cornerstones of my psychotherapy practice -- and an integral part of my winning formula for helping clients overcome a host of issues to create lives they love.
For me, becoming unconstricted (less stressed out), more joyful, and more successful seemed to float into my lap like a feather once I committed to a daily meditation practice. After many years of attempting to learn how to meditate, I finally learned about eight years ago from Davidji, the lead educator for the Chopra Center at the time. My teacher appeared when I was finally ready and all of my instincts about needing to incorporate stillness and silence into my daily life were validated. My practice consists of two 20-minute sessions daily: the first as soon as I wake up, and the other right after work.
When I talk to people about a meditation practice, I am usually met with: "I don't really know what meditation is," "I can't sit still," "I tried and could not do it right." Trust me when I say that I feel their confusion and frustration.
Let's start by clarifying that there are a large variety of meditations, from walking meditation to primordial sound meditation to guided meditation. Many people have the idea that meditation is only sitting cross-legged on a floor pillow, repeating "Om" a zillion times. It's not. (I mean, I guess it could be, but who would have the time? And your legs would fall asleep!) Also, meditation is not a religion; rather, it is a practice of becoming passively aware of your thoughts and feelings.
I like to relate a meditation practice to other healthy lifestyle choices. If your goal is to lose weight, prevent heart disease, control diabetes, or maintain wellness, you must become MINDFUL of what you eat, the chemicals you expose yourself to, getting enough sleep, making time for exercise and cooking healthy meals, etc.
Meditation actually builds your mindfulness muscle. And, unlike food choices, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. You just have to do it!
When clients claim they want to meditate but are too busy, I ask them, "If you were guaranteed $5 million in cash at the end of successfully meditating twice a day for 21 days, could you find the time?" No one has ever said, "Nope, I'll pass on the five mil. THAT'S how busy I am!"
My observation of human nature is that people will make time for what they want to do. Once you experience the benefits of a meditation practice, it just might become what you want to do. At least, that is what happened for me.
Personally, I was most intrigued by the psychological/emotional changes that meditation inspires, but there are also a myriad of physical benefits:
- It can help lower heart rate and blood pressure.
- It can help boost immune function.
- It can help improve airflow to the lungs, resulting in easier breathing, which is helpful not only for asthma patients but also for athletes needing to improve endurance.
- It can help decrease the aging process. (Woo hoo!)
- It can help improve creativity, learning ability and memory, emotional stability, feelings of vitality and rejuvenation, mental clarity, and happiness.
- It can help decrease anxiety and depression.
- It can be done anywhere, anytime, and at no cost.
Aside from these amazing side effects, for me, meditation creates space, possibility, and relief in my mind, body, and life.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is the simple, yet complicated, act of sitting in stillness and silence for a dedicated period of time each day. As your mind is cleared of thoughts, you are connecting to the pure potential of your life and recalibrating your mind, body, and spirit. It can be used to calm the mind or as the first step to plant the seed of an intention of a specific purpose or idea. Meditating can help you de-stress, get through difficult times, or be a vehicle to manifesting, along with promoting the health benefits listed above. It is important to remember that any amount of time spent in stillness and silence each day will positively impact the quality of your life and relationships and provide you with a more reflective and less reactive stance in life.
My Meditation Journey
It began 15 years ago, and as I stated earlier, I have had a dedicated practice for the past eight years. At first, it was hard: There were noises, interruptions, and endless thoughts. I must be doing it wrong was my mantra. Once I learned a technique that worked for me, the distractions and thoughts did not deter me. Everything does not have to be "perfect" for you to experience the benefits. You just have to do it and let everything that shows up become part of your meditation. Now, I meditate for 40 minutes every day, and I cannot imagine my life without this practice.
Tips for Setting the Meditation Mood
- Pick a regular time you can commit to every day. Make a recurring "me time" appointment on your calendar.
- Set the timer on your phone so you will not look at the clock. Start with five minutes and build up to 20.
- Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Or as I like to say, "Just Get Your Butt on the Pillow."
- Turn the lights down and light a candle.
- Take a whiff of lavender or your favorite essential oil.
- Spend the first few minutes asking yourself: "Who am I? What do I really want? What is my dharma? How can I help? How can I heal? How can I serve others and myself with my unique and special gifts and talents?"
- Choose a mantra and repeat. In Sanskrit, the word "mantra" means "mind vehicle." A mantra is just a short phrase that has no distinct meaning, to help keep your mind free of thoughts. A popular universal mantra is "SO HUM." On the inhalation, say the word "SO" silently to yourself, and on the exhalation, say the word "HUM." When you find your mind wandering, come back to repeating your mantra.
- Pop in a guided meditation if that suits you better. Some people find it easier when they first start meditating to use the guided meditations.
Do you meditate? Do you want to but have been afraid to try? Maybe you tried but got frustrated that you weren't doing it right? Please share your experiences. I would love to hear from you, and your insight might help others. I'm big on speaking my truth and am always interested in hearing yours!
Love love love,
For more by Terri Cole, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.