What is meditation? It an old esoteric practice reserved for monks chanting in caves, atop a mountain- it’s weird, it’s something for hippies and is practiced for hours on end, right?
Well, not exactly, at least not anymore. Meditation is actually quite normal, and has been practiced by the great leaders of the world; Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi and Russell Wilson (the Super-Bowl winning quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks).
I’m kidding about throwing Wilson into the mix with these others, but did so for a reason; meditation has become mainstream. It is now being practiced by yogis, home-makers and professional athletes alike. The reasons for one’s own practice may differ; from the search for enlightenment, to managing stress, to improved athletic/professional performance.
So what do these very different motivators all have in common? The quieting of the mind and the search for a clearer, sharper reality. If you’ve never meditated before, the concept of sitting still can be quite scary, so let’s get to the topics at hand and learn what mediation is and why the hell to do it.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of sitting still (I mean this both physically and mentally). As one sits in meditation, the mind has a tendency to do anything but remain quiet. The human mind which is referred to as “monkey mind” in some cultures, is by nature quite unsettled and loves to wander everywhere except in present moment.
This is in large part thanks to the the ego, which sees itself as separate from the whole and projects itself into situations and neurotically focuses on protecting itself. Sound familiar?
Don’t worry, this is normal and is something each of us experience hundreds if not thousands of times per day. Experienced meditators are not above this plight either, which I talk about in last week’s blog.
Meditation is actually simple in concept, although not always easy in practice. it is however, much less mystical than it’s thought to be.
As we learn to meditate we notice something; we can’t shut up- the inner mental chatter in our minds is constant, powerful and real.
As we sit, we are able to slow down enough to take a look at everything going on inside and say: “Okay, here is a thought. I see that I am thinking about the past. I see that I am not present in this moment. Okay, cool- time to return the present moment.” Five seconds later another thought creeps in and the whole process starts over. When we sit in meditation, our only job is to notice that we are no longer present and simply return back to the here and now.
There are no goals, no expectations and no assumptions involved in the process- there is nothing that you should be feeling, except exactly what you are feeling.
It can take years to break the mind’s habitual patterns as meditation is the process of bringing light to these patterns and thoughts. Over time, meditation trains us to be present enough to see these habits forming then choose to repeat them or let them go. Building presence is a gradual process which can take time, it’s very similar to learning a new language or instrument.
You wouldn’t expect to be able to play the piano well in a month would you? Meditation is the same way.
Develop a daily practice for and watch as your heightened awareness begins to spill out into other areas of your life.
Why The Hell Should I Meditate?
Meditation takes patience and persistence- it is by no means easy to cultivate. I forget and avoid meditating because “I’m too busy” quite often.
What I do know is this however, on the days I manage to sit in stillness, I feel better, I show up more present in my interactions and am generally a better and more compassionate person. In the 5 years I’ve been meditating now, I’ve developed more awareness in my body and habits than almost a decade of yoga practice has produced.
It’s powerful and it works, but what does science have to say about meditation? According to the work of Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Mind-Body Medical Institute:
Meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body collectively referred to as the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response includes decreases in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and improved brain chemistry.
Great, but why is all this important?
The “relaxation response” which is the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system, signals to the body that it is safe and that it can begin to repair and balance itself from the inside out. This is called self-healing, it’s what our bodies are made to do, this is true prevention.
Meditation has the power to prevent and cure many physical and mental diseases, it’s potent medicine. It just need be applied in the right dose.
When we set time aside to slow down and simply sit with “what is,” we begin to shine light onto our own short-comings.
Shining this mental light gives us a chance to see all the “garbage” that’s in our minds and eventually “take out the trash.”
Meditating daily can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, improve your eating habits, rekindle your sex life and help your body heal and repair itself. Meditating gives you and your body the chance to take care of the most important thing in your life- yourself. Start with a few minutes at a time and build your
Your mind is like a muscle, in the sense that it responds to challenge and grows over time. Just like a new exercise routine or learning to play the piano, it takes time and you can’t expect do be good at it over night.
Well, technically you should never expect to be good at meditating because all you need to do is sit, be still and notice what comes up.
Are you ready to learn how to meditate and to take out the “garbage”? Learn more about our online coaching program “Let’s Get Meditated!” and begin today!
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.