“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy – then you should sit for an hour.” – Old Zen Adage
When was the last time you indulged in some intentional silence? When was the last time you set down your phone, turned off your TV and computer, and disconnected? Or when was the last time you didn’t feel anxious or stressed?
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Mental and physical burnout
In today’s Western society, we are a culture of noise, busyness, distractions, stimulation, and obligations of being connected at all times. We are also a nation of mental and physical burnout.
Just as our bodies need recovery from hard workouts, our minds and brain, too, need recovery from all the noise of daily life.
And just as we have to dedicate time daily to training in order to achieve our physical health goals, the same dedication is proven to be incredibly beneficial when we take the time to stop and just let ourselves ‘be’. And the best way to do this is through meditation.
What is meditation exactly?
Sure, we all think we know what meditation is, but in reality and despite its newfound popularity, most of us picture some bald monk atop a majestic mountain sitting cross-legged in a robe with his hands in his lap when we envision mediation.
Meditation is much more than what meets the eye and, actually, there are many ways to meditate that don’t involve sitting or even being still.
The purpose of authentic meditation is to allow a person to live in the present moment and not dwell on the past or be anxious about the future. It is a way to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system (in a calm state with resting heart rate) and get out of our sympathetic nervous system tendencies (anxious, elevated heart rate, busy).
Meditation allows us to enter a state of ‘awakened awareness’ where our naturally active minds are neutralized without reducing alertness or effectiveness.
Meditation is not a state of ‘doing’, it is a state of awareness
Meditation is seen as one of the most proven ways to reduce stress.
Although stress reduction techniques have been developed in the Western culture for over 70 years, Eastern cultures document meditation existing for thousands of years.
Meditation has a myriad of benefits including:
1) Stress and anxiety relief (decreases the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.)
2) Lowers blood pressure and hypertention.
3) Decreased cholesterol levels.
4) Better quality of sleep.
5) Optimizes oxygen use by the body.
6) Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA.
7) Restores the brain (according to more recent research.)
Just 8 weeks of meditation has been seen to produce positive changes in the brain in areas associated with memory, stress regulation, sense of self, and empathy while also making people feel calmer overall. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Meditation and inner peace
According to studies done at UCLA, those who are more mindful are more adept at being able to shift from negative to positive states faster.
These studies proved that participants who called themselves more mindful had less activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response) and had more activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain (which is responsible for calming down strong emotional responses) than participants who didn’t practice any form of mindfulness.
Mindfull participants were more able to focus their attention on right ‘now’ instead of dwelling in the past or anticipating the future than those who didn’t practice mindfulness.
The study concluded that mindfulness is directly connected to the ability of one to be able to regain control over their emotional state faster and be able to shift into a state of peace and calm more efficiently.
In today’s society of high strung, high stress, high anxiety individuals, this discovery could prove to be very influential and life-changing to those who incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines.
The best way to learn meditation in order to receive the full benefits would be to seek out a qualified teacher in your area that you can work in person, but thanks to technology, resources are a lot more accessible to us than they ever have been and can be found right in the palms of our hands.
Here are some ways to get started!
3) Meditation Studio
4) Stop, Breath & Think
6) Take a Break!
8) 10% Happier
9) MindBody Connect
10) Smiling Mind
1) ‘Mindfulness In Plain English’ by Bhante Gunaratana
2) ‘From Stressed to Centered’ by Dana A. Gionta and Dan Guerra
3) 8 Minute Meditation’ by Victor Davich
4) ‘Miraculous Silence’ by Mitra Rahbar
5) ‘Natural Meditation’ by Dean Sluyter
6) ‘Real Happiness’ by Sharon Salzberg
7) ‘Taming the Drunken Monkey’ by William L Mikulas
8) ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ by Shunryu Suzuki
9) ‘How To Meditate’ by Pema Chodron
10) ‘Finding the Still Point’ by John Daido Loori
This is a ‘trend’ that has been around for centuries and isn’t going anywhere. You more than anyone deserve your attention, and what better way to give that gift to yourself than to tap into your inner self and achieve lasting peace and calm?
So, shut down your computer, turn off your phone, and treat yourself to some well-deserved spring cleaning of the mind with mindful meditation!
Connect with Expert Emma Pietrzak