What I Love About Meditation
Meditation is our ancient tool to keep us sane and healthy in the modern world!
When I was 13, my Mom and her friend dragged their families to a weekly private meditation course in TM (Transcendental Meditation). I and one of the other girls LOVED what we learned and took to meditating mostly daily. When the families gathered, she and I went to meditate – never mind toys or games!
I still meditate daily, and I can’t imagine not! I have since studied several different styles of meditation, mindfulness, breathing practices, mantras and chanting, and more. I even study the science on meditation – the why it works. Yes, it connects me to my own experience of the wonder and beauty of creation, God, the divine … whatever you call it. And yes, it calms and centers me, lowers stress, brings clarity to decision making, likely is why I am consistently on the low side of normal blood pressure, have a good immune system, etc. It helps me connect with silence, with the rhythms of nature, to feel calm and serene.
But maybe what I love most is that it helps me connect to me, to stay present and “current” with myself, to sit in difficult “stuff” and move beyond old unproductive habit patterns. I get to keep growing, to become a better, more loving version of me.
Health Benefits of Meditation
There is a TON of public, peer-reviewed, quality research now about the health benefits of meditation.
reduction in pain (both physical and psychological)
reduced blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol, and epinephrine
oxygen utilization, and carbon dioxide elimination
Meditation increases regional cerebral blood flow to regions responsible for higher processes, leading to improved attention spans, speed of task completion, decreasing sympathetic (i.e.: fear) responses, and more. It reduces cholesterol, helps stop smoking, reduces blood pressure, risk of heart attacks, decreases symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms, and even is associated with an increase in grey matter in the brain instead of its thinning out as we age! (Source)
So why doesn't everyone meditate?
I think some common misconceptions get in people’s way. I like to make it easy for people to meditate!
No need to sit cross-legged! The best seat for you is however you are comfortable while your spine is long, with its natural curves. You can even lie on the floor as long as you don’t fall asleep!
Start with as little as 3 minutes per day. You can work up from there. You are better off to do a little every day, than to sit for longer 1 or 2 or 3 times a week.
No need to “stop” your mind. The mind’s nature is movement, thinking. Instead, learn to witness your thoughts and slowly “sink beneath” the waves of disturbances of your thoughts. (Yes this takes practice, but is HUGELY freeing!)
No need to memorize tricky phrases or breathing techniques to begin. Start by simply paying attention to your breath as it moves in and out. Notice its quality. Is it smooth, steady, silent, even, from the belly? Or is it jerky, noisy, bumpy, raspy, or engaging upper chest and shoulders? Just notice for now!
Another thing I love about meditation is that it can change the expression of my DNA through epigenetics, toward a healthier me. (See more about epigenetics and how to re-wire your DNA in my blog “My Love Affair with Family Constellations.”)
We live in a fast-paced noisy world, where we jump and react to every ding we hear. We act quickly before we truly know what we want. We are addicted to fleeting comforts and pleasures. So many of us long to feel some sense of calmness and serenity, to feel a connection with nature, and with our fellow beings on the planet. Meditation is a significant part of the answer for me, and hence why I practice daily. I love that modern science is now able to explain so much of what the ancient yogis taught millennia ago! Meditation is our ancient tool to keep us sane and healthy in the modern world!
Sources for more information:
Great general article, including citations for epigenetics.
More re epigenetics and blood pressure (and id of 1771 genes affected by meditation)