Yesterday morning I woke up with swollen, itchy, red eyes again, exhausted from not breathing well and didn’t want to get out of bed and go to work. Eventually I peeled myself off of my bed, late and found my bathroom occupied by my housemate. “I should have woken up earlier!” I texted my boyfriend to let him know I was going to shower at his house and ran out the door with my clothes and my dog. She was stubborn this day and ran all the way out until the end of the driveway and sat down. I was at my car, putting all of my stuff in, holding the door for her. She stayed sitting for what seemed like forever. “ELLIE!! GET IN THE CAR”, I yelled. “GET IN THE CAR!!”, even louder. I saw my housemate through the window peeking out to see what the ruckus was all about. Ellie sheepishly got up and slowly walked towards the car. I guess she didn’t want to go to work with me and that was fine, but I was already running late and just needed to get going. As we drove to Justin’s house, she started wining and crying, which she only does when I’m on edge. This made me stress even more and I could feel my frustration rise up inside me. When we finally got to his house, I ran to his door and knocked hard and fast like it was going to get him there faster. Ridiculous, I know. He opened the door and gave me a kiss. I responded, “HI, Ellie’s being crazy today, I’m late and I need to take a shower and I didn’t even get to meditate and it’s a shit day!” Justin, being the prince that he is, offered to keep her for the day as I walked into the bathroom. I took a moment and tried to meditate in the shower and just couldn’t do it. Finally, I made the decision to give myself five minutes to breathe. I went into his bedroom, shut the door, sat and put my timer on for ten minutes. When I finished, which was only about 7 minutes in, I came out like a new person. He said I looked better, more energized, less panicked. I felt like I had just taken a sedative or just finished a massage therapy session, I felt good and grounded.
It’s amazing what a few minutes of real belly breathing can do for your sanity, that’s what meditation does for me. There has been some evidence that shows that 20 minutes of meditation can feel like 7-hours of good sleep. Whatever the reason, however lacking the science may be (which it’s not), I know it works and I’ve seen it work with patients, in house, during a busy clinic day.
So what are some of the benefits of meditation? I did a whole 77 reasons piece a few months ago. Here are some of the highlights:
– Helps decrease anxiety
– Helps with time management
– Increases memory ability
– Aids in insomnia
– Reduces neurosis
– Increases endorphins (feel good drug)
– Makes it easier to manage stress
– Makes you look younger!
If you’re anti-meditation, I’ll let you in on a trade secret. People who are not ready or willing to do the uncomfortable and challenging inner work- forgiveness, self-love, reflection, all the tortuous labor that leads to growth-are also adverse to sitting in silence. If you’ve had a difficult time attempting to meditate or think it’s for the birds, count the percentage of time throughout the day that you’re able to sit in silence. How much time do you spend with no music, no smart phone, no tv, no computer, no voices, simply doing nothing? Sleeping doesn’t count. And if you need white noise to sleep, take note! If the majority of your day is full of hullabaloo, then you need meditation the most.
The misconceptions about meditation are:
– I should be able to completely clear my mind
– I will not get more anxious while I am meditating
– I should not be making to do lists while I’m meditating
– Meditation is easy
Nope, nope, nope and nope. Meditation means different things for different people, but the most impactful explanation is that it allows for transformation of the mind. We meditate every single day, it’s what we choose to meditate on that makes the difference. On a daily basis we meditate on our finances, relationships, job drama, kids, debt, car trouble, politics, sports teams, new coaches, old relationships, plumbing issues, family conflicts, and all other worries and concerns of our life. Meditating is doing this but for more productive and positive outcomes.
Russell Simmons says “if you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate, then you need 2 hours”. Start small, baby steps, wake up five minutes earlier and just lay there and count your breath. Do this for as long as possible, 20 seconds, 2 minutes, whatever works for you. As long as you’re doing it, you’re creating brain patterns and habits to keep on doing it. Then in a week, increase to five minutes. You can also focus on mindful movement with no outside stimuli beside the action you’re performing, in the shower, washing dishes, watering the lawn, just focus your activity on the breath.
It’s self-care people and so imperative to our health. Do it and do it now. Thank you for reading.
Here are findings from a functional MRI: (http://lifehacker.com/what-happens-to-the-brain-when-you-meditate-and-how-it-1202533314):
Frontal Lobe This is the most highly evolved part of the brain, responsible for reasoning, planning, emotions and self-conscious awareness. During meditation, the frontal cortex tends to go offline.
Parietal lobe This part of the brain processes sensory information about the surrounding world, orienting you in time and space. During meditation, activity in the parietal lobe slows down.
Thalamus The gatekeeper for the senses, this organ focuses your attention by funneling some sensory data deeper into the brain and stopping other signals in their tracks. Meditation reduces the flow of incoming information to a trickle.
Reticular formation As the brain’s sentry, this structure receives incoming stimuli and puts the brain on alert, ready to respond. Meditating dials back the arousal signal.