How to develop a meditation practice – Part 1
I often have people asking me questions about meditation with curiosity and confusion and most times it’s followed “I can’t meditate I have too much energy”. I hear that phrase as much as much as I hear “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible”. If I had a dollar for each time I heard that I’d have me a sweet pot of money by now.
Whether you know it or not at some point in your life you have “meditated”, you have focused intently on something, you have been so consumed by the present moment that all other thoughts seem to cease, you have sat in silence staring at the wall noticing the thoughts in your mind and therefore you have meditated.
The truth is there is no “good” way of meditating and you can’t really be “good” at it. It’s not a competition, but I will say there is a goal and there are milestones along the way. There are muscles to be built and strength to gain.
I’ve been exposed to meditation in some way, shape or form from a young age. It wasn’t until I started practicing yoga that a more formalized meditation was introduced to me – that was 15 years ago! My meditation journey has had its fair share of twists and turns over the years. I remember committing to “sitting” 1 hour a day – it seemed like the longest hour of my life but I managed to get through it and continue for a few days before life took over again. Before I knew it I was packing my bags to go away on Vipassana – a 10-day silent meditation retreat – YES I SAID SILENT. No talking for 10 days and lots of meditating, 10 hours a day for 10 days. If you want more details you can read about my vipassana experience here. I survived, transformed, and came home only to soon fall off my plan to meditated 2 hours a day. And then a light bulb went off … is 2 hours some magic number? Will I reach enlightenment quicker if I’m meditating for 2 hours a day vs. 1 hour a day?
To explore meditation further I needed a scientific understanding so I spent the last year studying with Kelly McGonigal at Stanford University. The coolest part of taking an academic course on meditation right now is that you CAN take an academic course on meditation.
Meditation is no longer for hippies, monks, and sadhus. As humans on of our evolutionary achievements is the development of our noggins which is activated at various times in varying intensities leading to the generation of thoughts and more thoughts and more thoughts and eventually and uncontrollable monkey mind. Science and technology have come along way and together the fields have opened the door to exploring how the brain works and how brain functionality can be optimized.
The latest and greatest secret weapon to a bigger more efficient brain … Meditation.
Studies, old and new, show that meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders, blood pressure, pain response among other mind body conditions. Couple that with improved focus, clarity, emotional stability, and cellular health and you’re on your way to becoming a human ninja!
Now, you might be wondering “How? How does staring at a wall do all this?!” Well what we know now is that meditation actually changes our brains – it truly is the crossfit of the mind- resulting in more grey matter and neural activity, both of which decline with age and stress. Who wouldn’t want a bigger brain?!
There’s lots of different ways to meditate and many yoga centers and now meditation centers which offer courses in meditation. I’ll talk more about the “how to develop a meditation practice” next week. But since you’re eager to start (you want a bigger brain right?) here’s your assignment for the week.
Before going to bed tonight and, after putting all your devices to bed, take 5 minutes to close your eyes and breathe through the nose… inhale and exhale and just notice what and who lives upstairs in your head.
How’d you feel? Post to comments….
Other meditation resources:
Chopra Center Meditation: Deepak Chopra is launching a new 21-day meditation challenge. These are a great addition to your meditation toolbox and full of little nuggets of wisdom
Insight Timer: A peaceful alternative to time your meditations without the blaring sound of your phone alarm.
Photo Credit: Ritu Riyat “Ripple Effect” photo shot in Thailand[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://rituriyat.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Profile-Pic-198×300-140×170.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] About the Author: Ritu Riyat MPH|Certified Health Education Specialist| Yoga Therapist is a San Francisco based well-being consultant promoting universal wellness via Skype consultations, and seminars. Delivering simple techniques to add balance through food, movement, and meditation. She is an avid cyclist, crossfitter and yogini. Her motto eat.move.meditate… nutritionize![/author_info] [/author]