Updated: Mar 3
Do you ever feel so completely overwhelmed to the point where you just want to do something insane -- like scream in public, punch a wall (or person), or curse an inanimate object? No, not that extreme, right? Ha, well whatever it is, whenever you get this way, it's probably because of 1 of 3 things: (1) you need to stop what you are doing and breathe, (2) you just need to eat or (3) or it's time for counseling. For me, it's usually all three (although I can tell you that my hangry level can reach 100 in less than 2 seconds, so at that point breathing is out of the picture and I need to head down to counseling).
Hard Truth : We All Need Help
We spend endless hours of the day entertaining guest, assisting individuals and enduring over-stimulation as we work long exhausting hours. I don't know about you all, but I gets tired of it. There are only so many affirmations and mirror pep talks you can do before you are literally on the verge of a hounding rage and without proper ground work, those other "self care" activities mean nothing. With this series of events, there comes a time where "me time" is extremely necessary and should be a priority. With my experience and feedback from clients, this 'me time' can be best achieved through simple meditation. Before you roll your eyes and exit this page just understand that meditation is more than sitting quietly for a couple of minutes. It is a chance to release the tension of the day and be authentically present with yourself in order to give you that well deserved "peace" before you reach your breaking point and start going ham.
Need to understand the right time to meditate ? Check out the info graph below.
For some individuals, starting the day with mediation helps to guide the energy and set the tone for a productive and prosperous day. For other individuals, ending the day with meditation is more beneficial as it help to quiet the mind and body noise and relax the temple before bed. I personally find that with living in a overstimulating big city like New York, it is crucial that I spend my mornings AND nights with meditation, otherwise I would just go insane. Either way, meditation can become an integral [and life saving] addition to anyone's self care regimen, which is why I often recommend it as a daily practice.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient mind, body, practice that has existed for thousands of years. The main purpose of meditation is to ease the mind and body into relaxation and tranquility, but it can also serve an important purpose in enhancing spirituality. Innately, and inconspicuously, you most likely meditate everyday with simple actions like: forcing your body into relaxation before going to sleep or that taking that deep breath with a forceful expiration that you do before going in on a rude customer. With those two examples alone, meditative practices are naturally embedded in us, we just have to learn how to hone in on them and get those meditative gears going when we are most stressed and ready to end it all.
There are several different types of meditation, with the most commonly used being yoga, qi gong, and mindfulness meditation.
Yoga is one of the most popular forms of meditation that is gaining more attention as the wellness initiative intensifies. It is a practice that focuses on the balance between breathing, balance, mobility and strength. The word yoga means "to join or yoke together" which is said to bring the body and mind together.
Qi gong is a movement activity that focuses on the meditative elements and deep, diaphragmatic breathing. It is an effective way to manage mood disorders involving stress and anxiety. It focuses on the Qi (pronounced 'chi' ) which is considered the life force of the living body. Qi gong helps to purge, tone, and circulate your Qi.
Mindful meditation is a type of meditative practice that encourages you to be completely present with yourself. This practice is often considered the most basic form of meditation, but it is not as easy as it seems because sometimes it is hard to quiet the mind to focus on the now. During this practice, relax in a comfy seated position, pay attention to the ins and outs of your breath, and when your attention wanders, return.
Other notable varieties of meditation are transcendental meditation, guided meditation, and mantra meditation (positive affirmations).
Benefits of Meditation
I don't like to beat the dead horse and feed you stories about how meditation gives you the opportunity to heal yourself, but it is the truth and you have to just practice it to understand. Meditation is definitely a self healing mind-body modality with plenty of science to back it up and it works to enhance overall physical, spiritual and emotional well being. There are several well documented neurobiophysical improvements that can happen when you mediate every day (even if it's only for five minutes).
Daily meditative practices helps to relax muscle tension and reduce the release of cortisol, which leads to a decrease in fatigue and mental/emotional conflicts (like sleep disorders, stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, memory loss, brain fog). Being able to reduce these conflicts gives you better control over your mind and body and enhances clarity in your spirituality. Before you gripe about having one more daily practice to do, let me persuade you even more on why this one is worth keeping around for a while.
Your daily meditation practice is your best practice as the more consistent you are with it, the more benefits you get (and we all love our instant gratification and prizes). So if you were to include even just a 5 minute meditation into your practice every day, you could experience:
Improved sexual dysfunction
Enhanced weight control
Lowered blood pressure
Increased pain tolerance
The first two benefits alone are usually all it takes for my clients to say "Hey, it couldn't hurt to try". Bingo. Do your meditation and inherit your reward boo. You deserve it.
How to Meditate Effectively
When it comes to mind-body modalities, we usually make it seem harder than what it actually is, but the best first step is to simply: DO IT, even if you don't quite understand how. Just understand that meditation allows you to focus your undivided attention on your breathing or your heart beat which helps to quiet the body and mind noise and focus your attention on the present moment--not tomorrows task, not today's bad experiences, but the NOW. Learning how to meditate does not have to be a difficult task, you just have to find your center.
Need a little more guidance ? Follow the steps below.
Steps to Mindful Meditation
1. Loosen any tight clothing.
2. Find a quiet (clean) area where you can be uninterrupted for 5-10 minutes.
3. Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back (consider sitting crossed leg on the ground) or lay flat on your back on a firm, yet comfortable, surface .
4. Lightly close your eyes and relax all of the muscles in your face and then focus your attention on your breathing, noting the process of inhaling and exhaling.
Note: focus more on slowly exhaling, your inhale will take care of itself.
I am not a fan of list, but It was important to include steps to the meditative process for my Type A personalities out there, but the most important instruction is to sit down, close your eyes and breathe. Easy enough, right ?
Try this meditation for 5 uninterrupted minutes and then consider adding an additional 30 seconds or a full minute to your meditation time at least once everyday (or every week/month), until you reach your goal. You will witness the profound mental benefits over the course of just a few days with major biophysical benefits within weeks.
Make Today Your Best Practice
Everyone's experience with meditation will be very different. The best way to understand what meditative practice works for you is to sample different meditation styles and familiarize yourself with the practice. Some people will 'woo-sah' for thirty minutes uninterrupted. Others will set the timer for their session with one eye open and as soon as that 4th minute and 57th second hits, it's "Ight Ima head out" (telling on myself). Either way, woo-hoo, you did it. You already succeeded by starting something. If you feel like succeeding further, then continue it. The most important concept to grasp in meditation is to: (1) free your mind and body of thoughts, intentions, and tensions and (2) challenge yourself to remain consistent in your daily practices so you can reap the benefits and prove to yourself that you are in control.
Maintaining a daily meditative practice will level your mind, body and soul and allow you to gain the upper hand over your wellness. At the end of the day, who (or what) is really in control of you ? Is it you or is it something else ?
Ponder that question, do some soul searching and then leave a comment below, telling us what (or who) you think is in control and who (or what) should be in control.
Institute of Integrative Nutrition: Reference Library Meditation Complementary Therapy.
Stengler, M., Balch, J., Balch, R. (2016). Prescription for natural cures. 3rd. Turner Publishing Company: Nashville, TN.