Meditation can be intimidating.
It is being talked about everywhere, but how do you know where to start, or if this is something for you?
Let me start off by saying. Meditation is not a fixed point. It is not a thing we can touch, nor a race with a finish line.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate.
Your practice with meditation is always in flux, like life, it’s always changing.
I believe, the purpose of meditation is to gain back control of our mind and shift our perspective to respond in a mindful manner that leads to freedom, clarity, peace and empathy.
Before I elaborate on meditation, I want to bring up a few points about how our brain works.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our high cognitive functions. It’s also the area where we differentiate appropriate behavior vs inappropriate behavior and even cravings. Unfortunately, this part of the brain is also highly sensitive to stress. And even a mild stressor can cause that part of our brain to be confused, space out, and unable to make thoughtful decisions.
Studies have shown that a major contributing risk factor to many of our illnesses, are patients dealing with chronic stress. With untreated stress, the synapses, where cells talk to each other in our brain begin to atrophy. The dendrites that look like roots sprouting out from a tree begin to wither away, and those messages to our brain and subsequently, the rest of our body fail to get across.
Basically, all this means, is that chronic stress can alter your brain function so much, that it makes it increasingly harder to deal with more stress. Leaving us feeling like we have less control of our lives. And for many, depression and anxiety sink in.
Here is where meditation can play help.
There was a study done at Yale University by Dr. Rajita Sinha, a professor of psychiatry and neurobiology and director of the Yale Stress Center. Sinha took brain images of 100 healthy individuals who reported traumatic and stressful events in their lives, like the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, etc. And the brain images showed that the prefrontal cortex dramatically decreased in size. Which we know can alter rational thinking, empathy, and decreases ability to handle stress. However, she found that with some of her patients, some of the dendrites that had withered away, have started to grow back. Our brain is “plastic,” in science terms, that means it can recover and possibly reverse some of the harmful effects of chronic stress.
I’m not saying meditation can fix everything. But it is a great practice for anyone to implement into their life where you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Meditation can be a combination of multiple practices. From deep breathing, to sitting still in silence, to listening to nature sounds, reading scripture, or simply closing your eyes for a few moments in the shower. Meditation doesn’t always look like someone sitting cross legged on the floor with their eyes closed and hands resting on their knees. That is the beauty of it, making it your own, and being consistent with it.
My own meditation practice varies from using apps, reading my Bible, listening to nature sounds, or practicing deep breathing for a minute or two. I’m not perfect, but I make it a point every day to find moments to practice taking back control of my mind. We are living in a hyper stimulated world that feeds our subconscious thoughts, and if we are not careful, I believe we become desensitized to empathy and our purpose here on Earth.
Here is a list of some of my favorite resources. I’m only listing what I personally use(d). And no these are not sponsored.
Relax Melodies (Free): I love the sound of nature, especially the sounds of water, whether it’s from a river or rainfall. It’s a soothing sound (when I’m indoors in the comfort of my own home) that calms me down and makes mediation easy. With this app, you can make your own orchestra of sounds from birds, to a campfire, to thunderstorms to flutes. I have been using this app for nearly a decade and it has never disappointed me.
Headspace and Calm (Free Trial + Subscription) are great meditation apps filled with great building blocks to help demystify the barriers that come with meditation. There are free trials to take advantage of, but to ultimately continue using them for maximum benefit, you will have to pay for them. I currently have a subscription to Headspace going on 2 years now.
YouTube: You can learn just about anything on YouTube so before you spend money on anything, explore mediation videos, even sounds with nature visuals, or mantras and affirmations spoken over a soft tune can be a great start! There are literally thousands of videos here.
Hope this post was helpful or at least encouraged you to try meditation. I would love to hear if you end up trying any of the suggestions above. Comment below or shoot me an email (email@example.com). I’d love to hear from you!
Now take a deep breath in (through your nose), and a deep breath out (through your mouth). Now repeat 3 more times with your eyes closed.
See was that so bad? How do you feel? Try this a few more times throughout the day and the next day, and the next day!
Have a great productive week!
Peace and Love,