I have a secret tool that works better for me than any drug or therapy session ever did. My tool is meditation. Meditation got me off antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. Meditation helped me combat body image and eating issues. Meditation got me through school on the dean’s list. Meditation helped ease my back pain when I herniated a disk. Meditation let me know when a long-term relationship was over.
Think it’s all in my head? Well…maybe. But many scientific studies would disagree with you. Research indicates that a consistent meditation practice can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, lower pain and inflammation in the body, reduce depression and anxiety, improve focus and cognition, reduce stress and calm the mind.
If you’ve never tried meditation, or have had a tough time sticking with it, maybe it’s time you listen to your body – because your body is smarter than you.
Our bodies know what’s right for us. It’s called innate wisdom – that gut feeling or intuition. The problem is we tend to be so busy living our life externally that it’s hard to hear that voice or have the courage to listen to it. Some people don’t listen to their body’s signals until it’s too late (injury, illness, depression, divorce). Meditation will help you to tune into that voice.
The first step to tuning into your body’s signals and wisdom is to do it on your yoga mat. There are many different types and forms of meditation – you have to find the one that works the best for you. A terrific way to start exploring this is during the grounding and centering part of class. You know when we sit with our eyes closed and take some deep breaths together at the start of class? Instead of thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, what you need to pick up at Staples, or who is going to be sent home on The Voice that night, focus on your breath. This will help to tune all the other stuff out. The simplest form of meditation is just to breathe, and to concentrate on the breath.
Don’t fight it. Thoughts are going to pop up. Rather than try to push them aside, acknowledge them. That which we resist, sticks. So watch those thoughts pop up, then simply guide your awareness back to the breath. Like anything in life, this is a practice. Chances are you won’t sit for 30 minutes thought-free on your first go-round with meditation. But the more you do it, the easier it will become. The more quiet your thoughts get and the more clear your mind becomes, the better you can hear your inner voice.
Be consistent. Ideally you meditate every day. But every other day or even once a week is better than never. Just stick with it. Like I said, it’s a practice. So practice! Set a timer for 10 minutes and start there.
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Forget the images you see of people sitting on their meditation cushion completely still in Lotus pose, surrounded by their shrine devoted specifically to meditation. If your meditation looks like this, awesome. If it looks more like sitting on a pile of dirty laundry with your cat circling around you and someone watching TV in the next room, that’s okay, too. Find your own groove and own space that works for you.
So are you ready to go for it? Maybe sitting still is a challenge for you at first. Maybe your thoughts are hard to quiet. Maybe it doesn’t look like the images of Buddha you see. But if it means your judgements, emotions, and to-do lists have less control over you, if it means being more at peace with yourself, then it’s exactly right. In a world where we spend so much time living outside ourselves, meditation teaches you to come back in and get in touch with your true voice. It’s the greatest tool there is.