Over the last few weeks, meditation has been a recurring topic of conversation amongst friends, family, and clients. I love that more people are embracing meditation and incorporating it into their daily self-care routine. Now more than ever, they’re feeling called to meditate because of the stress and heaviness happening around us. Did I take it as a sign that I needed to write about it? Totally!
Meditation is a form of mind-body medicine, meaning that we can help heal ourselves with it. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, this isn’t a foreign concept to me. Chinese medicine appreciates the importance of mind-body healing. Beautiful, right? Meditation is a great tool to add to your self-care repertoire. It’s empowering knowing that with a simple and easily accessible tool, we can help keep our mind, body, and spirit in optimal health.
So, let’s talk about meditation, the What, Why, and How. To some degree, we all have an idea of what meditation is, right? Essentially, it’s trying to rid our mind of thoughts and be fully present in the now. It seems easy until you go to do it. All of a sudden, your mind is flooded with endless ideas, to-dos, and distractions. You find yourself thinking about what you should have for dinner, the email you forgot to respond to, and all the other things you “should” be doing. I know at first meditation can be a tad daunting. It’s hard to quiet the mind and unplug in this busy world that we live in. However, by the end of this article, I’m going to leave you with an easy and practical way to build your meditative practice.
Now that we’ve covered What meditation is, let’s talk about why it’s so beneficial and why you should add it to your daily self-care routine. Let’s start with a check-in. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most stressed), how stressed have you felt this week? If you’re like my clients and me, that number is inching rather high lately. With all the change in the world, uncertainty, and a new routine that I’m adjusting to, I can attest that stress is impacting me more than usual. The beauty of meditation is that it allows our body to respond to stress positively, instead of negatively reacting to it. It causes the body to surpass our thoughts, calming our mind and therefore calming the body; in return, it brings the body back to balance. When we allow our body to get into this state, our body is able to heal, reduce physical and psychological stressors, and keep our immune system in tip-top shape!
We live in a world where stress runs rampant. In fact, Chronic stress contributes to the six leading causes of death in the United States. It all comes down to the fact that our bodies are in constant fight or flight mode. Our stressors and anxieties tend to be the primary causes of illness and chronic disease—staying in that chronic state doesn’t allow our bodies time to rest and digest and focus on healing. Living in a perpetual fight or flight has been directly correlated to ailments such as hypertension, heart disease, autoimmune, and chronic disease. For healing to occur, we need our bodies to switch into a parasympathetic state (rest mode).
Now let’s get to the fun stuff—how do we meditate? The first question I always get asked is, “how long should I meditate for?” Often we hear of people meditating for twenty minutes twice a day, an hour once a day, and even ten minutes in the morning. My answer is always the same; do what feels right for you! I know that for myself, some days I find that I can easily meditate for twenty minutes twice a day, other days all I can give is ten minutes. It’s essential to let the meditation and the experience guide you. Journaling after your experience can help you better understand what works for you. Below I’m sharing one my favorite and most simple practices, which is especially great if you’re new to meditation.
First, start by sitting quietly and following your breath for just one minute—yes, just one minute! The next day, you’re going to add a minute to that, so that’ll be two minutes. The following day, you’re going to add another minute, bringing you up to three minutes of meditation. You’ll continue to add a minute to each day, and before you know it, you’ll reach day twenty with twenty minutes of meditation under your belt. Step back and congratulate yourself. You took time out of your day for the last twenty days, just for you, and that right there is beautiful and beneficial to your mind and body.
Meditation can certainly be daunting. It’s 2020, and unplugging is hard. You might be fidgety, or you might be thinking of a million and one things the entire time, and that’s ok—don’t judge yourself at all. When those moments happen, simply come back to your breath. My favorite mentor often reminds me, “practice makes permanence,” so the more you practice this technique, the more permanent it becomes.