Chronic stress is one of the greatest health robbers there is in our 24/7, social media, always connected, accessible world and workplace. Add to that the constant chaos and violence in our communities, cities, towns and globe. We live harried lifestyles taking care of children, aging parents, sick family members, or even taking care of just ourselves. Children are not exempt from stress either, with pressure to succeed in school, sports, or other after-school activities. Chronic stress is the antithesis to health, wellness, and a sense of wellbeing. This is where having a meditation practice can help. In large part due to the pioneering work of Dr. Herbert Benson in the 1960s, meditation has been become more mainstream, and is recommended to help with health problems exacerbated by chronic stress: hypertension, insomnia, anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and more.
How I Started Meditating
My meditation practice began in 1992 at the age of 43. I became interested in meditation because of my job, where the barriers between work time and private time blurred and practically disappeared. I was a university professor and department chair, and later on an administrator. No idyllic ivory tower, there was never enough time to complete my myriad responsibilities in a 40 hour workweek. Everything spilled over into evenings and weekends. Meditating first thing in the morning and after work, helped me access a quiet, inner space that I desperately needed. Eventually I took early retirement, as the extreme schedule was robbing me not only of my health and wellbeing, but my creativity. I was fortunate to have a choice to leave.
Meditation is part of my lifestyle for optimal health and wellness. I receive acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments once every two weeks. I eat primarily organic, sustainable, seasonal food and go to a local Farmer’s Market all year round. I have a yoga practice and Pilates mat routine, and lift free weights at home. I sleep an average of 8 hours every night. In addition, I follow the principles of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing, as well as the steps of Marilu Henner’s Total Health Makeover (THM) program, for which I have been an online coach.
Goal of Meditation
No matter what stage of life you are in, the goal of meditating is to find that silence within you, of letting go of external stressors, and accessing calm, tranquility, and feeling that all is well from within. You will reap the benefits of feeling better. And when you feel better, you can be your best self.
Methods of Meditation
There are many types and traditions of meditation, but they share the fundamental goal stated above. These are the most common:
1. Seated Positions: Cross-legged on the floor, in a chair (or wheelchair), feet on the ground.
2. Focus: On breath, candle, Sanskrit Mantra (there are many), I Am or So Hum in Sanskrit.
3. Walking Meditation: Can be done anywhere and any time; on the way to your car, the commuter train or bus, in nature. Focus can be on your breath and movement.
4. Yoga Nidra or Sleep Meditation: Position is lying on the floor and via a CD or teacher, you are guided into a state of deep relaxation with awareness.
1. Toss those negative beliefs you hold about yourself and meditation out the window: “I can’t sit still.” “My mind wanders.” “It’s too hard.” “I don’t have the time.” “It won’t work for me.” “I’m too old.” “I’m too sick.”
2. Find a meditation center or yoga studio in your area that offers meditation classes, and workshops. Many offer free open houses or drop-in sessions that you can try out.
3. You can always begin with a meditation practice in the comfort of your own home. Since it can be difficult to learn how to meditate on your own, I suggest using free, guided meditations available on your computer. There are now Meditation Apps for your smart phone and iPad!
4. Try different meditation styles and find one that you resonate with.
5. Make your individual or home meditation practice an integral part of your daily routine. Do not judge your practice as it can vary from day to day. When you find your mind wandering, such as, going over a “To Do” list during meditation, gently refocus back to your breath or mantra or candle. If you fall asleep during meditation, you were simply tired. Just by sitting for meditation, you will begin to reap benefits.
Transforming Our Lives
With Thrive Global leading the way, I am optimistic that a paradigm shift can occur in our places of employment. Our work lives and home lives can be transformed for optimal health, wellness and wellbeing. Meditation can be an important first step. I would love to hear from you, whether you begin a meditation journey and need some help along the way, or just need to share with someone who is out there rooting for you. And for those of you who have a meditation practice, I invite you to share your personal experience with meditation in the comments section, as a way to support and encourage others. I am happy to answer any questions. Remember, there is no time like the present to start meditating. We are all on this journey together. Namaste!
Originally published at medium.com