I recently heard this story and I will never be the same:
Two monks came upon a river where they saw a woman dressed in silk at a loss of how to cross without getting muddy or wet. The older monk picked her up, carried her across the water, and put her down on the other side of the river. She thanked him and they parted ways. Hours later the younger monk said: “How could you have picked her up? We’re not even supposed to make eye contact with women, let alone carry them.” To this the older monk replied “I put her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
How often do we continue to “carry” something that happened hours, days, even years before?
How often are these ruminations, thoughts, judgements (about ourselves and others), worries, emotions actually useful?
How often have you worried about something that happened or that someone said for longer than you wished, only to realize eventually all that thinking about it was useless.
How often do you ask yourself “Is this useful?” when it comes to a recurring thought or emotion? Would the answer most often be “not very”?
Our minds naturally wander. We identify with our thoughts. We let our emotions get the best of us.
This, I’m quickly learning, is why meditation is so beneficial for our happiness and well-being.
Meditation trains the brain.
It changes the brain to be more resilient, more focused and less distracted. So that we can be more resilient, at ease, stable, and equanimous in the face of life. Because heck, life is full of beauty and challenges, but if we can respond to them in a way that is kinder, we win, and so does everyone and everything around us.
So let me ask:
Have you been curious about what meditation is all about, but didn't know where to start?
Or perhaps you dipped your toes in it, but couldn't get yourself to stick with the practice?
Or maybe you tried it and just felt like you really sucked at it so you stopped?
Or was this you: You just don't have the time to add yet another thing to your long list of daily priorities and responsibilities.
(Or maybe you do have a meditation practice that’s a part of your life and you’re just happy I’m writing about it and sharing its amazing benefits with others!)
Believe me when I say, that whatever your experience or lack of it, when it comes to meditation, I've been there.
I've fallen asleep all too many times and have given up for months thinking I clearly just need to get more sleep and not mediate!
I've endured pain in my back while sitting quietly, even though I never had that pain while sitting in general. This also made me want to stop and made me feel like meditation’s just not for me.
But with all the times that I've tried, stopped, and felt like I failed (though I've since learned that you're not failing if you keep coming back to the object of your focus, be it the breath, sensations, or a mantra) somehow the more I read about it, it kept on bringing me back.
And now that I reflect on it more, meditation illuminated the fact that I was tired, and that perhaps I had some deep-seated traumas stuck in my body when my back was in pain and it was the brain’s way of “letting them go” even if I didn’t experience anything else, but the pain.
Now as a mom I am getting to a place that I simply cannot live without the 10+ minutes a day of sitting quietly, and coming back to my object of focus every time I become aware of the natural and inescapable habit of thinking.
I've also experienced enough anxiety since becoming a mom that I couldn't wait on the sidelines anymore hoping for it to go away and to one day feel less stress and less overwhelm without taking deliberate action and frankly, making me, a priority.
Now I teach mindfulness meditation as part of my GentleBirth birth classes.
From my own experience, but also that of so many other women, the state of the mind and mindset can make or break the birthing experience. Mindfulness and meditation is one of the tools necessary to train the brain for a positive birth experience, and let’s face it, parenting.
And once you integrate it in your day. Once you know your intention for your meditation practice - your why for the practice. Once you’ve gone past the resistance and gotten curious about that resistance. It is so easy.
Because when you experience the benefits you don’t ever want to go back to the way your brain used to be.
And you keep practicing, because the mind is like a muscle.
A recent government survey found that the amount of meditation practitioners more than tripled from 2012 to 2017 from 4%-14%. I have a feeling these numbers have gone up even higher since! Most of us are over-stressed and sleep deprived and desperate for a solution. Those that practice meditation are realizing it’s the ultimate solution. It costs next to nothing (most apps are affordable or free), it’s accessible, and it takes about 1% of time in a 24-hour period. It sure makes the other 99% of the day much more pleasant - including the part when you’re asleep!
Nowadays, the most influential people and those you are mastering themselves and their art or vocation swear by meditation for productivity, clarity of mind, better connection to others, and overall happiness and life satisfaction - from Oprah, to Jerry Seinfeld, to LeBron James, to the Seattle Seahawks!
And in case you weren’t already convinced here are more tangible and proven benefits:
• Reduces cortisol levels
• Reduces blood pressure
• Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the body’s relaxation response)
• Improves sleep
• Enhances creativity and clarity
• Gives you better orgasms (do I have your attention now? ;)) – you’ll have to read Emily Fletcher’s book to get more info about this!
Whether you’ve never tried meditation, but you’re intrigued by what I just shared, or you’re inspired to get back into it, I wanted to share a few resources that I’ve come up in my own path. Here they are. If you try them out, let me know how you like them!
Stress Less, Accomplish More (Emily Flether) - My husband actually read this book first and we ended up getting her online course at www.zivameditation.com because we loved the book so much. She talks about meditation and all the research and benefits (including the orgasms!) of it in a very practical, down-to-earth way. I really like her approach. She also teaches you a technique where once you got it you don't need an app or a timer or even a quiet/ private place to meditate. All you need is your body and a place to sit :)
10% Happier - this is both a podcast and a meditation app created by Dan Harris, a former news anchor. It’s excellent for beginners, but an awesome refresher for seasoned meditators and meditation junkies! The basics session with Dan Harris interviewing Joseph Goldstein and then Joseph leading you through a meditation are inspiring. And then if you keep going with the app, you have access to all kinds of amazing meditation teachers. The first several interviews and meditations are 5-10 minutes so, totally doable.
Insight Timer - This is a free app with all kinds of beautiful guided meditations. I'd love to have one of my guided meditations on there sometime - working on it :) It shows you how many people from around the world meditated at the same time you did and has a nice timer option with a chime that you can use if you just want to sit and focus on your breath.
Headspace – I never got into this one, but my husband’s cousin meditates with it everyday and as of last summer had for 1000 days. Pretty cool feeling to see that consistency.
GentleBirth App - And of course you have the GentleBirth app for mindfulness, hypnosis, and affirmations as related to pregnancy, birth, and even postpartum (including breastfeeding). This is a wonderful tool no matter the stage you are in your pregnancy and you can access is even if you don’t get a chance to take a GentleBirth birth class with me or other wonderful instructors around the world.