I am the first to laugh in any situation. I am also the last person to stop, and the one who is still laughing eight minutes after the fact. Though laughing is one of my favorite things, it does get me into trouble, proving to be a challenge both in school and still today. I was recently at an event where laughing would have been extremely inappropriate, especially since someone was speaking to a captivated audience. I found the speaker’s behavior to be so amusing (as did everyone else, but they could restrain themselves) and almost cracked [up]. However, thanks to my meditation practice, I concentrated on my breath, and the stimulus passed. Sparing humiliating myself, I witnessed first hand the benefits of being mindful.
What comes to mind when you hear what [I think] should be Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, “meditation?” I will admit that I used to be the first to think that those who meditate sit crossed-legged and chant to their mystical gods. Over the past year, however, I have proven myself wrong.
In the last 11 months, I have deepened my understanding of mindfulness, and now meditate daily. To say that my perception of meditation was mistaken is an understatement; it is such a powerful practice with preposterous benefits. I now sleep better, am able to stay more composed (not just externally, but internally too) in stressful and chaotic situations, and don't get as frustrated with what is out of my control.
Have you been thinking about wanting to start meditating because of the rewards (helps with anxiety and depression and increases brain elasticity, to name a few)? But sitting still makes you more anxious, or you can’t find the time, or are worried about the stereotypes surrounding it? If something so simple can help you feel better, why not try it?
I use the app Headspace and could not love it more. The first 30 days are 10 minute sessions (that cost my favorite amount - zero dollars), which then unlock themed meditations and practices. Andy Puddicombe (and his alluring British accent) captivatingly introduces and explains how to approach your meditation, and accompanies you throughout your entire Headspace journey. If you feel intimidated about starting or not knowing what to do, you are not alone, and need not worry; Andy is there for you!
Meditating first thing in the morning is easiest: you don't have to add another stressful line to your to-do list and you set up your day in the right frame of mind. Yes, you may want to sleep for another 10 minutes, but studies show that 10 minutes of meditation is more restorative.
Find a comfortable area in your home (preferably clutter-free — isn’t entering a neat room more soothing than entering a messy one?), and sit up right so your spine is straight and your tailbone is elevated. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, a yoga block, or a meditation pillow also feels great. You want to feel comfortable, yet aware. Once you become more seasoned, you can begin listening to Headspace on the train or during your lunch break in the park and do your thing. Follow Andy’s cues, and focus on your breath. The most important detail remember is to let the thoughts that come in float right back out. Think of it like a still pool of water. The thoughts that arise are like pebbles being thrown into the water: they create ripples. The more we try to remove or control the thoughts, the more ripples we create. Let the thoughts pass, and so too will the ripples; the water will be still again.
When you unplug, you will feel noticeably rejuvenated; this feeling starts to hook you. You drank the Kool-Aid! We take such great care of our physical selves, yet it is just as important to do the same for our mental selves.
I will certainly discuss meditation and mindfulness in the future, but just as I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and launched myself into creating this blog, why don’t you challenge yourself and try meditating with Headspace! Give yourself a chance to feel and be aware of your mind and body!
The Headspace website is a great resource; learn about other scientific benefits of meditating.