Meditation is a great gift to give yourself. It is a way to experience a higher quality of life just by going inside yourself and touching your center for a moment. It is a brief retreat from the world that lets you reenter the world with a more vivid presence.
– Lorin Roche
May is designated National Meditation Month and is an ideal time to either begin a meditation practice or re-energize an existing one. Below you will find information on myths of mediation, latest research showing how mediation can change your life, plus 10 ways to celebrate meditation month!
1. Do it with a group. Worldwide, Buddhist monks spend most of their time in group meditation. The reason for that is simple: it’s the easiest way to do meditation. The energy of several people sitting together is motivating and makes it possible to sit longer. Most group meditation sessions are at least one hour. In the OC/LA area? Check out my monthly meditation HERE
2. Do it with a friend. Have a meditation buddy. This way you both support and encourage each other to deepen the practice. Get on the phone for 10 minutes in the morning – great way to hold you accountable.
3. Do it alone. Tap your inner Buddha and find a quiet place to sit. Do it several times a week. Daily is best. Find a comfortable and quiet place at home that you can call your sanctuary. Studies suggest the same time and place each day will turn this into a positive habit.
4. Do it with a teacher. One of the best ways to begin mediation or deepen a practice is to take some private instruction from a meditation teacher. Looking to take your meditation practice deeper? As a certified meditation teacher from the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, I can help. Click HERE
5. Do it outside. Be like the ancient yogis who did a lot of their meditation outside. Nature nurtures the spirit and stimulates the senses. There are flowers to see, grasses to smell, birds to hear. All of those can create a sense of peace, awe and unity with the planet. Just be sure to be out of the direct sunlight and in a place where you only hear nature. Avoid loud parks and beaches.
6. Mediate with children. Use the month of May to introduce meditation to your children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, etc. Children are naturals for this practice when given user friendly instructions. In doing this you will provide them with a powerful tool they can tap into in the years ahead. Typical rule is one minute of quiet time for each year old they are. I have found 10 minutes is about the max – but if they can go longer, go with it!
7. Do it at work. Instead of taking that coffee break and adding caffeine to work stress, use the break time to meditate in your office or cubicle. Consider also sitting quietly over lunch and being mindful of eating. Often times my clients will sit in their cars for 10 minutes and set their timers. They report going back to work feeling refreshed and less stress.
10. Do it at a temple/church or other place of worship - or not!. If that’s not your gig – no worries. Find a place that feels grounding and spiritual to you. Often times people find nature as their church. That’s perfect too.
10. Just do it! Keep it short or keep it long or somewhere in between. Just do it! Remember a few minutes of meditation is better than no meditation at all. Meditation can change your life and your very sense of who you are. There is a reason it has been around for thousands of years and practiced by people from all walks of life and on all parts of the globe.”
Ready to read some research on how meditation can improve your life? Check this list out!
It boosts your HEALTH:
1 - Increases immune function (See here and here)
2 - Decreases Pain (see here)
3 - Decreases Inflammation at the Cellular Level (See here and here)
It Boosts Your HAPPINESS:
4 - Increases Positive Emotion (here and here)
5 - Decreases Depression (see here)
6 - Decreases Anxiety (see here and here and here)
7 - Decreases Stress (see here and here)
It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE:
Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be (unless you meditate in a group which many do!) but it actually increases your sense of connection to others:
8 - Increases social connection & emotional intelligence (see here)
9 - Makes you more compassionate (see here and here)
It Boosts Your Self-Control:
10 - Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here)
11 - Improves your ability to introspect (see here)
12 - Increases grey matter (see here)
13 - Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control (see here and here)
14 - Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention(see here)
15 - Increases your focus & attention (see here and here and here and here)
16 - Improves your ability to multitask (see here)
17 - Improves your memory (see here)
18 - Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)
It Makes You WISE(R):
It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don't have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn't have to run you.
Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever showered your mind? As a consequence, you'll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective.
"The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind," writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can't control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what's going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.
It Keeps You Real
Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.
And...the more you meditate, the more you seem to benefit, research studies such as this one suggest.
Myths about Meditation
Having an empty mind—nope, in fact, when you start meditating, you'll find its quite the opposite.
Sitting in lotus position—nope, you can sit on the couch (just don't lie down, you'll fall asleep).
Sitting for an hour a day—nope, small doses work just fine.
Chanting in a language I don't understand—nope, not unless that floats your boat.
Just sitting and breathing?? What? Professional athletes and military incorporate breathing exercises into their routines to help decrease stress and increase focus.
"I can't meditate" because I can't clear my mind—no worries, while you're sitting there you'll experience the noisy chaos of a wound up mind that's unwinding: tons of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Don't worry about how you feel during, notice how you feel after and throughout the rest of the day.
I can't sit still—that's ok, just sit comfortably, fidget if you need to. It's a practice...
I get anxious—that's also normal, all the junk's coming up, learn some breathing practices to calm yourself down, exercise or do yoga before meditating.
I hate sitting still—that's fine, then go for a walk without your earphones, phone etc; or start with yoga; or do breathing exercises…give yourself time to just "be" without constantly "doing" something. Slowly begin to do these things in quiet - no music or phone. Try for 10 minutes and then increase the amount weekly.
I tried and I hated it—there's not just one kind of meditation, there's a whole menu out there, look for the shoe that fits: mindfulness, compassion, mantra mediation, Vipassana, Art of Living breathing practices, yoga nidra, yoga, insight, loving-kindness, tai chi etc...
I don't have time - if you have time to read an article about meditation all the way through, you have time to meditate. Think of all those minutes you waste every day on the internet or otherwise, you can definitely fit in 20 minutes here or there to give your life a boost! Gandhi is quoted as saying "I'm so busy today, that... I'm going to meditate 2 hours instead of 1."
For my FREE learn to mediate online audio course, click here. To take your mediation deeper, check out out my in-person or online classes here.