Meditate YOUR Way
We’ve had the great honor of working closely with hundreds of clients committed to reclaiming their health. Although we customize our clients’ programs to suit their unique concerns, there’s one recommendation we make for nearly every client: meditate.
If you’re like many of our clients, you’re thinking, “Easier said than done.” But if you’re mentally listing the umpteen reasons meditation can’t be easily incorporated into your life, consider this: that’s the exact reason you need to do it.
Meditation is a stress-slayer. It rewards our bodies, minds, and spirits in countless ways. Its benefits are widely reported in medical literature, and the web is replete with evidence encouraging meditation for just about every health condition, including autoimmune disease, cancer, and systemic inflammation, to name a few.
According to Dr. Richard Shames, “Stress does affect your immune function. It is certainly known and accepted in medical circles that severe stress can trigger Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. When we’re stressed, the immune system may swing into high gear to ‘protect’ us, but the result may be more autoimmunity than protection.”
But too many of us take a perfectionist approach to meditation. The thinking often goes: If I can’t achieve perfect lotus position in a dimly-lit room scented with the ideal therapeutic oils in absolute quiet stillness for a full 20 minutes, then screw it.
The first step in adopting a meditation practice (and yes, it’s called a “practice” for a reason) is to ditch all preconceptions of what constitutes “meditation.” Meditation is nothing more than a stilling of the mind. And that doesn’t necessarily mean to make the mind completely still – good luck with that – but merely to get closer to stillness (even if just barely).
Find opportunities to allow your mind to become quieter, and call that your meditation. Abandon all images of what you’ve believed meditation should look like, and then experiment to discover what it means for you.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Consider a walking meditation. Whether a long walk is your preferred form of exercise, or you have to take the dog around the block anyway, walking can be a life-changing meditative practice. Read more about it here. (As an added bonus, a brisk walk is a darn-near perfect form exercise.)
- Try guided meditations. There’s no shortage of resources available, including CDs, books, and apps. For people whose “monkey minds” just can’t calm down on their own (especially at night), providing a specified calming focus can be just as beneficial as a self-imposed quieting.
- Turn off just one thing. How many of us watch TV while skimming Facebook? Or read emails while eating? I’ve recently started turning off the radio as I drive alone. That quiet I’ve created in my minivan has become one of my favorite ways to meditate, simply because it eliminates one piece of noise if for only a few minutes. Is that really meditation? By conventional descriptions, maybe not. But in my life – absolutely.
- If you pray, you mediate. Whatever your religious background, take a beloved prayer and repeat it several times (for example, when Catholics say the Rosary). Voilá – meditation!
- Color a mandala. Print free images online, or buy a coloring book. A good friend of mine, who is an integrative physician, urged me to start coloring mandalas in shades of gray to train myself to stop seeing life in black and white, and I can assure you – it is absolutely a meditation. Check out “The Mandala Workbook: A Creative Guide for Self-Exploration, Balance, and Well-Being” by Susanne F. Fincher for more information.
- Breathe. If all you can muster is one full, deep breath, consider that a perfect meditation. One of our all-time favorite breath exercises is Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breath. Watch the video and learn more here. It takes 30 seconds. You can do it anywhere, anytime. Instant meditation. This ridiculously simple breath exercise is nothing short of life-changing.