I’m often asked what I think of meditation (what I describe as access to ‘Relaxation’, one of the Three Free Therapies.) My response is always the same: If I could have all my patients take on one thing I believe would most benefit their health, it would be to adopt a daily meditation practice.
Now, if you cringe when you hear the word ‘Meditation’, you’re not alone.
Dan Harris, ABC News anchor and author of the book 10% Happier has some concise words to describe why he recommends meditation. I plucked these gems from a podcast (Happier by Gretchen Rubin) he was a guest on recently.
Being a ‘meditator’ doesn’t require one to live in a yurt, to be into aromatherapy, to appreciate the music of Cat Stephens, or to be able to say ‘Namaste’ without irony. Meditation is not weird; it’s simple, secular, and largely scientifically validated. It has the physiological benefits of lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and rewiring key parts of the brain.
He describes the two biggest benefits of meditation as its ability to boost focus, and to train the practitioner in mindfulness. Mindfulness allows one to remove the layers of uncontrolled, unobserved conceptual thought we add to our actual sensate experience of life.
In plain English, it is the skill of knowing what’s going on in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it. It keeps the voice of ego in one’s head in check, noticing the terrible suggestions it makes constantly and helps us not act them out. Being less emotionally reactive, less caught up in useless rumination or anger, makes us more effective.
How to? Simply sit back straight, eyes closed. Put the mind in the breath, meaning, concentrate on any aspect of the breath: the rise and fall of the diaphragm, the sensation of the air rushing through the nose, the expanding of the chest and abdomen. Every time you get lost in random thoughts, notice it and return the mind to the breath. Each time this happens is like a bicep curl for your brain.
It is said that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. I invite you to try it out, see how it feels.
After all, it may not necessarily be easy (but who ever said anything easy was worthwhile) and it’s free!!