My Meditation Storyby Beth Shaw | 29/06/2016
There’s an old Zen saying that says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Meditation affords us an opportunity to take a step back, breathe, and evaluate your inner soul. We often put all of our energy into losing weight to the point where it becomes a burden rather than a goal. Meditation lets us relax, evaluate ourselves, our progress and the benefits to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being our astounding. It promotes internal awareness and acceptance, an opportunity to objectively observe, versus react, to daily events both positive and negative, and allows you to recognize the totality of your responses to potentially toxic emotions, such as anger, guilt, fear and grief.
As a young girl, I suffered from weekly migraines. The smallest sounds resonated and amplified themselves within my head. The smallest sliver of light seemingly intensified in front of my face and my palms sweat profusely. The only remedy was to find a dark, quiet room of the house and hope I could fall asleep.
Over time, I taught myself different ways to cure these nauseating headaches. The symptoms were blaring so it took time but I eventually found that focusing on something positive or on a serene image of nature, my head felt better and I was able to survive the migraine. As I got older, I tapped into that positive force more and quickly my migraines ended altogether.
I couldn’t conceptualize this at the time but as I started to study brain sciences and various forms of therapies, I realized that I had taught myself meditation to cure my migraine headaches.
I have been practicing yoga seriously since my early twenties. Meditation was one of those things I flirted with but never committed to. I remember in my early practice I created a meditation “room” in my kitchen out of a trash closet but never actually sat in there as it was too small. I meditated at the end of class occasionally, but never stuck to a practice.
In 2009, I entered my Saturn period according to Vedic Astrology; the Saturn period is a challenging one that forces one to learn patience and humility – a few things that were not as strong in my character. Part of being in Saturn requires a consistent meditation practice, Meditation was always something I knew I had to “get to“ but it was last of the long long list of things to do. I knew I needed to but somehow continued to resist. Sitting still has never been my forte. In 2012 a good friend and colleague told me about Transcendental Meditation (TM) – she swore by it. I somehow intuitively knew I had to do get trained.
Ironically enough, I remember my mother doing TM in the late 70’s; but she quickly stopped as she said it “slowed her down too much.”
I dropped everything I had on my calendar the next week and did the training. It was love at first try. I got addicted to it immediately- leaving parties to mediate, avoiding wine at social functions so I could first meditate, excusing myself from meetings to go meditate and return. I can truly say a regular meditation practice has changed my life. Despite running a yoga business, my life is very stressful: constant travel, businesses in two countries and a few times a year travelling abroad to open the business in new countries, constant focus on the working of a business, opening studios in various cities, and managing some side businesses and family obligations.
My meditation practice has become my “vacation" and my respite.
It gives me the space to reengage. I often will meditate anywhere from 4-7 pm for 30 minutes so I can recharge for an evening of business or social obligations. I don’t know if I would be able to manage my life without meditation and I am so excited to share meditation with you. Where you go from here is up to you, but you just need to do it.
Download my meditations from iTunes!
Since becoming involved in the yoga and fitness communities, I’ve had the opportunity to investigate the scientific benefits of meditation and, much to my chagrin, there’s a lot of supporting documentation and research. Did you know that people who meditate are neurologically happier than those who don’t? Studies have shown that people who meditate are able to more frequently and intensely activate the areas of true happiness in the brain. Meditation also has several other physical and psychological benefits that I’ll discuss later.
So often I hear people say that they can’t meditate because it requires an empty mind.
The fact of the matter is that unless you live underneath a rock on the North Pole, an empty mind probably seems unattainable because you probably don’t have an appropriate mental focal point. Much of our daily life is spent living in our heads, focused on what we are thinking, versus what we are feeling. With the demands of work and home we are often required to mentally stay one step ahead just to get through our day. But if we navigate life led by our thoughts alone, we miss out on a world of information available to us through our bodies and spirits.
The ancient practice of meditation is as integral to yoga as the poses, with the same intention: not to tune out, but to tune in to a frequency long forgotten, or perhaps undiscovered. Meditation is about becoming acutely aware of what is going on within you, as well as learning to tame your mind so you can focus all your energy and awareness on the task at hand. The practice of meditation helps you stay centered regardless of your circumstances. It doesn’t teach you to avoid pain or discomfort, but to experience and accept it so you can move through any situation with profound clarity and a sense of inner peace and calm. It’s a wonderful way to tap into your internal “knowingness” and get into touch with your eternal essence.
Just like learning the breathing techniques and poses, meditation is at first awkward and unfamiliar.
It’s eye-opening to discover we are controlled by incessant thoughts, and frustrating to realize that many of them are unnecessary and perhaps even untrue! Sitting in silence we also realize how many common distractions compete for our attention, such as doubt, sleepiness and restlessness. Rather than using up even more energy fighting these hindrances, we eventually realize it’s far easier to acknowledge them and release them. Distractions will never let up, but you can teach yourself to let them go. In fact, this awareness of your thought life and distractions is the first step in developing a successful meditation practice that will improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Furthermore, when you refine your ability to slip into a state of awareness and being, you can bring this focus into other areas of your life. No matter what is happening in your immediate environment, you can step back and respond, versus react. Whether it’s an athletic competition, work, a difficult conversation, or play, not only will you enjoy what you are doing that much more, you will do it that much better.
So give yourself permission to be a beginner, and know that with practice your ability to concentrate will improve. Eventually, you will find that during your meditation practice you will have the experience of slipping between thoughts, or find yourself unaware of any specific thoughts at all. In this place, you not only lose track of what you hear going on around you, you often discover you’ve lost all sense of time itself. With enough practice, you’ll find that you could meditate in a noisy airport or on a busy street corner without becoming distracted whatsoever.
Intimidated by meditation and looking for a place to start? Try my 3 Minute Grounding Meditation available on iTunes.
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