It had been a year to the day since my coworker Zach’s best friend had passed away in a tragic car accident, and he asked me if I wanted to try meditation with him. We had conversations prior to this about how our upbringing and teenage/ early 20’s experimental phases had always caused us to have an interest in what meditation had to offer but had never really tried it ourselves. So we tried it that day on lunch. We downloaded Headspace and over the next 10 minutes allowed the sweet saunter of Andy Puddicombes voice to take us to a CRAZY PLACE. Turns out that crazy place was my mind. Can’t say I was completely sold on the idea of meditation right away, but it intrigued me enough to complete the next 9 sessions in Headspace’s 10-day starter pack. Or maybe it was Andy’s voice that kept me coming back? Either way after the 10 days was up, there was no looking back, Zach and I had found our new drug of choice. Meditation.
I would say that I’m smack dab in the middle of the spectrum of how much mental chatter we each experience. I know of friends that have more mental chatter and I know that my mind can race given certain circumstances in my environment. I tell you this to say that it doesn’t matter how much chatter you have in your mind, you can meditate.
Over the last 3 years, meditation has provided me with many benefits that include but are not limited to: I’m less (keyword: less) of a jerk to those that are closest to me, I can use meditation to help me fall back asleep quickly in the middle of the night, It got me into drinking porter style beers (true story), I feel more connected to the earth and everyone that shares this experience here with me, and I’m able to handle toxic co-workers and people in my life with much more grace. I can tell you that prior to starting meditation these things were not like this and some were quite the opposite and some still are a work in progress, some that I may be working on for the rest of my life. But it’s always worth it.
There are many benefits that meditation can bring to you, and I would suggest having an open mind and allowing the practice itself to unfold and bring to you whatever wonderful benefits that seem fitting for the occasion. Meditation is beautiful and also frustrating in that way. You may come for the breath work and relaxation, but you will stay for the guidance of your inner maze, whatever that may be. At least that’s what keeps me coming back.
While the benefits are what draws a lot of people to the practice, I’d also like to address some of the misconceptions and misunderstandings about meditation that I’ve heard of that can deter individuals from even considering it in the first place. Or as Dan Harris famously talks about meditation, “as being a product of ‘the worst marketing campaign in history.’”
It’s just a bunch of hippies, it’s not for me. While yes, hippies do have a rich history in existential exploration, including meditation and a cornucopia of other methods of alternative medicine, meditation is actually practiced by people of all walks of life. CEO’s and organizations across the world, Members of Congress, Professional Athletes, and even my personal favorite: shipyard welders are all reaping the benefits of meditation. Maybe those hippies are onto something after all.
Meditation is about stopping thought and my brain won’t slow down. This is one of the most daunting things someone could say to you. That would be like someone telling you that the purpose of your car was to sit in your garage and be dormant for its entire life. No! That car was meant to drive on the open roads, baby! Meditation is not about stopping thought, it’s about changing our relationship with the thoughts that arise, no matter the pace. We may be able to relax into a state where our thoughts will slow down and sometimes appear to cease to exist but in my experience, this would just be a beneficial byproduct.
I don’t have enough time to sit. While meditation retreats and longer sitting meditations do have their benefit, they’re not necessary to recognize the benefits of meditation in your everyday life. It’s about the consistency of our practice, not about the amount of time you’re doing it for. Richard Davidson, Founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, says that it takes just 9 minutes a day, each day to receive the brain changing benefits of meditation. I’m a huge fan of finding your Minimum Achieveable Dose of meditation that will allow you to do it every single day, whatever that amount of time may be. I’ll talk about this more in the next blog about how to develop your own practice.
I’ve tried it and I failed miserably at it, my mind just races the whole time. Congrats! You’ve successfully meditated. You cannot mess it up. Simply the awareness of your mind racing was a meditation in and of itself. Now you just need to bring your awareness back to your main point of focus after every time you notice your mind going, and you’re off to the races successfully meditating! It gets better with time, I promise.
I can’t sit still. The great part about meditation, and especially mindfulness, is that there are so many different kinds of techniques to try that you can find one that fits your style. There are walking meditations, meditation while running, I even had a guest on my podcast talk about the form of meditation that he teaches: dancing meditation! I’ll talk about the 6 different types of meditation that I practice in the following post but feel free to try out many different kinds to find out what works for you!
Hopefully this helped to shed some light on the benefits that I’ve recognized from this practice and about some misconceptions/misleading information that is out there about meditation, and allow you to see it in a new light and maybe even try it again at an upcoming LulaFit event!
I’d love to hear from you if you have additional worries/questions about meditation! You can reach me on the web at [email protected] or on my podcast social media pages. Next week I will cover the types of meditation that I practice as well as how to develop a practice of your own!
–Nick Zolfo, Wellness Consultant with LulaFit
This is post 2 of 3 in Nick’s series on meditation practice. Check out his first post here: We’re All Crazy…