Meditation is one of those hashtagable words we’re hearing more and more of these days along with the likes of yoga, mindfulness, woke and conscious.
For some it seems scary, for others its worthy of a sarcastic eye roll and for an increasing number of us, myself included, the act of meditation is becoming as routine as taking a shower or making a coffee.
And it turns out, it’s not just a gang of instagrammable lycra lovers and snapchat filtered soul-seekers who are in on this; meditation ranks high on the list of activities that constitute a morning routine for the rich, the famous and the super successful.
Over the years, myriad scientific studies have been conducted that demonstrate the mental, physical and emotional benefits of meditation.
They say that the act of meditating causes the pituitary gland to secrete endorphins (or endolphins as I like to call them); the feel-good chemicals that swim around your blood stream giving you bursts of happiness.
It clears and calms the mind and enhances activity in the area of your brain that’s associated with positive emotions and experiences. Some studies suggest it helps combat depression and anxiety, while others say that regular meditation may improve pain tolerance.
Other physical benefits include lowering blood pressure, improving blood circulation, boosting immunity and reducing heart rates.
And finally, meditation balances us emotionally. It allows us the mental space to focus on nothing but the present moment, relieving us of any emotional attachments from the past and worries about the future.
It gives us the power of now; a sharpened awareness of self that helps us see clearly through our clouded thoughts and gives us greater control over how we react to them.
Meditation yings our yang and yangs our ying.
You can meditate at any time of the day or night, but research does suggest that the ideal time to meditate is first thing in the morning before the stresses of the day have crept in.
It’s a medicine for anybody and although the benefits can be felt after just one sitting, they can only be sustained through a dedicated regular practice.
But this is where most people get stuck.
Forget the stiff knees, sore backs and the inevitable monkey brain chatter – the biggest challenge for any new meditator is overcoming their commitment issues.
I tried two months living with monks, ten days at a silent vipassana retreat and attended all sorts of workshops and weekend retreats. I downloaded the Headspace app and I even tried putting aggressive “MEDITATE NOW” reminders on my phone.
It’s taken me the best part of year to finally say that I now, without fail, meditate every single morning and every single night.
I’ve taken note that, although I’m advocating a morning routine throughout my blogs this week, routine itself bores the hell out of me – so I need to keep my meditations varied.
Some mornings I’ll be repeating I am affirmations, some I’ll be trancing out to solfreggio frequencies and on others I’ll be meditating to Moby while I brush my teeth.
I’ve learned that Kundalini breathing is more powerful than a triple espresso and that thoughts of gratitude and compassion are all you truly need to feel at peace.
I dug out my magical rainbow-coloured meditation cushion and it’s there waiting for me at the bottom of my bed every morning. My environment is right and I’ve created space and time to make it happen.
I’ve found what works for me and that’s what really is the key to meditation success; a personalised routine.
When it comes to those I mentioned earlier – the rich, the famous and the incredibly successful, there are more than a few who say meditation is their secret ingredient.
Ariana Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, is one of those people and she’s been meditating since she was sixteen years old.
“Incorporating meditation in your life, and committing to getting the rest you need to thrive, are proven to have life-altering and health-boosting effects and are critical steps to changing the course of your life for the better.
Sleep one hour per day more as a start. Embrace meditation and yoga in your life. Evict the “obnoxious roommate” in your head who is driving and criticising you, telling you you can’t stop or rest, and just “be.”
For just 10 minutes a day as a start, focus inward, become more present with yourself, your thoughts and your feelings, strengthening your inner resources so they may sustain you in a deeper way.
Also, make the commitment to build your life not just as an endless pursuit of activities that feel disconnected to your heart.
You are bigger than your job or your professional role. Shift your life to focus on something purposeful, inspiring and meaningful to you. Connect in a deeper way to the world around you that you love.”