Seven Ways to change your life: Part Three – Meditation

Know this! Our brains are programmed from birth to store information, through repetitive behaviour and receiving.  Most often this begins before we are qualified to make any sense of it.  This is the stage when we trust others to make sense of it for us.  Often it is not true. This information we absorb, distill, and act on, forms stronger and deeper neural pathways in the brain each time we reinforce this message or notion.  Messages like “You’re lazy”, “You’re not good enough”, and “I need a drink (smoke)  to soothe my nerves” prove unhelpful in life.  On the other hand, it could be something positive like brushing your teeth or saying thank you.

The deeper the neural pathway the more embodied the habit becomes.  Then one day, we feel something missing, something is not right, perhaps, a dreaded diagnosis is presented.   Now What?

The good news is that change is possible and forming new neural pathways is equally possible. It’s called Neuroplasticity and it begins with awareness, followed by a pause – a time to reflect and gently but decisively set an intention. Then, the work begins.

We select the practices that will support us in affecting change and rewire our brains to replace a limiting belief with one that serves us.

Like any great achievement in life, it takes planning, dedication, sacrifice and practice. The hardest is carving the time out for yourself and staying consistent. The easiest part of this process is the actual practices, they bring immense reward in a short period of time, sensations of wellbeing, calm, clarity, joy, and fulfillment – all that good stuff we mostly dream of.

At Equinox, we have seven pathways to creating the change you want in your life.  This, the third in our series of Seven ways to change your life.

Know this too –  There are no quick fixes in life.  (Not sustainable ones anyway).  This takes practice so promise yourself at least one month of patience, kindness, persistence, and love.  (mark the date in your calendar and if you ‘fall off the bus”, just get back on ASAP)

Introducing Super-Seven Practice #3

Meditation

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. 

It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.”

Deepak Chopra

There are many forms of meditation, all of which are designed to silence the mind and create a sense of relaxation and calm.  The practice combines concentration with awareness – creating an awareness of one’s breath, thoughts, sensations, or feelings.

To support a practice of meditation when first learning to meditate, you can use some of these techniques:

  • Focusing on an object like the flame of a candle, a flower, the space in front of you, or that space between your brows, just above your nose.
  • Observe your breath and bodily sensations – simply observe these and return to them each time you find your mind wandering.
  • Listening with intent and alertness to a guided meditation.
  • A body scan – is aimed at reducing tension in the body and promoting relaxation – bringing awareness to the parts of our body we seldom give a second thought to.  A body scan is very helpful if you find you’re constantly ‘in your head’.  (You know what that means!). It calms the nervous system and brings your awareness away from the mind.
  • Movement meditation includes any gentle form of movement, from dancing to yoga, gardening to housework – where one’s attention is on the flow of movement rather than the task or act.
  • Compassionate meditation opens one’s heart and mind to receiving and giving love.  This is helpful for people experiencing strong emotions of anger, resentment, abandonment, and even unworthiness.

Directions for practice:

Begin with 2 – 5 minutes of practice daily, sitting still in any posture as long as you remain awake and alert.  Don’t become despondent when your mind wanders, or the voices in your head become busy and loud.  This is your mind’s natural response when you become still and try to ignore it.  Allow these thoughts to pass through, like strangers at a park.  Know that if there is anything important there that comes up, it will arise again after your meditation.

Extend your meditation by one to five minutes each week.  The benefits of Meditation are felt sooner than later.  Consciously notice how you feel after 10-days of meditation or, give attention to how you feel when after 14-days, should you skip a meditation.  It is then that you become aware of meditation’s benefits.  (The most common side effect of stopping one’s practice is restlessness and uncertainty.)

A quick tip:  set yourself up for success.  Create the space you’ll be meditating in, the night before. Maybe include a candle, (we’ve all got those handy – thanks to you-know-who), a comfy cushion and blanket, and possibly a journal.

The Friends of Meditation:  Pranayama (breathing), stillness, silence, body scan, yoga or other forms of movement that flow into meditation.

The Benefits of Meditation:  Calm, clarity, a clear mind, ability to focus and limit one’s reactions when triggered.  Meditation offers mind and body mastery after continuous practice.

Old Zen Proverb: “One should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day -unless you’re too busy. 

Then you should sit for one hour.”