The Mystery of Meditation
It is estimated that over 400 MILLION people meditate around the world.
The U.S. market for meditation products and services will exceed 2 billion dollars by 2022.
Our supermarket shelves are bursting with magazines, and since 2015 this budding industry has launched more than 2,500 meditation applications and now claims millions of online practitioners.
Yet despite the fact that meditation is supposed to remedy stress, it seems that people are more stressed out than ever before. Why?
Part of the problem is that as the profit potential of meditation has increased, there’s been a bit of a dumbing down of how the art of meditation is understood.
Meditation is undeniably powerful. It can help increase our willpower, boost brain function, increase grey matter in our pre-frontal cortex, foster empathy, improve sleep quality, cultivate self-awareness, ease inflammation, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce heart risk, and decrease anxiety (whew!).
Given that long list of benefits, it’s no surprise that meditation has become a hot topic of late.
But like most meaningful practices, meditation’s power to transform our lives comes through
C O N S I S T E N C Y.
This ain’t no drive-through therapy, instant-gratification fix.
And that’s where most people get tripped up. They don’t get that immediate dopamine hit of feeling like they’ve leveled up — and so they fail to realize the real benefits of meditation. Meditation
All because they failed to practice consistency — and its the consistency of practice that makes all the difference. So while you may have a meditation app that you do, or don’t use, or may find meditation mysterious, meditation has the ability to impact on our minds and bodies.
To put this into practice, here are 5 steps you can take to set yourself up for meditation success:
Create EASE & Predictability. Have a no-thinking required, customized plan and space for your meditations. It doesn’tneed to be a shrine with crystals, sculptures or incense. But you do need a single spot that is YOURS and a consistent, and preferably, a designated time for your practice. If you choose, you may use a special pillow, or create your ownsanctuary, but don’t let your excuse-inclined mind resist the practice because you don’t have things “just so”. Remember, we are sitting for 5 minutes, not creating a vipassanā retreat.
Create Chunks. Building blocks of micro-choices that form routines help us to adapt and build consistency. This approach to so-called chunking creates denser neuropathways (remember footpaths vs highways?) and helps us by automatingour choices. For example you can create your own meditation “chunk” such as: wake up, pee, make a tea or coffee to sit alongside you, grab your pillow, journal, and then meditate. In time, this set of mini tasks will become part of your routine.
Set yourself up for success. If you start out trying to do a 30-minute seated meditation, it may not go that well. It’s equivalent to a beginner athlete trying to run a marathon on her first go and then asking her trainer why running is so hard. Begin with five minutes, daily, without any judgment and without any expectation. Consistency is more effective than duration.
Switch it up. Try different variations of a meditation practice! With a multitude of styles and approaches, there truly is a meditation style for all of us as we change and grow! As you continue to experiment, observe how the mind engages with various styles — what the experience is in the body, and what happens on an emotional level.
Be patient. Cultivating a habit is hard — especially when it has the possibility of bringing into question our programmed ideas and beliefs about ourselves. And all the stimulation of the modern world makes it even harder. But supporting our brain health may never have been more essential — and that demands patience and self-kindness. When we struggle with something new, such as meditating, and berate ourselves as a consequence, the bio-feedback of our self-deprecation over time wears down our brain, resulting in increased resistance and trepidation to the next new thing.
Your new (or renewed) meditation practice may not be “picture perfect,” but it doesn’t need to be.
If you can commit to this simple and short practice for the next week, you may begin to slowly chart a new relationship with your mind. And you’ll put yourself on the path to finally unravelling the mystery of meditation and reaping its abundant benefits.