Why meditate? Because your life depends on it. [and how to do it]

I want to make a public service announcement about the benefits of meditation. I have been a regular meditator for years; however, I wasn’t always drinking the meditation Kool-Aid. I used to think that meditation was only for crystal-toting people, named Moonbeam that live on the island of Delusion-&-Fantasy. However, the scientist in me couldn’t stop ignoring that data that pointed to the countless benefits of meditation.The more I researched the more I had to face the facts of meditation. It wasn’t just for those who lived in the land of rainbows and unicorns; rather, intelligent, successful, healthy, creative, self-aware people meditate. 

I downloaded a meditation timer that made the sound of tingsha cymbals (what the hell are tingshas?) to alert me when my meditation session began and ended. I wanted to feel authentic and serious about my meditation practice. I overconfidently set the timer for 20-minutes. I mean, all I had to do was sit there and breathe, right? Well…I HATED IT. It was excruciatingly painful. It felt like I ran 26.2 miles in my mind. My “to do” list was haunting me, the voices in my head were saying, “you’re such a loser, you’re doing this wrong, this is such a waste of time.” So, I opened my eyes and looked at the timer. WHAT? I’VE ONLY BEEN DOING THIS FOR THREE MINUTES? So the next day, I set the timer for five minutes. It was still painful; but, I made it to the sweet sound of the tingshas. I kept with the practice. I put smiley faces on my calendar the days I meditated. Then after a few months, my calendar was 80% full of smiley faces. I had to sit, be still, and meditate, until it became a habit. 

Here’s why YOU’RE going to fall in love with meditation: 
Meditation…reduces stress, decreases anxiety, improves emotional intelligence, decreases loneliness, decreases depression, lessons PMS symptoms, enhances self-esteem, increases optimism, increases resilience with adversity,  improves mood (God knows I need that some days), enhances immune system, increases relaxation, decreases impulsivity, helps manage pain, enhances self-acceptance, helps develop and improve social connection, decreases fear, increases energy, improves focus, relieves asthma symptoms, keeps dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay, increases empathy, lowers blood pressure, makes you more creative, alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms, improves concentration, helps manage ADHD, helps overcome addictions, prevents emotional eating, improves memory, slows cognitive decline, improves decision-making abilities, and reduces risk of heart disease… just to name a few things (references available upon request).

In other words, meditation is comparable to eating vegetables, fruits and exercising. But, you don’t have to go to the store, buy anything, cook, or sweat. (PLEASE don’t stop eating vegetables, fruits and exercising) 

1.    I don’t have time to meditate. Do you have time for heart disease, or cognitive decline? What about loneliness, forgetfulness, or creative blocks? Have you ever tracked how much time you spend watching T.V., or on social media? I’m guessing you can carve out 5-minutes.
2.    I can’t clear my mind.  EXACTLY! That’s why you meditate! Also, keep in mind that one of the many functions of the brain is to think. If thoughts are running through your mind, your brain is doing its job. 
3.    I don’t own a magic carpet or robes. As unfortunate as that is, you don’t need a magic carpet, a wand, crystal ball, or a special outfit (unless, that makes your heart sing). Just meditate.
4.    I can’t sit in lotus position. You don’t have to sit on the floor in lotus position. You can sit in a chair, on a couch, wherever.  However, drooling on your desk or lying in the fetal position in your bed aren’t the best conditions for your meditation practice.
5.    I’m not a morning person. There is no “perfect” time to meditate.  I love meditating in the morning. It helps me feel clear, grounded, patient, and ready to face my day.  Sometimes I like to meditate before I go to bed. It helps my clear my mind, so I’m not lying in bed with monkey mind, running through my day…conversations, what needs to be completed, what I have the next day. Maybe lunchtime works for you in order to feel refreshed for the remainder of your day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you meditate. Just MEDITATE! 

1.    Sit upright, legs uncrossed. Silence your phone notifications, and get quiet.
2.    Lock this quote in your mind by the wise sage, Dr. Seuss. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” If you don’t like the quote, choose something that resonates with you.

3.    Set your timer for five minutes. GO! Close your eyes, repeat the quote to yourself over and over again until your timer goes off.  “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…”  Surprise! You meditated.

These things may happen during your meditation:
1.    Your mind wanders. You’re repeating the quote to yourself, and then you realize you’re thinking about what you need at the grocery store. When you notice your mind running, simply bring it back to the quote … “You have brains in your head. You have Feet in your Shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” The quote is your anchor point, or your home base. Every time your mind wanders and you bring it back to the anchor point, that’s your brain doing a mental pushup.  The mental pushups create more gray matter in the brain, strengthen your brain and concentration abilities. 
2.    You fall asleep. You’re saying to yourself…”you can steer yourself any direction you…..” then you’re jarred out of sleep by your timer going off. Your five minutes are up. That happens, too. NO big deal. Just return to your meditation practice tomorrow.
3.    You judge your meditation practice. You might beat yourself up for your mind racing, or falling asleep, or not being “good” at meditation. Observe it, let it go, and see where else judgment shows up in your life.
4.    I don’t feel anything. First, check in with your expectations. If you’re expecting nirvana, elation, or enlightenment. You might be disappointed. You may experience these things, you may not. But, just stay with the practice. 
5.    “Dude…that was TOTALLY trippy!” It was like being transplanted to the best laser light show of your life. You astral projected to the planet of Krypton and met Kal-El. Sweet! However, not every meditation experience will feel like this. Once again, stay with the practice.

Meditation is a practice. It’s like planting seeds. We don’t plant an acorn one day and walk out the next day, expecting to find a full-grown oak tree. The acorn must develop roots, clear out the weeds, be watered, and nurtured. Just like our meditation practice.Some meditation sessions are dreadful, some are anticlimactic, and some feel like bliss. Just keep with the practice.

Collect some data with mental notes or journaling. After a few weeks, you may notice that you don’t want to punch a wall when you’re on hold for an hour with your health insurance company.  After a few more weeks, you may find your all-important “to do” list isn’t keeping you up at night. After a few more weeks, you may be able to identify your emotions and reactions with curiosity and non-judgment.  Then, at your annual wellness check, you notice that your blood pressure is in a healthy range. In fact, you can stop taking your blood pressure meds. You hardly ever forget where you put your keys, or leave the oven on with a pizza baking overnight. You find that you know if you’re truly hungry, or if you’re eating because you’re lonely. Then you realize that you are crushing your “to do” list HARD, because you’re so focused. Then, you find that you crave your meditation practice. It’s part of your routine. Coffee, meditate, coffee. Brush your teeth, meditate, restful sleep.

Jessica Sharpenstein, M.S., C.W.C.

In addition to group offerings, I offer 1-on-1 intuitive services, energy healing, and wellness/life coaching. Contact me today to explore ways to work with one another.