Our lives are increasingly hectic. So many things to do, so little time. Everyone else’s needs seem to come before our own and our wellbeing keeps getting pushed to the very bottom of the to-do list. In times of chaos, the idea of stopping and doing nothing but focusing on our breath hardly seems like a priority.
Maybe you find meditation intimidating. Perhaps the thought of sitting still is too much for your overactive brain to comprehend. Maybe you think meditation needs to be religious or spiritual.
I’m here to tell you that your meditation practice can be whatever you want it to be. In its simplest form, meditation is simply focusing your attention on your breath. There is no reason to over-complicate it. The most basic way to meditate is to get into a comfortable position (sitting, lying down or even walking if that is your preference) and pay attention to your breath. Then slowly try to lengthen the breath, drawing it deep into the belly. Keep your attention on your breath, trying to make each breath longer and even more controlled than the last.
While you meditate you will get distracted, and that’s fine. Whenever your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to the breath. No matter how many times it happens, keep returning to your breath whenever you notice you’ve become distracted. If your mind wanders 100 times, bring it back 100 times. There is no need to wonder or worry if you are doing it right. That simple act of re-focusing on your breath is all you need to do: that is, in essence, meditation. Every time you do this, you are strengthening the mind. (It’s like a bicep curl for your brain!)
It might seem too simple, but simplicity is key. In an era where we are accustomed to being overstimulated from every angle, we are not used to sitting still. And this simple act has enormous benefits. From health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, to reducing your risk of heart disease and slowing aging, to lifestyle changes like becoming more productive and focused, better decision-making skills, increased attention and memory, and becoming less reactive.
We all know that stress has negative effects on our body, including upset stomachs, headaches, body aches and tiredness. But did you know stress also negatively affects the brain, impeding our ability to concentrate, affecting our work and relationships? AND the release of cortisol when we are stressed hinders the function of neurotransmitters (this makes it harder for brain cells to talk to each other and it’s the reason we get confused in a crisis). Further, cortisol causes a natural reaction that actually kills brain cells. Studies have recently shown that breathing techniques used in meditation are effective at reducing stress and anxiety, and can be even more effective than medication for treating depression.
Still think you don’t have time to meditate? Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Develop your own meditation style in a way that makes you comfortable and suits your lifestyle. Even setting aside five minutes a day to focus on deep belly breathing can go a long way.
Ashley is a Meditation Teacher and Wellness Coach, originally from Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of meditation and helping as many people as possible discover the life changing effects of mindfulness. Ashley teaches classes in Ponsonby and Kingsland, Auckland, as well as running corporate wellness programmes and one-on-one courses.
© The Yoga Connection 2017