When the world is moving to fast it might be time for you to slow down. Whether you were taught that more is more or are just stuck in a cycle of doing and wanting and moving way too fast, it’s time to slow down. It’s time to stop what we are doing, to just make a pause in our day to regroup, calm down and slow our minds. A pause with a simple name, meditation.
Meditation has been the prescription I needed to deal with my anger and anxiety. This year has been filled with significant life changes and new adventures, but with these blessings have come to a lot of stress. Getting married means planning a wedding, buying a house means responsibility and more spending, and working for a non-profit means making sacrifices for a job you love. Then there is learning to live with all these changes and stresses, without taking it out on your family and coworkers.
It’s for all these reasons and more I started meditating. I started with five minutes a day and am now up to around 15-20 minutes depending on the day. Combine this with a couple of walks during the day to clear my head and get some alone time, and I’ve found my prescription for calming the mind. I focus on the breath. I listen to water sounds. I merely pause for a few minutes to catch up to the speed of the world.
In doing this, I’ve experimented with different types of meditation, to see what’s out there and how they affect me differently. The most exciting thing about meditation to me is how much it changes the chemistry of your brain and affects the body. Scientists are still studying how the brain becomes stronger by increasing the thickness of the bridge between to the two sides of the brain, or the fact that blood pressure and cholesterol levels decrease after keeping a regular meditation practice. Because of all this, it was necessary for me to experiment with the different forms to see where I felt a change and use that to start shaping me into who I wanted to be. A less angry and less anxious version.
Types Of Meditation:
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
This practice is done in a 15-20 minute period, twice a day with the use of sounds or mantras. It allows the mind to entirely be free by focusing on sounds to bring back the mind when it gets lost in thought. As the most common type of meditation there is the most research on how this practice affects the body and has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and psychosocial stress. To fully understand Transcendental Meditation one must be taught through professional training. This is to ensure that the practice is correctly interpreted and that false methods aren’t being passed down. (I, however, have not been trained but still attempt this practice which has been greatly beneficial for my irritability, stress, and anxiety).
Heart Rhythm meditation has more of a structure to it than other forms of meditation. Posture is key in keeping the blood flowing through your body and therefore means you have to be sitting up straight through the whole practice (not my strong suit). The key to this meditation lies in the breath. First, just noticing your breath and then by changing it through a series of techniques. Starting with an equal length in inhale and exhale for a few breaths and then switching to a longer and longer exhale. Changing the breath in the body has a massive effect on improving the energy and can be an excellent tool for de-stressing. If you want to learn the full method, you can check that out here.
In this meditation, Kundalini yoga is often practiced. For those who have a harder time sitting still and need movement, this can be a slow movement practice for you. The purpose of this meditation is to awaken energy through the breath and different poses. Again, a good posture is needed for this form of meditation, but luckily you won’t be sitting still the entire time. If you’re looking to gain a more present and clear memory (which I and Kristen Bell could probably use), this is the practice for you. Check out some of these specific Kundalini practices.
If you’ve heard of Headspace or Insight Timer, two different meditation apps, then you’ve most likely experienced a guided meditation. Each method is different allowing you to customize the practice to your liking. An instructor will talk you through your entire practice telling you how to breathe or what to visualize depending on the goal of the meditation. These practices usually range from 3-20 minutes but can go much longer if you wish.
Focused meditations is another of my favorite and has a lot of similarities to TM meditation. Here you focus your attention on your breathing or a body sensation in order to keep coming back to it as your mind wanders. In this practice, you are trying to achieve thoughtlessness. Which I’m not convinced is possible, so it becomes a game of cat and mouse with your mind leaving and coming back to the breath. This meditation has been found to increase your attention span and has proven to thicken the anterior prefrontal cortex (The part of the brain that remembers rule learning).
The biggest lesson I can share about meditation is that it won’t fix you. I still get angry; I still have to work on my anxiety and stress, recognizing what triggers it and what I can do to calm it down. It’s not the quick-fix that is promised in so many blog posts or books. As Dan Harris says, it makes him 10% happier - just read his book. In all meditation, it’s important to be kind to yourself and not to get caught up in how well you are doing. The sole purpose of meditation is to do it, and by doing it, I mean doing nothing, for a few minutes a day. Meditation will allow you to calm down and witness your rational mind to make healthy decisions that will help heal your body. The rest of the journey is up to you.