No, often the hardest part is the motivation to make it part of our daily life. To just sit. We read how good meditation and mindfulness are for us, we even begin to experience it, but still sometimes the will is lacking.
Take an inspiration a day as the motivation to sit, walk, breath – or however you bring yourself towards stillness.
Monday. Boosting brain power
Monday morning back at the office – struggling to focus or facing a creative block? The act of meditation involves concentration (‘dharana’) on a single object, whether that object is our breath or body sensations. And that concentration is a skill we can apply. We train the mind from running around ‘like a monkey’ to moving towards stillness.
Mapping the brains of meditators shows a ‘lighting up’ of areas of the brain involved in focus and concentration. And changes in the predominant brainwaves from scattered beta to focused but calm alpha and creatively inspired theta states. As our flexible yoga bodies assist us off the mat, flexible brains are not just confined to our meditation. The effects last for several hours and may become easier to ‘switch on’ the more we practise.
Tuesday. A fit body inside and out
The idea that sitting ‘doing nothing’ improves our physical fitness might seem questionable. But the yogis realised centuries ago that body and mind are connected – if not simply different densities of the same ‘stuff’.
Meditation has a profound effect on calming our nervous system, increasing its ‘rest and digest’ function which allows our bodies to bounce back from periods of stress. As well as lowering blood pressure and boosting the digestive, immune and circulatory systems. By freeing up our energy, meditation aids our healing ability but also lessens the chances of us getting sick in the first place.
Wednesday. Mental resilience
Beyond a dose of the mid-week blues, ‘mixed depression and anxiety’ affects nearly 1 in 10 of us in the UK (Mind, 2009). As or bodies become strong and resilient through regular exercise, so our mind becomes through regular practise. Research shows that meditation encourages the production of key neurotransmitters which are associated with positive mood and a reduction of the stress hormones such as cortisol which keep us in stress loops.
Plus less activity in the areas of the brain prone to ‘rumination’ and depression. We cannot remove stress from our lives – and sometimes we need it – but meditation appears to alter our perception of stress, which is key to how we respond. And of course the happier we are the healthier we are!
Thursday. Self acceptance
Who we are is often caught up where we work, what car we drive, what others think of us etc. And as any of these things can come and go at any moment, we are left either striving for the next achievement or trying to cling onto what we have.
Meditation, the yogis discovered, was to get to the root of ‘who am I?’ – before and after all the stuff we accumulate. Some meditators might be seeking moksha, liberation from the ego consciousness – others, simply being a little happier in their own skin. Most will agree however on a feeling of ‘coming home’. We can still want nice things of course, we are just not defined by them.
Friday. Making wiser choices
Lets be clear, its not all pretty and ‘zen’ when we sit down to meditate. We discover our minds are noisy and that there are parts of us we’d rather not acknowledge. But we learn a new skill: witnessing. Rather than running away with, or over and over, our thoughts, we see them for what they are.
Maybe we start to see that we are living in patterns, whether that’s another disastrous night out or taking on too much at work and at home. Things won’t change overnight, but the witness wakes us up; the first step to change. And of course in deciding to mediate we are choosing to create a new pattern, and we can be proud of ourselves for making that step…and kind when we stumble.
Saturday. Harmonious relationships
Is it selfish to carve out mediation time, away from loved ones and obligations? When we connect with ourselves on a daily basis, we don’t become introverted and cold. In fact quite the opposite. Beginning to observe our own emotions, we become more mindful of the feelings of others. Coming closer to who we are, we start to feel connected to who others are. Back to the brain waves again; the theta state which meditators experience is often described as ‘one-ness’.
When we change, our relationships change, it can be no other way. And our families, partners and friends will feel the difference.
Sunday. Creating the future you wish for
While we wander through life lost in our own heads we can hardly be aware of the opportunities the universe is waving at us. From seeking clarity on a daily basis, often things start to click into place, the right people and opportunities show up. Meditation cleans up our subconscious mind, which is in charge of most of our daily actions.
As we clear out all the debris it’s collected from the past, we strengthen the subconscious mind at the same time – so when we start to make intentions we can make them happen.
Convinced? And motivated? We hope so…All of this is not to say that we breeze through the week without any challenges. But perhaps we are able to take it one day at a time, and be less blown here and there by the inevitable storms of life.