By Peggie Arvidson
Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you constantly feeling like you’re forgetting something and then stressing yourself out with worry when you could be enjoying your life?
Congratulations! You’re human in a modern world. Which doesn’t make it any easier, does it? Living with chronic sleep deprivation and stress leads to some really nasty side effects, the least of which is weight gain. Chronic stress and sleep deprivation can lead to physical illness, depression and a general dissatisfaction with the things you thought would make you happy.
So what can you do about it?
Before you shake your head and stop reading, hear me out.
For all the recent press meditation has gotten and all the self-help gurus talking about meditation, it still is mostly misunderstood by busy, stressed-out people like you and me.
For more than a decade teachers, yogis and even a doctor or two recommended that I try meditation. Some were emphatic, “What you NEED Peggie is a meditation practice! Then you’ll feel better!” and others, like one of my doctors were less emphatic, but willing to let me give it a try. When I asked him if meditation could help my chronic illness he said, “It couldn’t hurt.” No necessarily a ringing endorsement, but I was feeling worse and the fact that I was lying awake at night worrying about the course of my illness throughout the rest of my life wasn’t helping. My disease is very connected to stress, and stressing about the disease had me in a never-ending do-loop of physical crises.
Something had to change and I knew it.
The Type-A, good-student that I am went right to the book store and found a book called, “How to Meditate in a New York Minute.” Or something like that. The clerk at the metaphysical bookstore who was ringing up my order just chuckled. I looked him in the eye and gave him a half-smile, “Ridiculous, eh?” I asked. He just smiled again and said, “It IS funny to think that you can get still and meditate quickly!”
What else could I do? I wanted results and I wanted them right away!
You might be surprised to hear that my attempt to learn to meditate didn’t work right then. It was a process of several years before I found a “meditation” practice that worked for me. And it’s still a work in progress.
However, with even novice attempts at slowing down I began to feel a shift. And that’s why I’m a big cheerleader for the practice of meditation, so much so, that I every single one of my clients is given meditation “homework” during our time together.
Pragmatic at the core, I embrace a meditation practice that is useful and truly easy even for the most time-strapped, Type-A, over-scheduled, fast-moving person on the planet. I know it works because I was (and can still be) that person! Here’s my list of excuse-busters to help you get started today:
- “I don’t have time.” You don’t need more than 10 minutes each day to get started. Heck, you don’t need more that 60 seconds! (Yay! Finding time is no longer an issue.)
- “I don’t know how.” Sit still. No phone. No TV. No radio. No Journal or book. Set a timer if you want and feel free to start with 60 seconds. Close your eyes or keep them open. There. You’re started.
- “My mind won’t stop racing.” No kidding. Just be aware of the racing. I think the biggest myth about meditation is that you’re striving for complete nothingness. Your brain is going to try to do brain things (this is often referred to as your ego) so let it go. When thoughts come up, just be aware of that and go back to sitting still.
- “I don’t have a mantra.” There are definitely forms of meditation where having your own mantra is a part of the practice. For now pick a phrase, or a word, or a sound that you can focus on. Heck, it’s okay to simply focus on your breath, “in and out.” You don’t need a mantra, you need your butt on the chair, or couch or floor or bed for a set amount of time to be still.
- “I’m not sure how to sit/hold my hands/fold my legs.” Then don’t worry about it. You can meditate with your feet flat on the floor, sitting in your chair at work. Close your eyes for 60 seconds and breathe. No special pose necessary.
- “I tried it once and didn’t feel any different, so why should I bother?” Good one. You won’t feel different immediately and that’s okay. It’s called a practice for a reason. Sit still tomorrow and the next day and watch for the cumulative effect.
- “I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong.” You and everyone else who has ever tried meditating are in the same boat here. How about you pretend you can’t do it wrong and breathe. Be still for 60 seconds a day and just imagine you’re doing it right!
Alright! It’s your turn now. Be sure to let me know how it turns out!