Meditation has never been easier for me. When I was young, I was energized by the rapid pace of my thoughts. I found my inner world inspiring and full of fresh ideas and connections. By contrast, observing thoughts and letting them pass, as mindfulness meditation training requires, proved cumbersome. I saw. The accompanying feeling of boredom didn’t help either. I was content to let the so-called monkey mind run wild, with its restless, destructive thoughts.
But the topic of mindfulness and meditation has become too big to ignore. My life changed too. I became a parent nearly a decade ago and have spent years reporting on serious topics such as high-profile suicide and sexual abuse scandals, not to mention weathering the social and political turmoil of the Trump era.
With another New Year approaching, you may be looking for ways to start or resume your meditation practice. In 2017, I wrote about my journey to try 7 different meditation apps to become a “silent person who carves out time every day.” After months of sporadic commitment, my practice faltered. When regular practice for 10-15 minutes a day becomes essential to dealing with non-stop “what ifs”. Then I contracted her COVID this summer and spent chunks of the day meditating to pass the time, coping with symptoms and managing the uncertainty of when I would return to normalcy.
Recently, my go-to meditation app, Ten Percent Happier, showed me that my formerly skeptical self had achieved milestones I never imagined. He did 100 weeks of continuous daily practice, usually from 10 minutes each time, to 30 minutes. True to the run-of-the-mill meditation conversion story, I felt like an oddball.
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Through this transformation, I learned three important lessons. First, it’s important to practice daily for as long as you’re comfortable with, without striving for perfection. Routine practice can help set you on a rewarding path to reaping the potential benefits of meditation. I can attest that the benefits, such as the improvement in It is important not to use the skill as a way to avoid intense emotions. Being able to process emotions is good, but some people inadvertently lead to numbness and apathy.
Here are the details for each lesson I learned:
1. Stop aiming for perfection and just take your time.
If I could go back in time and gradually lengthen my guided meditations while abandoning the idea that there was a “perfect” way to practice, I would soon.
At the beginning of my 100th week, I was only meditating for 5-10 minutes each day. I often thought I was too busy for long sessions. True in some cases, I admit that I sometimes resorted to a short exercise to check the proverbial box.
However, scientific research suggests that the benefits of meditation are realized with consistent daily practice, perhaps for at least 10 minutes or more, for weeks on end. In his 2018 study published in behavioral brain researchScientists found that practicing 13 minutes daily for four weeks made no difference to meditators compared to a control group listening to podcasts. , meditators who practiced for 13 minutes each day experienced less negative mood, increased alertness, decreased anxiety, and improved working memory.
Julia Basso, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of human nutrition, food science, and exercise at Virginia Tech, said the length of the guided meditation was specifically chosen to incorporate it. told me On a full day of participants. It should be long enough to provide a benefit, but not unrealistically long.
“The idea is to get the brain into these slower, rhythmic activities so the mind begins to settle.”
“The idea is to try to get the brain into these slower, rhythmic activities where the mind starts to settle,” she said.
It is important to practice repeatedly. If you’ve been meditating for months and still don’t see results, you may find that you can benefit from longer practice.
However, I want to practice not only the length but also the body position in a way that is comfortable for me so that I can easily make meditation a habit. This proved impossible when I forced myself to meditate upright. My back hurt when I stood up. Certain approaches to meditation allow us to notice and recognize those unpleasant sensations without getting attached to them. It is a valuable skill, but my attempts to do so have only resulted in frustration and short sessions. It’s important to note that it may not be right for you, so don’t force it just because you think it should.)
Earlier this year, I chose comfort. Now most of my meditations are lying down. When I asked meditation teacher Jeff Warren about allowing people with disabilities to fully participate in meditation, he said the biggest risk of practicing sideways was the potential for falling asleep. rice field. I can confess that it has happened to me many times – and it felt wonderful every time. It is important to avoid clutter. However, if an uncomfortable posture is a barrier to attempting a session or a longer session, give yourself permission to meditate in poses that are right for your body.
The new position has strengthened my practice, but what has accelerated it was my first case of COVID this summer. With little else to do during quarantine, listening to three 15-minute meditations in a row made him feel deeply relaxed and less anxious. I finally got a glimpse of what I had missed by shortening the session.
After being hit with post-COVID insomnia, practice became unexpectedly important, and I routinely logged an hour or more of meditation each day. A lot of it is in the early morning hours when you’re awake. Deeply appreciative of the calming and grounding effects of my practice, I knew that for many days it was all that stood between me and my emotional and physical unraveling.
2. The benefits of meditation are immense.
A few months after reaching 30-45 minutes of daily meditation practice, I had an unpleasant collision with a reckless driver while walking down the street. As he ran away, I noticed my heart wasn’t beating fast.I also didn’t feel the physical or emotional sensations of panic or pain that I had experienced months or years ago. Must I thought it would be meditation at work.
When I told clinical psychologist Dr. Mark Schultz this story, he tended to agree. Schulz, professor of psychology and data science director at Bryn Mawr University and author of a forthcoming book, said: The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, studies emotions and happiness. His own research, conducted as part of decades of Harvard University research on adult development, shows that people who practice mindfulness respond to stressful tasks with less anxiety and worry. .
Mindfulness is the awareness that comes from intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Meditation is the primary way to develop this skill, but it is not the only one. Nevertheless, when Schultz and his fellow researchers sought to understand why study participants who practiced mindfulness seemed to respond to stress differently than those who did not, they found that We found that the former group tended to contemplate negative emotions like sadness with some distance. They were able to achieve what Schultz describes as “emotional equilibrium” and recover from challenges faster.
I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that studies on meditation have yielded conflicting results. Skeptics point to poorly designed studies evaluating different types of meditation and different outcomes, arguing that there is scant evidence to support its benefits.
While I welcome rigorous research on meditation, I don’t think we should wait for iron-clad evidence before beginning or intensifying our practice. If you become, it will have a big impact on your well-being and well-being. Its skills help people navigate life’s ups and downs, build more fulfilling relationships, stay focused amidst an onslaught of information, and develop more empathy for others.
“Being able to tune in to your feelings and adjust in an adaptive way is a foundational skill for being happy in life,” he says.
3. Continue to feel your emotions deeply.
What Schultz said is completely true in my experience, but I must warn you that it is difficult to control your emotions. There is a delicate balance between avoiding feeling painful emotions within.
Psychologist and meditation teacher Dr. Tara Black described the latter as a “mental diversion.” Thanks to my nagging feelings about the unresolved conflict, I called Brach. I practiced meditation that focused on emotions as “states of mind” to remind me that these emotions will pass.
My mistake here, as Brach kindly explained, is that I skipped it. Feeling Anger in the context of healing it. This is a common pitfall, also known as the “neighbor of equanimity”. The Buddhist concept of equanimity refers to mental calmness and composure, but its “near enemy” is the separation that breeds indifference. Brach says he has three signs that this dynamic is happening. Not feeling fully present in one’s own body, being in a thought or mental state, not feeling visceral kindness or compassion when someone else is suffering.
“What is it that desires acceptance and inclusion?”
“If you notice one of these signs, you might ask yourself: What do I not want to feel?” Blach says. “What is it that desires acceptance and inclusion?”
Brach was right. I couldn’t justify my anger, so I tried to calm it down by meditating. Her first suggestion, once the words left her mouth, was obvious: add emotion-focused meditation to my routine. It was a reminder that it’s easy to rely on a proven track when you need to.
As an example, Brach offered to guide me through one of her signature guided sessions, RAIN Meditation, which incorporates mindfulness and compassion. The acronym stands for Awareness, Permission, Investigation, and Nurture. (Listen here.) The basic process is to experience presence and kindness instead of running away from emotions.
Especially under Brach’s guidance, it was a revelation: RAIN helped me identify the emotions and fears that caused my anger. Brach has given us permission to fully feel it. Instead, he was pressuring himself to let it go and be polite. But the important part was using my anger to show kindness to the parts of myself that felt hurt. I say it’s as simple as
Brach explained that RAIN is a valuable strategy for changing relationships with difficult emotions and finding more “compassion, wisdom and freedom.”
“Hold on to anger and you’ll be let down by it,” says Brach.
We recognize that meditation is not for everyone. People may reap similar benefits from other pursuits that put us openly in the present moment, such as prayer, exercise, and time spent in nature. , it may change you in unexpected and wonderful ways.