Today’s guest posts comes from Meg, the author of Inside Out Weight Management: Overcoming Emotional Eating and Breaking the Cycle of YoYo Dieting. She also blogs at The Grocery Store Wino. I’m lucky to count her as a close friend. And you’re lucky she agreed to post on something I’m super intrigued by – her meditation habit!
I have a confession to make. I’m a closet meditator.
No, no, I don’t mean I meditate in a closet. Nor do I meditate on closets… although that’s not a bad idea. (“Om… built in shoe compartments….”)
It’s just that I’ve always been a little embarrassed to tell people that I meditate, despite how much this habit has done for my well-being. I guess I worried that people would immediately peg me as a navel-gazing hippie… or assume I have such a deep-rooted sense of inner peace that I never let a four letter word fly in bad traffic.
However, my secret came tumbling out the other night when my husband and I were having dinner with a his uncle, a cardiologist who has been practicing for longer than I’ve been alive. He’s always shown interest in my coaching practice and experience with helping people with emotional eating, but I was still a little bit taken aback when he turned to me during dinner and asked if I was familiar with the latest research on meditation and heart disease. I was even less prepared for his next question: “So… do YOU meditate?”
I felt all eyes on me as I stammered out my response. “Yes, I do, actually. And it’s been one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done.”
Meditation is one of those things you’re bound to come across if you’re at all interested in wellness and healthy living. If you’re like me though, you’ve probably read how beneficial it is and thought to yourself, “Yeah, but not for me. My monkey brain would never be quiet long enough for me to get any benefit from it.”
When I first started trying to meditate, I literally felt like I was watching my thoughts swing like a monkey from one tree branch to another. In fact, I swear my mind was MORE active the moment I tried to sit quietly and “be still.”
It wasn’t until I came across the idea of the “two word mantra” (in Wayne Dwyer’s book, Getting in the Gap) that I started to even believe that I was capable of meditation. (Yup, I truly doubted my own ability to just sit still.) By choosing a two word mantra, and matching one word to the inhale and one to the exhale, I was able to find a quiet spot in my mind. It was like handing a bright, shiny object to my monkey mind to turn over and over again. As other thoughts would drift in, I’d redirect myself back to my two words and slowly those thoughts would drift back out again. My mind was properly distracted with my two words, and in the moment of that distraction, I found a deep, quiet stillness.
I’ve used various two word mantras to guide my meditations such as “Let Go” or “Be Still.” My favorite is “I Am.” For me, meditation feels like diving down to the bottom of a swimming pool and for a brief moment, everything is muffled, still and peaceful. You know there is a bustling world waiting for you when you burst back up to the surface, but for a brief small moment, you are suspended in a quiet, still place. (Of course, you’re not holding your breath when you meditate so you get to hang out in that quiet spot for a little longer than you would the bottom of the pool.)
Meditation has done more for me than I ever would have anticipated. In those moments of quiet, I’ve heard my own intuition answer questions I’d been mulling over for days . I’ve had moments of clarity about issues or projects that no amount of my normal overanalyzing and spreadsheet creating mind could come up with. I’ve found that within me there is a sense of peace and a feeling of connection to this world, and to a greater Self, that has buoyed me through stressful situations.
Above all, it has taught me that I can control my monkey mind. I can ask it to please just be quiet for a minute. I can redirect a series of negative, unproductive thoughts that in the past would barrel on through me like a runaway train. I can stop myself from rehashing past events that didn’t go the way I wanted them to or creating future disaster scenarios that haven’t yet happened. (I can’t be the only person who has had entire arguments with people in their mind, am I?).
Meditation is not just something you do to feel peaceful and calm for 20 minutes – although it will do that. The knowing that you can control and quiet your mind is so powerful and the awareness of a pillar of peace that you carry within you at all times is comforting. In my experience, it’s one of the most significant habits that anyone can do for their own well-being.
Even those of us with monkey minds.
Want to start? Here are my recommendation for Meditation 101:
– Choose a quiet spot where no one will disturb you. (I used to try to meditate in an empty conference room at work, but I was always nervous someone would walk in on me. I couldn’t decide if I would actually confess to meditating or just say I’d fallen asleep. I’m not sure which would have caused more office gossip.)
– Sit comfortably. You don’t have to sit in a tradition “meditation” position if it’s uncomfortable. You don’t want to be thinking about how much your knee aches when you’re trying to achieve inner peace.
– Choose a two word phrase to get you started. “Be still,” “Let Go,” and “I Am” are my favorites. One of my coaching clients used “Thank You” which I thought was wonderful.
– Close your eyes and match the two word phrase to your inhale and exhale. Whenever you find your thoughts drifting, just bring them back to the two words. If at some point, you find that you’ve “let go” of the words, that’s okay.
– You can set a timer if you’d like, or you can just see how long you stay there naturally. You may find at first it’s only a few minutes and that’s totally fine. Just like any muscle, you’ll find that your meditation muscle strengthens with regular use and practice.
– If you feel you really don’t have any time or place to comfortably do this, you can do a “mini meditation” when you’re driving, commuting or waiting in line somewhere. (Keep your eyes open, obviously.) Just do the two word phrase with your breathing, and you’ll still likely be able to create a feeling of calmness and redirect your thoughts.
Thanks Meg! I’m feeling inspired! Do any of you meditate?
P.S. – I never wanna come home from the beach.
P.P.S. – Today, I took an empty cider bottle, rinsed it out and put white wine in it. Keepin’ it classy on the beach.