Finding Calm: Meditation Works

ganeshaMy alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. now instead of 7:00 a.m. I budget 10 minutes for the snooze button and then 20 minutes for morning meditation. Yes, after years of wanting to meditate regularly, I am actually doing this … and finding out all the ways that meditation works.

I’ve written several posts on meditation, often with the goal of getting myself motivated to focus more. The study results are so powerful … meditation can:

  • improve sleep
  • improve  productivity
  • improve mental clarity
  • reduce blood pressure
  • decrease anxiety
  • assist weight loss
  • decrease cholesterol
  • decrease chronic pain

I could go on and on and on. Meditation practically cures cancer … (okay, it doesn’t, but it lessens the symptoms associated with cancer treatment). The question really isn’t “Why do you meditate?” The real question is “Why don’t we all meditate?”  Imagine how much happier we’d all be!

In fact there have been studies that suggest that regular meditation actually rewires our brains and makes us happier.

How to Meditate

Where does one start? How, exactly, do we get there? It seems like a daunting task to get to that zoned-out place where all the good stuff happens. As a type-A person with a million things to do, I can totally relate.

I’m honestly not that great at meditating either. After complaining that my attempts ended in me being utterly distracted, a Facebook friend said it was the “act of coming back to the now” that was the point. Let the mind wander off, but steer it back to your original intent, and that is good enough. The rest will come.

There are also a whole bunch of ways to meditate. Some are very structured. If you truly get into Zen meditation, for instance, you will wind up with a shaved head, dressed in robes, sitting for hours on a cushion on the floor. I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit much!

At the opposite end of the spectrum is to just make yourself comfortable and be attentive to your breath. My early attempts were just to count to 41 breaths and be done with it.

Do some research and see what appeals to you. You might want to start out with guided meditation tapes for a while and then try it on your own. There are even classes on meditation, so check your local community listings to see what’s happening near you.

Meditation Works for Me

After a lot of trial and error, I now work with a Sanskrit chant for Ganesha and a string of 108 beads that I count off. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and I can relate to this guy. I have absolutely no idea what I say during the chant and that actually works too. I tried using a power word or phrase, but found I got annoyed.

I tried guided imagery tapes and hated them … cloyingly calm voices were not doing it for me. I tried the counting breath one, but that just seemed pointless. Something about repetitive sounds, just noise really, gets me to shut out everything else and focus.

I have even had a few meditation sessions where for several minutes I am actually “zoned out” and it feels incredibly restorative. I have to admit, the first couple times it happened, I was so excited my brain said, “Hey! I’m in that zoned out place!” and immediately lost my zoned out place, causing a chuckle and a sigh.

My point to you is that you might be surprised at what works, so try everything until you find what you can relate to. I never would have predicted I was going to be chanting to an elephant, but hey, it’s working and I’m going with it.

I would love to know if you’ve tried meditation successfully or not. What secrets would you share to help others get to their happy place?  I’d love to read them.

Cheers,

Lisa

photo credit: Kabilan Subramanian

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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4 Responses to Finding Calm: Meditation Works

  1. Nick January 27, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Meditation is indeed such a great ‘tool’, if I can say that? I can relate to a few on that list (I have no clue if my cholesterol is lower), particularly the anxiety, for me it’s a great way to keep calm!

    If only everybody meditated, it’s brilliant! Personally I do it in the evenings, and either focus on my breathing, recite a mantra, or do some visualization and hold an image in my mind for as long as I can focus, all of them work great!

    It’s nice to see that you’re meditating, Lisa, and have a great day!

  2. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks Nick. :-) It’s cool that you mix it up … I find I have to do one kind for a while and then I switch to something else after a while, although my current one I’ve been doing for a while now.

  3. evilcyber February 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    It may sound strange, but when I tried meditation it got me really on the edge. What did the trick for me was “progressive muscle relaxation”, where you lie down and in turn tense all the muscles in the body.

    Reading your article I think I maybe should combine this with meditation. First PMR to calm down, then meditation to prolong the relaxation.

  4. Lisa Johnson February 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Evilcyber, I definitely think whatever works for you is the right answer. Give it a go … :-) I’ve tried the muscle tension/relaxation but as an anatomy geek got too distracted with what muscle fibers were twitching, lol

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