A LIT­TLE MIND­FUL MED­I­TA­TION

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - Ernie Schra­mayr, CPT, is a med­i­cal ex­er­cise spe­cial­ist in Hamil­ton who helps his clients man­age med­i­cal con­di­tions with ex­er­cise. You can fol­low him at ErniesFit­nessWorld.com, or get in touch at 905-741-7532 or erniesfit­nessworld@gmail.com. ERNIE SCHRAMAY

One of my men­tors last year chal­lenged me to find an ac­tiv­ity I know I should be do­ing and that I knew would im­prove my life. I thought of med­i­ta­tion. I had heard so much about how it can bring about phys­i­cal, men­tal and spir­i­tual ben­e­fits so I fig­ured I’d give it a shot.

My first at­tempts at med­i­tat­ing did not go well. I would sit with my eyes closed try­ing to think of some­thing … and noth­ing all at the same time. I would get rest­less and fid­gety and my driven, A-type per­son­al­ity would ru­mi­nate about whether I was do­ing it “right.” My men­tor chal­lenged me to med­i­tate for 15 min­utes for 30 days in a row. I didn’t even make it to one week.

My re­la­tion­ship with mind­ful­ness train­ing all changed this Jan­uary, how­ever, when I heard an in­ter­view with Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger de­scrib­ing how he used med­i­ta­tion ear­lier in his life to be able to jug­gle a body­build­ing ca­reer, busi­ness school, act­ing classes, au­di­tions and a brick­lay­ing busi­ness he was run­ning. The great­est ben­e­fit he re­ceived from daily med­i­ta­tion was the abil­ity to quiet the mind; al­low­ing it to fo­cus on one thing at a time. He went from a swirling storm of thoughts whip­ping around in his head to clar­ity and gained the abil­ity to be fully present and en­gaged in each ac­tiv­ity he was do­ing at any given time. He ex­plained that train­ing the mind is like train­ing a mus­cle. Time and con­sis­tent ef­fort re­sult in a great out­come. I could re­late to that!

Be­ing a huge Arnold fan, his words con­vinced me that I had to give med­i­ta­tion a sec­ond try. Then the in­ter­viewer re­lated that he had only been suc­cess­ful with his own mind­ful­ness train­ing af­ter dis­cov­er­ing an app for his cell­phone called Headspace that pro­vides daily, guided med­i­ta­tion ses­sions that last only 10 min­utes. I im­me­di­ately down­loaded the app and have not missed one sin­gle day since start­ing more than a month ago. The re­sult is that I am more or­ga­nized and fo­cused than ever and this has had an enor­mous pos­i­tive ef­fect on my daily stress lev­els.

Re­search has shown that med­i­tat­ing can help to lower blood pres­sure, im­prove the im­mune sys­tem, en­hance brain func­tion and even min­i­mize pain sen­si­tiv­ity. One study pub­lished in the jour­nal Psy­chi­a­try Re­search: Neu­roimag­ing looked at the brains of 16 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in an eight-week mind­ful­ness stress-re­duc­tion study. The brains of the par­tic­i­pants showed changes in the re­gions re­spon­si­ble for sense of self, stress, mem­ory and em­pa­thy.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges fit­ness pro­fes­sion­als face is get­ting their clients to ac­tu­ally fol­low through on the plans de­signed for them. The rea­sons that they don’t are many: time, en­ergy, life de­mands, pain, bore­dom, over­whelm, etc. … Daily med­i­ta­tion can help in this re­gard as clients learn to fo­cus on one challenge at a time while shut­ting out other dis­trac­tions.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, I was more suc­cess­ful at med­i­tat­ing when I was be­ing led by a guide. How­ever, if you’d like to try some mind­ful­ness train­ing on your own, here are some tips on how to start:

Find a com­fort­able place to sit where you will not be in­ter­rupted.

Set a timer for five min­utes. Med­i­tat­ing for five min­utes per day is bet­ter than med­i­tat­ing only once per week for 35 min­utes.

Close your eyes and fo­cus only on your breath­ing. I found it help­ful to ac­tu­ally count the breaths as they were go­ing in and out. When you get to 10, start over. If your mind wan­ders, bring your at­ten­tion back to your breath­ing and be­come aware of the ex­pand­ing and fall­ing of your chest.

If you can com­plete the five min­utes per day for one week, you’ll be hooked. Try in­creas­ing to 10 min­utes and, at this point, con­sider adding a guided app to your reper­toire. You will be glad you did as you start ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new sense of calm and clar­ity.

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Daily med­i­ta­tion can help you ex­pe­ri­ence a new sense of calm and clar­ity.

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