A LITTLE MINDFUL MEDITATION
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.
Daily meditation can help you experience a new sense of calm and clarity.