Find Your Meditation Sweet Spot
My name is Jessica and I’m a Psychotherapist, and have a passion for helping others connect to the inner voice of their Soul. I began meditating regularly a few years ago when life gave me some delightful little circumstances that necessitated some much needed respite and sanity. Not only was I experiencing pain that would keep me up at night from a shoulder injury that was inflicted on me by a medical professional, but I was suffering emotionally as well from a new relationship that was proving to be draining and unhealthy. I was in pain in more ways than one and desperate for some peace. I came across a free 21-day meditation experience online. I thought, what the hell I’ll try it – what’s to lose? So for 21 days I put on my earbuds each morning while I was still lying comfortably in bed and gave myself fully to the process. I’m glad I did because it changed my life.
As author and mindfulness teacher Eckhart Tolle so eloquently writes, “Most people are so distracted by their thoughts, so identified with the voices in their heads, they can no longer feel the aliveness within them. To be unable to feel the life that animates the physical body, the very life that you are, is the greatest deprivation that can happen to you”. I define meditation as anything that brings us in touch with the present moment. It has also been described as any practice that brings you in touch with your Soul, rather than anxious thoughts of worry stemming from the ego. Sure, some anxiety and fear can be healthy; the kind that tells us to fight or fly when we are being approached by a mugger in a dark alley- but the everyday anxieties associated with work and life stress that we all experience constantly is not in our best interest. At its most extreme expression, being in a constant state of worry and anxiety produces a constant release of the stress hormone, Cortisol and can wreak havoc on your body’s immune system. In addition, being in this constant state of anxiety doesn’t help our social skills. It can introduce interpersonal and communication problems with people in our life and it can become all too easy to verbally react, rather than mindfully respond. A regular meditation practice helps us to slow down and process the impact our words will have on others.
Other benefits of meditation include stress reduction, increased concentration, increased intuition, creative, big picture thinking, benefits cardiovascular and immune health, and increases self-awareness and acceptance of things and people that are not within our circle of control. Meditation is not a one size fits all activity. Each person is unique and a good starting place is to try different kinds until you find one that resonates with you. Choosing one can be overwhelming. If you’re like me, you’ve even tried searching YouTube and were even more frustrated. Where do I begin?
I like describing the various types of meditation in a way that corresponds to your personality type. Does the Emotional, Mental or Physical aspect dominate your personality?
Emotional types may prefer types of meditation that are more free-form and creative rather structured. Examples would be “heart-centered” forms like Loving-Kindness meditations, contemplation and journaling or shamanic journeying. Emotional types may want to at first stay away from traditional Zen sitting meditations which are very rigid.
Mental types may benefit from structured forms such as repeating affirmations or chanting words. A meditation for a mental type needs to be intellectually stimulating so that you don’t become bored.
Physical types may enjoy moving forms of meditation such as tai chi/chi gong, yoga, ecstatic dance like NIA, walking in a labyrinth or Sufi based whirling.
Sometimes I don’t even like the using the word meditation because it can evoke ideas of unreachable peaks of enlightenment reserved for monks living on Tibetan mountain tops. It can seem mystical and foreign. In his article, 5 Things I wish I knew when I Began Meditating, Dr. Deepak Chopra shares, “Meditation is natural. It's not an exotic import from the East and the cultural values of the East”. Forget any preconceived ideas and just find what word works for you. Your practice, your grounding, your happy place etc. We find states of meditation in whatever brings us joy and brings us back into balance. For some folks this can be gardening, rock climbing, adult coloring books, playing an instrument, or any of the examples mentioned above. May I offer a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself going into it. Have the self-compassion to not have to “get it right” or master any type of meditation you’re beginning to explore. My philosophy on counseling and personal growth is that YOU are the expert in your own life! Dip your toe into different types of meditation and see what resonates with you. Also know that our meditation needs will change over time, with stages of our life and external circumstances. Give yourself the permission to have the flexibility to continually evolve your mode of meditation over time.
One last thought is that meditation isn’t a place that can be experienced by our linear, Right side of the brain. Think of a time when you were completely lost in the moment gazing at a night sky, or deep in your “zone” or experiencing your “flow”. This comes when you allow yourself to experience your non-linear Left-brain. From this place stems your natural ability to intuit, imagine and FEEL. The Greeks coined this place Kairos. The realm where Qualitative experiences reign such as relationships, love and connection. In comparison, they used the word Chronos to describe Quantitative qualities such linear Time, saying that this is where business and commerce exist. Of course, both sides are needed to function as a human in society, but I believe the time is ripe for a balance. We spend so much time in Chronos and are surrounded by stress, over-work and unhealthy competition in our culture. The 21st century provides an opportunity to become re-acquainted with the gifts that the left side of the brain, or Kairos offers. These are the gifts of consciousness, creativity, intuition and meditation.
My advice is to keep it simple at the beginning and feel out some different techniques. When you find one that you enjoy, the next step is to set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to cultivate your meditation practice. Consistency is key to reap the rewards. Tend to your practice each day and you will experience a number of life-changing benefits.