If you could change your brain for the better, would you? If you could increase your working memory and enhance your decision-making ability by meditating, would you give it a try?
What if you could also:
- Slow down the natural decline of your brain as you age.
- Better regulate your emotions.
- Measurably reduce stress.
- Gain perspective and alleviate symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia.
- Increase your empathy and compassion.
- Enhance your ability to concentrate.
Recent studies show you can literally change your brain structure to achieve many of those results through meditation.
So what’s stopping you?
1) You’re physically uncomfortable.
You can’t sit cross-legged. You can’t sit still. You can’t just do nothing in a culture where busyness and activity are prized above all. And being silent for a while makes you feel guilty that you’re not getting stuff done.
First, there’s no requirement to sit cross-legged, or even to sit still. If you’re going to sit, people recommend that you choose a posture that is upright and alert so you maintain focus. But you can walk and meditate, you can do tai chi or yoga and meditate. You can sit in a chair or lie on the floor. You can meditate anywhere, although it’s easier to do it in the same quiet place every time.
But there are no rules. You are doing this for yourself and nobody else. And maybe, in the long run, you’ll actually get more stuff done when the new, improved you is better able to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
2) You’re emotionally uncomfortable.
Your mind wanders. You don’t know what to do with your thoughts. You don’t know what you’re supposed to be thinking. And chanting is weird.
Yes, at first it is strange. Just doing nothing. Maybe it will help you to focus on your breath-breathe in deeply and exhale fully. Develop a rhythm. It might also help you to have a mantra, or a word you choose to repeat slowly. A word like “peace” or “gratitude” or “strength,” for example. Whatever appeals to you. It doesn’t have to be a foreign chant unless you want it to be.
When your mind wanders-and it will-notice your thoughts, but don’t judge yourself for not staying on course. Gently bring your thoughts back to your breath or your mantra and quiet your mind.
3) You don’t have enough time.
There are not enough hours in the day already. You can’t add one more thing to your to-do list. And yes, you have too much to accomplish, so something that doesn’t yield immediate, concrete results is out.
I have a friend who, when she starts meditating, begins to think of things she forgot to do and immediately jumps up to do them. At least meditation helps her remember her obligations! But give yourself time to be still. Put your to-do list on a shelf in your mind so you can retrieve it after you meditate.
And if finding time to meditate stresses you out, think how less prone to stress you’ll be after you’ve had a chance to meditate over time. Just start being still for five minutes a day, every day. Think about it-five minutes is possible for even the busiest person. To be still in the moment. To touch your authentic self. To stop doing busy things and just be. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.
About the author: My name is Nancy Travers and I am a Licensed Orange County Therapist. In August 2004, I opened a clinical private practice in Irvine to serve the greater Orange County area. Nancy’s Counseling Corner specializes in relationships for individuals, couples and the elderly.