30 Jan Meditation…Quieting our Monkey Mind
Whenever I start talking about acupuncture, nutrition, or meditation I get a whole variety of responses.
They range from curious to excuses to outright scoffs. Well today I am going to be talking to you about meditation so if you are one of those that believes it is just a fad, believe you could never do it and it wouldn’t work for you and you feel a scoff or some eye rolling coming on go ahead and get it out now. Go ahead, I’ll wait…..
Now I hope that since you were able to get that out of your system that you will be willing to continue reading and see if anything makes you give meditation another thought. Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly, and all these monkeys are wanting our attention. Some of the names of these monkeys are fear (the loudest), anxiety, worry, and other negative emotions.
First, let me tell you my journey into meditation.
I honestly don’t remember what exactly made me want to try meditation. I believe it had to do with my discovery and love of acupuncture. The relaxation I achieved with each acupuncture session helped me to handle the stresses of my work so much better. So I decided to give meditation a try.
If you are or know an ICU nurse or have ever been a patient or family member in an ICU you know how type A most ICU nurses are or can be. This described me to a “T” at work. My mind was constantly evaluating how the patient appeared, changes in their assessment, what could be the reason behind the changes, how to improve the patient, always keeping one eye on the monitor, making sure everything was charted and charted correctly, how to be the best advocate for my patient to each doctor, plus any other non-patient care items that needed to be taken care of during my shift.
Just writing that and re-reading it makes me realize how important a type A personality is in an ICU nurse.
Anyway, back to my start in meditation, I found an app on my phone for beginning meditation. It started you out with 2 minutes for 3 days, then would increase to 3 minutes for 3 days. I continued to slowly increase the time after a few days until it reached 12 minutes. This process took probably close to a month.
What I am most grateful about starting my meditation practice when I did is that I started it when I was still married. When my marriage started to fall apart about 3 months after I started meditation helped me to understand my emotions around the hurt as I began feeling more and more betrayed by my husband at the time and just life in general.
When the full fall out came with my marriage and we agreed on a divorce, meditation helped me to forgive myself, forgive him, understand and accept my emotions around the whole situation. Now I’m not saying that the process was not painful or difficult. It was very painful, and difficult. It put me into a depression, made me doubt myself, my life and my dreams, but I truly feel that if I would not have had my practice of meditation that I would not have been able to get myself out of the depression as quickly as I had or realized that this gave me the opportunity for different, new, and better life and dreams.
As life has gone on there are times that I am very faithful with my meditation practice and it happens almost daily, and there are times where I abandon it for months on in for different reasons (new guy in my life so distracted, too busy with school and work, just don’t feel like it).
Every time that I have come back to my meditation practice I realize how much easier it is to deal with the ups and downs of life, how much better I feel, and how much better I succeed at things in life. That’s my personal story about my journey into meditation. If my story is not enough of an influence to try meditation maybe you know some of the following people whom meditate regularly and they can influence you to explore meditation a little more.
Jennifer Aniston – Actress
Kristen Bell – Actress
Katy Perry – Singer
Jeff Bridges – Actor
Sheryl Crow – Singer & songwriter
Gisele Bundchen – Model
Ellen Degeneres – Talk show host
Cameron Diaz – Actress
Tom Hanks – Actor
Arianna Huffington – CEO of Huffington Post
Paul McCartney – Singer & songwriter
Robin Roberts – Broadcast journalist
Martin Scorsese – Director, screenwriter, producer
Angelina Jolie – Actress, director, philanthropist
Howard Stern – DJ & talk show host
Tina Turner – Singer
Jerry Seinfeld – Stand-up Comedian
Ray Dalio – Found of Bridgewater Associates
Lebron James – NBA player
Derek Jeter – retired NYY shortstop
Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh – 3 consecutive Olympic Gold medal winners in beach volleyball
Kobe Bryant – retired NBA player
Phil Jackson – NBA coach with 11 National Championships.
I think everyone will recognize at least one name on this list.
What I love about this list is it shows that meditation is not just in a certain generation or field of employment, it ranges from actors to athletes to CEOs. Looking at this list of people you would believe they have every reason to be happy about their lives and wouldn’t need meditation. They are either rich, beautiful, successful or all of the above.
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” – Ray Dalio
“Mediation is helping you to tap into something that’s already inside of you…that’s you, in essence. That’s something that was super-empowering for me once I grasped that.” – Cameron Diaz
Reading about Phil Jackson and how he integrated meditation into his coaching practice was very impressive to me. He stressed to his players the saying “One Breath, One Mind.” Meditating and breathing together before practice or games helped them to connect as a team and helped them to stay calm during high pressure situations. He used this coaching practice with the Chicago Bulls who won 6 National Championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and with the LA Lakers who won 5 National Championships with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil.
Arianna Huffington did a whole TED talk on her discovery of meditation and how it has helped her personally and to make the Huffington Post as successful as it is. She was working ridiculous hours a week, completely stressed, not taking any time for herself. Her body finally said that was enough and she collapsed in her office, hitting her head on her desk. This was the wake-up call she needed. She started a daily meditation practice and not only did she notice that she was able to handle the stress from her job but she noticed the Huffington Post became more successful as well.
If you are still on the fence and need more of a scientific angle to the benefits of meditation, here is just a few of the benefits that have been proven through research. There have been many studies done on meditation and how it helps with overall health, pain management, overcoming trauma, longevity, and anxiety/depression.
Many of us live in a constant “fight or flight” mode with the stress in our life from our jobs, kids, relationships, and just life. Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels which is what is produced when we are in the “fight or flight” mode and by reducing cortisol our blood pressure lowers. When we decrease our blood pressure we help our hearts and when our bodies aren’t constantly in “fight or flight” mode our bodies can fight off infections and illnesses more effectively, so it benefits your immune system.
Studies have also shown that people that meditate have longer telomeres.
Telomeres are the caps on the ends of each of your DNA strands that help to protect your DNA. Most people like to think of them like the tips of your shoe laces that have the “caps” that keep them from fraying. The older the shoe laces and more worn the more those caps breakdown. Telomeres break down as we get older and put more stress on our bodies.
What this means is that telomeres are indicative of our biological age and not our chronological age – looking younger than you really are. Meditation has also been shown to improve your ability to multi-task, increased memory and focus. We all would love to have improvements in those categories!
After reading all of that I hope you are willing to give meditation a try.
And if you have tried meditation before and it “didn’t work for you” I hope that you are willing to try again. Many people believe the goal is to empty their mind and completely silence it, and when they are not able to do that they feel they have failed.
Honestly, I have never been able to achieve that, and I see it more of a game. Recognizing that I am thinking or judging something, “haha I’ve caught you”, now I will release you and go back to my breath. Somedays are challenging than others but as I practice more regularly, I slowly start to be able to keep focus on my breath or whatever I’m focusing on that day for longer periods of time.
I personally try to meditate for 20 minutes a day, preferably in the morning shortly after waking. And let me tell you, when I finish my practice is usually when I have the most and best ideas and thoughts come to me.
There are many different ways to meditate and we are all different in what works for us.
There are two main categories of meditation with many different “subtypes” under each.
The first is focused attention.
Focused attention meditation is when you focus your attention on a single object during the entirety of the meditation session. This may be your breath, a part of your body, a mantra, a visualization, etc. Examples of this type of meditation is Zen, Loving-Kindness, Chakra, Kundalini, Sound, Mantra and Pranyama.
The other main way of meditation is open monitoring.
Open monitoring is when we keep our minds open, monitoring all aspects of the experience without judgment or attachment. All perceptions whether internal (thoughts, feelings, memories, etc) or external (smells, sounds, etc) are recognized for what they are and then released without exploring it further. Examples of this type of meditation includes Mindfulness, guided and Vipasanna meditation.
If you are just starting out I suggest trying a meditation app such as Headspace or Calm. Both have starter meditations to help ease you into a regular meditation practice. Or if you are local (Denver metro), I will be offering meditation classes on Monday and Thursday evenings starting in February. Please check out my website for dates and times. Meditating or starting your meditation practice can be very powerful and empowering when you are practicing it with other like-minded individuals.
In happiness and health,
Pascoe MC, Thompson DR, Jenkins ZM, Ski CF. “Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatry Res 2017 Dec. 156-178
Thimmapuram J, Pargament R, Sibliss K, Grim R, Risques R, Toorens E. “Effect of heartfulness meditation on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in health care professionals.” Journal of Community Hospital Intern Medical Perspective. 2017 March 31; 7(1): 21-27