By Rebecca Johnston
My Journey: Why I’m a Meditation Junkie
Ever since I was a little girl, I have had high energy and I’ve been full of life. When I was growing up, dance was the container that housed my energy, but when I stopped dancing and moved away from home, I lost my sense of self and my high energy turned into high anxiety. I see now that, with nothing to anchor myself to, I felt like I was floating away. I would use drinking to escape and for years I had bouts of crippling anxiety.
This past year, when I picked up a parasite that I just couldn’t get rid of, I found myself back in a dark place. Now that I was a bit older (and hopefully wiser) I knew that the answers weren’t out there, they were inside of me. I was desperate for something to change and I remembered the meditation practice that I had learned about during my Yoga teacher training, and after a particularly bad couple of days, I just sat down on the floor, set a timer for 10 minutes, and tried to meditate. I ended up crying the whole time but I did feel better afterwards so I decided to start a meditation practice in the hopes that it would ease my anxious thoughts.
Almost a year later, I still sit on my mat every day and I have been so inspired by my results that I have decided to become a Meditation Teacher. Right now I’m in the process of working on my 200-hour Meditation Teacher Training and I have been sharing the magic of meditation with whoever will listen as I feel so passionately about this amazing tool that we should all have in our toolbox.
The science behind it
Our brains are hardwired to keep us safe, so they always watch for danger, but unless we are facing an actualthreat and the need to fight or flee, it is not useful to be constantly watchful, or, in other words, anxious. For many of us in the modern world, anxiety becomes a brain pattern that we keep repeating over and over again, but thanks to something called neuroplasticity, we can rewire our brains so that our anxiety subsides and is replaced by a normal undisturbed mood. Through neuroplasticity we can learn to be more focused, have better memory, be more creative, and to react less to the stresses that we do encounter.
So how does meditation help?
Meditation is a way to keep things in perspective so that we see things as they are right now instead of reliving the past or catastrophizing about the future. In the big picture, meditation is a way to connect to our true selves and bring harmony and love back to our souls.
Luckily we all have access to the power of meditation.
Meditation and deep breathing help you to stimulate your vagus nerve which activates your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. In our society,we are constantly being triggered in our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) by deadlines, traffic, children screaming before dinner, mortgages to pay, and our frantic go-go-go lives. Meditation brings us out of this chronic stress (which can lead to many health problems) helps regulate our hormones, reduce inflammation, improve libido, improve digestion, and stabilize our moods.
Meditation doesn’t have to look a certain way and it isn’t reserved just for the privileged or for those who travel to India! You don’t need a meditation cushion, a bench, or any sort of special equipment—all you have to do is set aside a little time.
How to start
Start by sitting comfortably, shutting your eyes and observing the present moment. Don’t worry if you are doing it “right,” as by simply observing the present moment, you’re doing it right! Let your thoughts roll by and when you do get carried away with a narrative playing out in your head, notice that and then return to the present moment by focusing on your breath. Your breath is always your anchor as the physical sensation of breathing is always there for us to connect with. Throughout a meditation session your thoughts will wander—a lot! Be kind to yourself and simply come back to the present with your next breath. Even if you only come back to the present moment 3 times in ten minutes, that’s okay. The more you meditate, the easier it will be to let go of your thoughts and stay in the present moment, so don’t give up after only a few sessions.
I would love to hear from you about your mediation practice, whether you have just begun or whether you are an old hand.
Rebecca Johnston is a fitness professional, blogger, Barre Fitness instructor and founder of Be Naturally Fit, an online business and her personal brand. She lives in North Vancouver with her husband and two daughters.
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