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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Value of Meditation

I consider myself a bit of a closet hippie: yes, I enjoy pedicures, getting my hair done, and wining and dining... but I did go to UC Berkeley, and I have been known to hug a tree here and there, and I have a secret desire to grow some dreadlocks. Okay, maybe not the dreadlocks part, but you see what I mean.

So, in the midst of my busy schedule of running a small business, teaching, and trying to be healthy and active, I have started to realize that I really need some quiet time for my mind. A few months ago my friend Ashley and I went to Saraha Buddhist Center in the Mission to see if we could quiet our minds and find that peace and calm people talk about in association with meditation.

We attended a Tuesday evening group meditation led by a Buddhist meditation pro. Everyone was so nice and friendly that the minute we arrived I felt a feeling of calm come over me. Meditation is difficult. I find it very hard to make my mind stop racing. The harder I try the more my mind seems to want to think about errands that need running, chores, emails to write, phone calls to answer, and a million other to-dos. If I'm not thinking of my millions of commitments, it seems to just say to me, "Don't think! Don't think!". That in itself isn't exactly quiet and calm.

About 30 minutes into the meditation I did somehow manage to find a few minutes of complete calm. The person leading the group talked a lot about breath and how focusing on your breathing helps to clear your mind. Breath is something I can definitely relate to as breathing is such a fundamental aspect of Pilates. As I always tell my clients: it's a part of the exercise itself!

After the 1.5 hour meditation session, I did feel much more centered and relaxed. It was that feeling you get right after a really good nap: refreshed and happy :). Curious about ways to meditate on my own, I looked up some tips on meditation. Here is what I found:

  • Stretch first. You will be able to sit (or lie) still for longer if your muscles are relaxed. It also helps to bring attention to the body and thus "inward."
  • Meditate with purpose. Think of meditation as an active process. Focusing your attention on a single point is hard work so be prepared to be purposefully engaged!
  • Be patient with yourself. Frustration can easily creep up when our minds don't cooperate, but be kind and patient to yourself and try to let those frustrations go.
  • Listen to an instructional audio. There are some great meditation tracks on iTunes.
  • Use a candle. Instead of closing your eyes, which can be a challenge for beginners, light a candle and look at the flame instead. (I tried this and it really works!)
  • Get a meditation buddy. Just like a workout buddy, having a meditation partner can help to keep you motivated.

Am I now a pro at meditation? Nope. But I do find that even just taking 5 minutes a day to sit quietly and just BE, I do feel calmer, clearer-minded, and less frazzled by unimportant things (like San Francisco traffic). 

My lovelies, have you ever tried meditating? What has your experience been like? Have a peaceful day!

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I recently started meditating--found a colleague who has done it all his life. He is teaching me the basics. It is not at all what you'd expect. The goal is not to "not think" or to "stop thinking" but to realize where the monkey mind goes when it does think. Realize the patterns. The cycles. Then be able to quietly observe it and not judge. Monkey mind never goes away.


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