Say Om. Or is it Ohm? Nevermind how you say it, just start…meditating that is. If you are amongst those who think meditation is too “New Age,” “airy-fairy,” or religion-adjacent for you to give it a go, think again. Most of us have heard of meditation, but many may be avoiding opportunities to explore this universal healing practise due to preconceived and patently false notions.
So, what is meditation? While the traditional definition of the word means continued thought, reflection or contemplation, the act of meditation as a wellness, mindfulness, or spiritual practice is often defined by the suspension of thought, or better yet as the observation of one’s thoughts. Just as you hopefully have a workout regime to keep that body muy caliente, think of meditation as exercise and respite for your mind and spirit.
Since there are many meditation practices, there are sure to be ones that suit your personality, beliefs, temperament, and health and wellness goals better than others. But what these various traditions have at their core is the idea that we should still our bodies (typically sit or lie down) and focus (on colours, an object, your breath, a mantra, a sound) to quiet your mind (the constant inner chatter of the ego), to observe your mind, or even to call in spiritual support and guidance. Meditation also often involves a conscious contemplation or manifestation of the life you want. It is through the stillness and observation of the mind that meditation leads to an altered state of consciousness.
Why is this so important? On any given day, the typical adult is burdened by stress as our minds race from sunup to sundown, outpacing our bodies and literally skipping from idea to idea, and from worry to worry: the grocery list you forgot on the fridge door, the snacks for your son’s soccer practice, the business report due tomorrow at noon. And the burden that our wayward thoughts have put on our minds, bodies, and spirits has only gotten worse for those of us who have been fooled into thinking that such a thing as “multi-tasking” actually exists. (It doesn’t, by the way.) Why is this so catastrophic for our health? Well friends, according to New York Times best-selling author and functional medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman, stress is at the root of 95% of all disease, including shrinking the memory centre of the brain which leads to dementia. Have we got your attention now?
The goal of meditation is to adopt a practice – yes, it’s best done daily – that allows you to bring your awareness to the present moment (as opposed to 10:15 am last Tuesday). And it is in that shift of the mind, back to the present – from thoughts of the dog’s new flea medicine, or the disgruntled boss, or the drunk uncle who will definitely act out at your upcoming wedding – practiced again and again, that allows you to observe and not inhabit your thoughts, but witness them as separate from you and eventually to let them go entirely and experience…yes, just being.
According to Emily Fletcher, creator of The Ziva Technique, meditation is a powerful medicine that provokes healing responses and deep rest in the body because it acts to “deexcite the nervous system” and clear the backlog of accumulated stress that makes us “stupid, sick, and slow”. Need more convincing? In an interview with Dr. Hyman, on his podcast The Doctor’s Farmacy, Fletcher also advises that meditation has profound neuro-chemical impacts because within seconds the body produces dopamine and serotonin, what she calls “bliss chemicals”. Why is this so important? Because meditation counteracts the production of adrenaline and cortisol that our bodies create when we are under stress, leading to inflammation and chronic illness.
The power of meditation is that the pathways that it offers can easily be adapted to your personal health, spiritual, and (non)religious ends. Indeed, many practices of meditation are unbound from religion. Some are about mindfulness and still others are about spirituality. Deciding what you wish to gain from meditation is one way to contemplate which practice might be best for you. For instance, if you understand that we are spirits having a human experience you may want to check out Lisa Beachy’s YouTube channel. This self-described, spiritual intuitive leads you through guided meditations of various lengths and foci, to advance healing, clarity, tranquility, and love. Her soothing meditations often revolve around specific goals and angels or guide you on a journey towards conscious interaction with your spirit guides.
Interested in drifting off with a soothing voice in your ear? Try Dauchsy Meditations. This suite of meditations is designed to work on your subconscious mind as you drift off to sleep to help you accomplish your goals from weight loss, to health, to relationships, to happiness.
So, what are the upsides of meditation? According to UC Davis Health, meditation has been proven to: (1) reduce stress and stress-related conditions, (2) improve memory and focus, (3) increase attention, (4) enhance mental discipline, (5) improve sleep, (6) reduce pain, (7) lower blood pressure, (8) decrease anxiety, (9) reduce depression, and (10) increase compassion. Let’s get honest, who among us doesn’t want at least some of the benefits on this mighty list?
Need more reasons to give it a go? Well, according to Dr. Hyman, meditation is also proven to result in better energy, performance, and – oh happy days – sex! So, if you thought meditation was an elitist activity that involved 10-day silent retreats in the Bahamas or squeezing into a new athleisure wear outfit at your local gym, think again. As Fletcher urges, meditation is “the single most important piece of mental hygiene that we need to be practising every day.” Now that we know the benefits of meditation, we’re betting you can take 5, 10 or even 30 minutes a day to prioritize you mental, physical, and spiritual health.