Why I Believe Everyone Should Learn Mindfulness and Meditation to Save Lives and Save the World
Over the last year I have opened up about the challenges my family and I have faced while caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s dementia. I shared how this time last year I was juggling being a single-mom, writing my 5th book and running my business when we realized I needed to step in to help provide 24-hour care to mom. I was eager to help alleviate the burden on my sister as well as provide some tender loving care to my mom. And especially to allow my daughter to spend time with her grandma while she could still remember her.
Along the way I tried to be an overachieving, rescuer hero and quickly found myself exhausted, depressed and on the verge of burnout. Despite teaching and preaching to others the virtues of self-care, I was drowning and meditation was the lifeline that saved me and my sanity.
Reading some of my very vulnerable blog posts and the chapter I wrote for Resilience through Yoga and Meditation led several people to email and call me to provide encouragement and check in on mom. I shared in the book that practicing the compassion meditation, also known as the loving-kindness Mettā meditation brought me incredible relief and helped mom, too. This is a proven way to increase empathy and a wonderful self-care practice. (More on that this week!)
I’m very grateful for the experience we shared here in France reliving some of mom’s fondest memories and adventurous travel stories. Mom is back with my sister in Las Vegas now. She is taking some new magical nootropics and not having the bad side effects she once suffered.
So, because so many of you wanted to know more about my personal meditation practice, and what I teach private clients, I’ve written a long post for you to explain what meditation is and isn’t. Plus, due to popular demand, (thank you Rúna and Deri for the nudging!) I have decided to offer more free guided meditations and online support for those of you who are either new to meditation or want to deepen your practice. I’ll share more about how you can access them in the next few days.
My Meditation ‘Origin Story’
Though I began teaching mindfulness and meditation practices over 12 years ago, personally I have been meditating for twenty five years. I started while I was at Georgia State University because, at the time, I was totally overwhelmed with studying, managing the campus TV station, performing community theatre, and even playing trumpet with my church choir!
To say that my mind was full is an understatement! It felt like I had ADD or something. When I learned that meditation could help me get free from the chaos of too many worries, thoughts, and doubts — which were crowding out my creative ideas and ability to study — I was ready to give it a go.
Like so many people I was attracted to the early work of Deepak Chopra who provided inspiration through books. Meditation became a daily practice for me that allowed me to become peaceful, productive and crazily creative!
After medical school I later spent time at Deepak’s center in California to deepen my meditation practice. I learned that meditation could help us unlock our own ‘superpowers’, something meditation masters in India call siddhis. But I didn’t stop there! Working with shamans, Buddhist monks and doing past life regression opened me up to a world of spiritual insight and personal growth through meditation.
Watch and listen to how I started meditating 20+ years ago and an intro to the new online mindfulness meditation course for better health, lower stress, greater insight, intuition and creativity.
Fast forward to the present.
Now I am called to teach medical professionals, students and executives how to clear the chaos from their minds, quiet the inner critic and reduce stress with meditation. Giving the TEDx talk last year opened the door to a lovely opportunity to share my nerdy passion for neuroscience and positive psychology as I outlined the vast amount of scientific studies that show how meditation and mindfulness can help us rewire, reshape and mold the brain to improve our physical and emotional health, decrease anxiety and depression and even protect the brain from dementia.
I am grateful that regular meditation practice has set me free from depression and anxiety! When you consider the therapy, medication and other ‘stuff’ I tried, it is indeed a blessing to be free from that suffering.
Meditation doesn’t take a lot of time, you don’t necessarily need to twist yourself up like a pretzel, it doesn’t require a change in religion and you don’t need to go on a silent retreat. Though and and all of those may be wonderful for you – in as little as 10-12 minutes a day you can become more resilient, bounce back after burnout, breakups or breakdowns and thrive again. So what is meditation, really?
What is Meditation?
Meditation is simply the practice of focusing your attention on an object and returning it to that object over and over again. That’s it. Of course it has been used as a means to achieve enlightenment, and you may find yourself becoming more compassionate, openhearted, kind and loving, but the first step is learning to quiet that monkey mind of yours and return to the object of your attention.
For people who say they cannot meditate or have never meditated, I hate to say it, but you can and you have! If you’ve ever been in love – or hate! – then you have likely brought the person who inspires those feelings and you’ve thought about them, their actions, their voice, their face or your most memorable encounter with them and you’ve played it over and over in your head. Haven’t you?
That’s mediation! Yea, I know. It’s not totally spiritual is it? But the mere fact that you could be totally caught up focusing on a person, their voice or a place means that you can create the one-pointed attention we aim for with meditation.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves paying attention to an experience in the present moment, without judgement. In the meditation example above that relates to a past experience, mindfulness is all about the present moment. Focusing on what’s going on right here, right now. And, in contrast to the example where you’re focused on your sweetheart with all sorts of lovey-dovey sentiments, mindfulness calls for being aware of what is present without the labels, judgements or assessments.
Typically we all begin learning to become mindful of our breath. It is the easiest thing to be aware of without judgement. Just bringing the attention to the sensation of breathing, the rising of the stomach, the passage of air past our nostrils is a wonderful mindfulness meditation practice. And it’s not just for beginners!
As one focuses on the breath, you will notice that your mind wanders. It’s been trained to do that. So rather than fight it, you simply observe it. Name with words the thoughts or feelings you have passing through your mind. Without resistance, eventually your mind will become empty. Maybe not in the first 10 sessions, but over time you will notice more calm, more quiet. And that will open you up to hear the wisdom of your inner voice, or intuition, or Holy Spirit…or whomever and whatever you like to call on for insight and advice.
Even the sweet voice of your higher self can be heard over time. You might have to wait for the doubt and self-criticism to clear. But that’s all possible, too. I’m living proof of that one!
What would benefit you most from practicing mindfulness and meditation?
Send me an email and let me know! I’m curious to know what would change in your world if you had more clarity, inner peace and confidence.
If you would like to learn simple meditation practices to ease stress, improve memory and protect your health, visit www.AttunementMeditation.com for free guided audios + e-books.
You are also invited to join the free 21-Day #Compassion #Meditation Challenge to practice the loving-kindness compassion meditation with people around the world in just a few minutes each day. Sign up to receive the free audio meditation and inspiring messages narrated by yours truly.
All my best to you!