If you don’t have 10 minutes to meditate then you need to meditate for an hour. – Zen Proverb
What if I were to tell you that there was something simple you could do each day, that would take you 10 minutes, that could make you significantly less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die within five years. That almost sounds too good to be true, right? Welcome to the world of meditation.
My Early Meditation Journey
Years ago, early on in my fitness and healthy lifestyle journey, I was mystified by meditation. Every successful person I listened to spoke so highly of the amazing benefits of meditation. This foreign technique sounded so simple, but I had no idea how to even start. I would ask friends and beg yogis “Please teach me to meditate!” but I never got a straight answer. This left me confused and frustrated.
From what I had pieced together from Hollywood and podcasts I thought I had it figured out. I had to sit with my legs folded into some special configuration, with a small gong and an elephant incense holder sitting next to me. As I sit there in monk robs I would start to chant “OHMM” repeatedly until I started to levitate and reached enlightenment. Sounds easy… Right?
After numerous failed attempts to sit on the floor, legs awkwardly folded underneath me, I figured meditation wasn’t for me. For one thing, it felt like it took FOREVER! I would set my phone to go off in 10 minutes and start my practice. Without fail, I would end up peaking at my phone after what felt like hours. “I must have put the phone on silent or forgot to set the alarm”. Nope, I had only been sitting there for 3 minutes. Things were not going well for Kyle.
After a little more digging I finally learned that there are a number of different forms of meditation. Each form is slightly different but they all revolve around the main concept of clearing your mind and focusing on breathing.
A practice that involves focusing on present feelings and sensations. Example – your weight on the chair, or the rising and falling of your chest while your breath
Meditation that focuses on the repetition of a single word or sound to help you clear your mind. Example -“Nature” or “Ohm”
The use of mental images, usually provided by a trained practitioner, to help you relax. Example – Clear your mind and think only of the flame of a candle.
All of these examples are simplified significantly, but in all honesty, they don’t need to be more complicated than that.
Which type is right for you?
In this realm, I would say to each his/her own. Many people, even the “King of Hedge funds” Ray Dalio credits a large portion of his success to his transcendental meditation practice. However, the cost associated with truly beginning a TM practice can be a hindrance to many.
My first experience with “true meditation” was through the Headspace app. This app has a free “Basics” course that offers ten-minute meditations that are delivered by Andy Puddicombe (former monk and the app’s founder). These are a mixture of guided and mindfulness meditations. In my opinion, this is an amazing place to start.
“Why should I start Meditating?”
“This all sounds great Kyle, but at the top, you said this could help reduce my chance of heart attack, HOW?” Enter cardiologist, Dr. Deepak Bhatt.
Dr. Bhatt is a professor at Harvard Medical School and in 2013 had this to say about meditation and heart health “I do recommend it, along with diet and exercise. It can also help decrease the sense of stress and anxiety.”
How does meditation affect you physiologically? “It appears to produce changes in brain activity. It also can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress,” says Dr. Bhatt. See theFULL ARTICLE
In addition to the amazing heart benefits of Meditation, the reduction of the hormone cortisol could also help you slim your waistline. Cortisol is a very anabolic (growth) hormone to fat cells and a catabolic (breakdown) hormone to muscle. If we live with chronically high levels of cortisol we are repeatedly telling our body to store fat and break down muscle, No Bueno!
Your Meditation Challenge
For the next week, I would like for you to meditate for 10 minutes per day. This can be done in the morning (my favorite time for it) at lunch, or in the evening. I highly recommend the Headspace app. There is a paid version available for people that want to continue their meditation journey but the free basics packs are a wonderful place to start.
Final Note – During your meditations, your mind will wander. It’s okay! almost every time I try and sit down to meditate I will start my journey and without fail my mind will wander to some jerk that cut me off in traffic, What we needed for our shake or the Patriots need for a tight end. I let these thoughts into my consciousness, then let them go and return to my practice. You will not be perfect during this, I can promise you that. As in most things in life, This is about progress, not perfection.