Why meditation? — Your brain can exercise too!
Author: Marianne Cardillo, LMFT
When thinking about meditation— the typical picture that may come to mind can look like legs crossed, arms elevated with fingers pinched together, sitting in silence with a blank mind and complete calm. Though this practice may be true for some that have practiced for a long time, it does not actually define what meditation has to look like!
Meditation is a practice where you bring yourself to a place of awareness, sitting with yourself, focusing on breathing in and out, while just paying attention to YOU and the present moment. During difficult times, we may feel like our thoughts never slow down. If you notice, most of our thoughts are about the past— “Why did I do that? Why did that happen?” or the future – “What will happen? How can I make it not happen? What will this look like in the end?” These thoughts are an attempt to control or predict things we cannot actually control, and unless you have a crystal ball, we cannot tell the future! What we can pay attention to and control is this very moment. As you sit here, and read these words, you are safe and okay. Nothing bad or threatening is happening in this present moment other than you taking the time ro read his post!
Meditation helps your brain exercise its “present” muscles, and start paying attention to what is really currently going on in your body, thoughts, and feelings, rather than its usual pattern of focusing on a time frame we cannot do much about right now! The cool thing is, in the present, we get to appreciate that WE ARE OKAY RIGHT NOW, and that fact can bring some comfort! The more we exercise our brain to focus on the present – even if it starts out being a couple of seconds a day- the more these muscles grow for us to access them and calm ourselves.
So to my point—What does meditation look like and how do we begin? If you can find even a few minutes to sit with yourself, close your eyes or focus on an object, and simply breathe in and out, this can be a great start! As you sit there, try and focus on where you feel your breath in your body? What does the sensation feel like? You may start thinking about the project you need to finish, the phone call you need to make, or the worries that are lingering, and that is okay. Acknowledge the thought when you realize it is there, and go back to your breath. This may happen a dozen times, and that is normal! It will get easier with each time. Next, check in with your body—is your jaw tense? Are your eyes squinted? Are your back muscles hunched? Does your chest feel pressure? If so, just acknowledge it, loosen up, and continue breathing into these areas. Continue to focus on your breath, and next check in with what you may be feeling. Content? Worried? Scared? Frustrated? Feelings are what make us human, and it is normal to have them and notice them. Accept them for what they are, give yourself some kind words— “It will be okay”, “This too shall pass”, “I/We can get through this”, and move on back to the focus on your breath.
The more we do what we can to be mindful or aware of the present moment, the more we are exercising these “present” brain muscles in order to help ease our worries. A small moment in the day when you notice you’re mind wandering, where you can catch yourself, take a deep breath, and bring yourself back to the present, you are making progress! So go ahead and get your “Brain Workout” on and flex those muscles! Every exercise makes a difference toward a more calm and present you!
Marianne at Revive
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