I wasn't listening to my body, I was taking the stress from my job out on the people I loved, and I couldn't connect with my authentic self. Have you felt like this before? I came to the realization that I wanted to stop allowing external circumstances that made me unhappy to have the power to change my attitude and how I treated other people. After a life-threatening workout injury landed me in the hospital, I realized I had no connection between my mind, body, and breath. Then I found meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation alters consciousness using the mind, body, and breath. It's not spontaneous shifts in consciousness. You can't use music or drugs to meditate because you're not using your mind, body, or breath to get you to that desired state of consciousness. You must use your mind to transport.
We meditate because we have a stress response to overwhelming stimuli. We have a fight or flight response to non-life-threatening events. Our bodies don't know the difference between something that is life-threatening or not—it simply reacts to all stress in the same way. Whether we walk into a coffee shop and there's a long line and we panic, or we're being chased by a bear, the body will treat these situations the same. So we meditate to learn how to save our stress responses for actual stressful situations.
When we're stressed our blood pressure and heart rate increases, our mouths get dry, and our digestion and immune systems are suppressed. When our bodies are constantly addressing our short term survival, our long term survival is compromised.
The automatic (meaning we don't have to tell ourselves to breathe, we do it automatically) nervous system is either sympathetic or parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is excited and stressed, while the parasympathetic nervous system is relaxed and calm. Meditation turns on the parasympathetic nervous system so we can experience the health benefits of meditation.
Health Benefits of Meditation
In just 8 weeks, meditation can change brain function, and practicing mindfulness can actually change our gene structure. Meditation improves cell health, balances hormone levels, and reduces blood pressure and inflammation. Meditation boosts immunity and cognitive function. Practicing meditation also increases the length of our telomeres, which is proven to slow down the aging process—so meditation can literally make us live longer. Meditation is scientifically proven to mitigate addiction, depression, anxiety, stress, and eating disorders.
I use the STOP technique to help myself react to stressful situations with a relaxation response instead of a stress response. The acronym STOP stands for 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe 4. People—how can you help the people around you? Thinking of others is helpful for reminding ourselves that it's not all about us, and there are people around us in need too. Instead of stressing over our own problems, we can grow our compassionate hearts and love on others instead.
Ready to try meditation?
Set up a private session with Meditate Kate or find a group of friends for a group session!