Have you seen all the stuff about mindfulness and meditation out there? How could you miss it? Are you sick of hearing about it? Yeah, me too. I, probably like you, have been hearing about how great meditation is for a few years. And there are mountains of scientific data to back it up.
It reduces blood pressure, increases concentration which then increases productivity, improves sleep and energy. Meditators are calmer, more collected and tolerant and less prone to emotional outbursts, so they get along with others better, be it a spouse, children, friends, or coworkers. And the list goes on.
Who doesn’t want all those things? I do. But I can’t seem to do it. And when I suggest it to patients, they don’t want to do it either. Some roll their eyes, others flat out refuse, and the rest give me a weak, “Okay I’ll try”, but we both know their not going to. And what can I say? I don’t do it either.
At first, my excuse was I don’t have time, which is ridiculous. Of course, I have time. Who doesn’t have an extra 15-20 minutes? I spend at least that amount of time procrastinating on the various essential tasks of my day.
As with many habits, starting small gets you started, which is often the hardest part. I decided to try 5-10 minutes using some online guided meditations. I would do it for a few days and then stop. A week would go by; I’d try again. Maybe I got three days in a row. But that was the longest stretch. It mostly felt like a waste of time.
I was usually relaxed by the end. Even though much of the time I was thinking about all the other things I needed to do. But I could never get it to stick and I certainly never noticed any of the benefits.
I went to a lifestyle medicine conference in June. “Practice what you preach” was one of the teaching points. There was a session about making positive change in your life so that you could then share it with patients. When I recommend meditation to patients, I always end up confessing that I can’t do it either. Not practicing what I preach, so it’s no wonder that patients don’t do it.
The habit I chose to focus on was meditation. I wrote out a plan for how I was going to achieve the change and planned to include my husband so he could benefit but also for accountability. I came home from the conference and didn’t do it once, until this week. Not once.
In fact, I had decided that it just wasn’t for me. Sometimes with habits and behavior change you have to know when to say when, recognize when it’s just not going to happen, and change your plan accordingly. So I had given up. Enough with the meditation stuff. I don’t care how great it is; it’s not happening for me.
This week, Kim Sterrs came to my office, Midcoast Medicine and Wellness, to give us a quick introduction to meditation. The four physicians and our business manager practiced meditating with Kim. It was awesome. We are now planning an introductory class for our patients.
Kim is delightful and suggested the way to get started is to RPM: rise, pee, meditate. Your mind should be easier to clear, and establishing the regular habit may be easier as well if you do it first thing. Just like brushing your teeth or washing your face.Her other suggestion was not to use a guided meditation but to focus on your breath and use the mantra so, hum. I am that I am. Think so on your inhale and hum on your exhale. Ok, I’ll try it.
You may remember I have been working on my morning routine, and the reason for that was in part to increase my productivity. Since meditation is supposed to do just that, I’ll try. It has been almost a week. I did miss one day, Sunday. I slept late and did not think about it until hours later. But I have done it the other five mornings.
I sit on my bed and set a timer for 7 minutes. Today I increased that to 8. The scientific data indicates that the benefits are greatest when you can do it for at least 20 minutes and optimally 15-20 minutes twice a day. One of the many stumbling blocks for me has always been 20 minutes seems too long, so start with something shorter. But then I remind myself 10 minutes isn’t enough to see the benefit.
Here’s the thing, 10 minutes is better than 0 minutes, so my goal is 10 minutes every morning. If and when I am successfully doing 10 minutes I will consider adding more time in the morning or doing another 10 minutes before bed. And instead of telling myself that 10 minutes isn’t enough I will tell myself that 10 minutes is better than nothing. What’s your experience with meditation and mindfulness? Do you do it? Has it been helpful? Let me know.