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.
My friends (husband and wife) in Pa started taking a meditation class at their local YMCA. After a short adjustment period they found it very rewarding.
I don’t think I have done it long enough to reap the benefits, but I think I am close, even after just one week. We’ll see. Have you tried Sue?
Good for you! The more you do it the more it helps…
I have been learning the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program from UMass Medical School. I needed a little jump start after a year of sloth. And I was thinking of going for teacher certification…bringing it all mainstream. PenBay needs a class, right? If you ever want to get together on this or anything else for that matter feel free to give me a call…and keep on trying!
Thanks for your comments and your encouragement Cathy. Now that I have had some success I am much more interested in pursuing it. A class at PenBay would be awesome. Especially one taught by a physician. I’d love to collaborate on a project like this. I’m going to check out the UMass program. Let me know if you decide to do it.
It would be great with a MBSR class at PenBay, taught by a physician. On my own, I am starting to listen to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s cds re meditations and am hoping to reap benefits SOON.
I hope that works for you, Marianne. Now after almost three weeks, I appreciate the quiet and peace I get from meditating, which is almost enough in and of itself to get me to do it. I assume, much like exercise, that you get more out of it when you enjoy the process. Trying to do that too.
Do you meditate while running or working out? For many of us, especially women, movement meditation is more effective and healthier. Sitting meditation can even be stressful. Oddly enough, it takes masculine energy to “sit and meditate” according to Arjuna Ardagh. Another perspective that might take some pressure off people who feel like failures at meditation and mindfulness. Be easy.
Visualizing and moving balls of “chi” or energy or light through the body can be a powerful and sensual addition to conscious breath, and create subtle movement and embodied meditation. It helps me when I choose a stillness practice.
I’m sure I do meditate while working out. Swimming especially since most of the time I am looking at the line on the bottom of the pool. I have successfully been meditating sitting in the morning for the last month or so. Most days I like it. It’s different from the sense I get after working out. Up until now it has been stressful. I couldn’t help thinking it was a waste of time. In the last month, I have not thought that it was a waste of time. But it doesn’t feel permanent yet. It seems like I could stop doing it tomorrow and never start again. I’m going to add visualizing moving chi. I think that will help keep me going.