I’m sure all of you have those times when your mind is racing so fast, you think your head’s going to explode. And we’ve all heard about “mindfulness,” know the benefits of reflection and meditation, understand the importance of slowing down, and living in the moment. But how the heck are we supposed to do that?? Before I offer some suggestions, I want you to take 2 minutes – really, less than 2 minutes – to listen to this:
Now that you’re a little more groovy, let’s talk about why this is all important.
- Approximately 33% of Americans have high blood pressure (whether they know it or not) and by age 55, 50% of men and women suffer from high blood pressure.
- From 1999 to 2009, the death rate from high blood pressure increased 17.1%.
- Stress is a leading contributor to high blood pressure and heart attacks.
- There is no such thing as multitasking. Scientists have proven that the brain can process different things so quickly it seems like they are being done simultaneously., but they’re not. We can only truly attend to one thing at a time to do things well.
So how do we stop our minds? Well, we can’t. Minds are designed to think – constantly. But we CAN slow our minds down. When I first tried to meditate over 10 years ago, I thought it would be impossible. For me to sit quietly for longer than 5 minutes was pure agony. But I was taught a technique that helped my brain slow down enough that I could then begin using the transcendental meditation techniques (TM) I still use today – twice a day, every day. Here’s how to start slowing your mind down.
- Find a comfortable place. You don’t have to assume the lotus position or sit ramrod straight in a hard chair with your feet firmly on the floor. I meditate in my recliner during the day and lying in bed right before I go to sleep. Make sure you’re not too warm nor too cold. If you’re uncomfortable physically, your brain will attend to that before anything else. It doesn’t matter if the room is dark or light – whatever is most comfortable to you is what will work for you.
- Close your eyes and be in a quiet place. People who have been meditating for many years are often able to meditate with their eyes open and in a relatively noisy place. I can’t. By closing down as many of your senses as you can, distractions are minimized and it’s easier for your mind to quieten.
- Count your breaths. I meditate to a mantra now, but I didn’t start out that way. I started by setting my kitchen timer to 15 minutes and doing this:
- Take 3 deep breaths. Concentrate on counting them.
- Let your mind wander.
- When you recognize that your mind is wandering, pull it back by taking 3 deep breaths and concentrate on counting them.
- Repeat steps 1-3; then repeat them again; then again.
If you try this for 2 weeks, I guarantee that you’ll start to recognize the benefits of meditation. Once you’ve got this practice down pat, in the midst of a stressful situation you’ll be able to take your 3 deep breaths, stop your mind from racing, and be mindful and present in the moment.
Ahhh … slowing down just feels so darn good. Try it – you’ll like it!