Hi! My name is Nicole and I am a psychologist and the owner of Mind-Body Solutions. If you would like to know more about me and my services, you can read my biography here. Today’s article is on meditation and how it could help you deal with stress on a daily basis. The benefits of this technique are too numerous to talk about, but they can be discussed during a consultation at the clinic. Basically, this technique can bring you a sense of relief that can be quite surprising! Obviously with our approach based on the connection between mind and body, between the physical and emotional aspects of our clients’ well-being, it was well worth a look.
Going to Harvard…
Recently, I had the pleasure to attend a conference on Mind Body Medicine from Harvard Medical School. As part of this conference, I heard a talk by Dr. Richard Davidson who is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds. He is known for his ground-breaking work studying emotion and the brain. He is also a friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama. Time Magazine named Davidson one of the ‘100 Most Influential People of the World’ in 2006.
According to Davidson, data shows that when people are really focused on what they’re doing, and their minds are not wandering, they actually feel better about themselves. One study in particular points to why this is important, its conclusions suggest that the average person is inattentive 47% of the time. In addition, studies show that mindfulness (being in the present moment) can lessen our tendency to want and desire things we don’t have.
A few years ago, I also had the privilege to meet Bill Morgan at the New England Educational Institute during a conference in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Bill Morgan is a psychologist with more than 40 years of experience with meditation. In his book, The Meditator’s Dilemma, Morgan explains how to deepen your meditation practice in this age of mindfulness as successfully as possible. If you’re interested, read more about the author here.
Here’s a quick summary of what I learned from this book. When we meditate, we can attain a moment of tranquility, of contentment, and of inner peace. Think of the sensation you feel when you see a beautiful sunset, or even being completely absorbed by gardening, or playing with kids. Even when we’re surrounded by distractions or annoying situations (like mosquitoes buzzing in our ears, or a friend who cancels on us last minute), we can still feel this calm, according to the author. Therefore, Morgan tells us that happiness doesn’t come from exterior factors, but from within ourselves. To better illustrate: “Looking for happiness on the outside is like waiting for a ray of sunlight in a cave facing North.”
When you feel frustrated…
You can overcome the turbulence in your thoughts and your life to get to a calmer, more peaceful state of mind. The possibility of attaining these feelings of well-being can seem improbable, even impossible. “How can I even feel good? I’m stressed, I have too much work, it’s not a good time, etc.” Even if it’s possible to attain this serenity when we’re having a rough time, it can be a little out of reach when we begin our meditation practice, which Morgan affirms can bring on lots of frustration for some people. The good news? This is normal! You need to give yourself time and practice to be able to fully benefit from meditation and to experience all the benefits it offers.
Furthermore, the concentration practices in more traditional forms of meditation (like concentrating on a single object or word, on our breathing) aren’t sufficiently interesting or engaging for us Westerners, considering our culture based on more attention-grabbing stimuli, inattention, and hyperactivity. Everything in our culture is ‘Go! Go! Go!’ and meditation tells us ‘hey now, stop for a minute’. According to the author, this explains the large amount of ‘dropouts’ in meditation practice. A good way to help you ease into this is imagination! Morgan suggests imagining that your breathing is like a wave, or a ferris wheel in a carnival. There are even gadgets and apps fully dedicated to just helping you breathe. For instance, drawing a star on a piece of paper and slowly tracing it with your finger. Every time you reach a point you breathe in, and breathe out once you reach a hollow. Morgan affirms that our culture puts a lot of emphasis on success, appearance, material goods, so it can be really difficult to be content with what we have. It’s nice to say ‘don’t worry, be happy’, but it’s totally different to put that into play in this cultural context. However, like we’ve mentioned before, we build our own happiness. It’s a question of perspective!
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means to intentionally concentrate on the present moment, without judgement. That’s kind of a murky concept, it’s not too clear. Morgan says that for people in our culture, it’s difficult for us to practice this since we’re so used to thinking, analysing, and judging things, so letting go of our more ‘logical’ side can be a little hard. Also, it’s very possible that ideas go through our mind while we try to meditate, positive and negative. Morgan reassures us that this is totally normal and a part of the process, and that thinking that our brain needs to stop working during our meditation is a common misconception about what we really do while meditating. When meditating, thoughts keep coming in and out, but we must make a concerted effort to treat them differently: they must not be analysed or judged. We just need to accept them, let them pass through, and not dwell on them.
If you would like some more information on mindfulness and meditation, feel free to contact us and schedule a one-on-one session!
Good luck, and happy meditating!