Many people in today’s world live in sympathetic mode— aka ‘fight, flee, or freeze’ mode—constantly stressed, ruminating over the past and over analyzing possibilities for the future. Will I get that promotion? Why didn’t I say ‘no’ when I had the chance? Am I ever going to be able to kick this bad habit? We don’t often focus on just being in the present moment. Sympathetic mode was built into our systems to help us save our own lives—to jump out of the way of a distracted driver or escape a burning building. However, when we stay in this state long enough, it starts to break down our bodies. This is why stress is called the silent killer.
This is where meditation comes in. Meditation transitions your body from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode – from fight, flight, or freeze to rest and digest. Meditation is not about the absence of thoughts, being perfectly still and in total bliss. Rather, meditation is meant to calm the body and mind. Thoughts will come in, but our goal is to allow them to be fleeting. We do not analyze these thoughts with deep emotion but rather observe them as is.
Meditation is about experiencing your breath, your being, and that which is greater. It’s about connecting to the self, to creation, and to that middle place where everything is nothing and nothing is everything. Meditation is an active state. It is about being present and mindful. If you’ve fallen asleep, you are no longer meditating but simply resting.
Mindfulness includes awareness and the ability to overcome and more easily navigate through tension, stress, and negativity, thus allowing our bodies and minds to relax. When we are mindful, we can connect with ourselves, who we are, how we feel, what we need, and how we are connected to this earth and other living things, stretching our awareness beyond ourselves. By being mindful, we recognize that we are co-creators in our lives with the ability to create change within ourselves. We are in control of how we feel and think and what we believe.
Practicing meditation allows us to associate with this awareness. Over time, we learn how to be still and connect with our breath. It takes willingness, courage, and determination to practice meditation, associate with our mindfulness and allow ourselves to just be present.
Because we are so used to constant stress, when we are silent with ourselves, we can become aware of just how uncomfortable we have been. Our “monkey-mind” starts chattering at us or the aches and pains in our body start yelling at us. This can be off-putting to some and enough to drive them away from practicing meditation. The key is to have tools and techniques that help us recognize that we are in control of our minds and bodies and remember that we always have our breath. We are in control of the ‘monkey,’ the aches, and the pains.
Meditation is a personal experience. Some meditations use storytelling, some use chanting, some use movement, and some use laughter. There is no one right way to meditate. I encourage you to experiment and practice to find what works for you.
By Melissa Reese
“The Pursuit Guru”