I have always been a type A person with thoughts that move a thousand miles per minute. Scientists call this “monkey mind” because, like primates that swing branch to branch, people with monkey mind bounce from one idea to another-leaving them anxious and unable to focus and relax. That was certainly the case for me.
When my overactive brain started keeping me up at night, I decided to try meditation. Several friends recommended the practice, and it’s no wonder: a study in the German Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found it can decrease activity of the amygdala –the part of your brain that processes emotions –even when you’re not in a meditative state.
That sounded great to me, so after speaking with Robert Gonzalez, a certified meditation instructor, I headed to the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California, to take a class at the Chopra Center. Read on to discover what I learned and to see if meditation might be your ticket to tranquillity.
As someone who’s chronically overbooked, I was relieved to learn that I could reap benefits from short (even five minute) sessions. Meditate as your schedule allows (twice a day is ideal) and set an alarm so you’ll know when it’s time to stop.
COMFORT IS KEY
“If you aren’t fully at ease, you’ll be less likely to stick with meditation,” says Gonzalez who suggests sitting any way you’d like, as long as you can stay alert for the duration of your practice. That way, you’ll be less likely to fall asleep –which is exactly what happened to me when I tried getting my Om on while lying down.
SOUND SILENCES THE BRAIN
People have as many as 70000 thoughts a day, says Gonzalez. We cannot stop them, but we can stop paying attention to each one of them. The trick: concentrating on a mantra, which can be any combination of words or sounds. In the class I took, we used “so” (inhale deeply) “hum” (exhale fully). It’s great for beginners because it has no meaning and allows the mind to let go.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
“It’s not uncommon to get distracted while meditating,” says Gonzalez. “When this happens, simply recognize that your attention is no longer on the mantra and gently return to it.” Since my mind easily wanders, this has been my biggest challenge. However, I plan to keep trying because, although I have become more Zen, I will always be a type A perfectionist at heart.
“DO MEDITATIVE YOGA FOR 10 MINUTES EVERY MORNING. WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WHETHER IF IT’S A ROAD RAGE, YOUR GUY, OR WORK, MEDITATION ALLOWS EVERYTHING TO UNFOLD THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSE TO.” -Kristen Bell-