Updated: Feb 2
If you’ve ever shared that you are stressed, it’s highly likely that someone has asked you if you meditate. If you have been curious, and want to dip your toe in, keep reading...
Meditation is a go-to tool around the world for stress management, mindfulness practises and as a reprieve for the mind.
What is stress?
It’s our fight or flight instinct, something that many doctors relate to the release of cortisol and adrenaline hormones in the body that happens when we feel in danger. They increase our heart rate, blood pressure and energy supplies, helping us escape and flee from dangerous situations. Back in the day, this used to be life-threatening attacks from animals and such. Nowadays many of these threats take the forms of our overflowing Inbox or our overwhelming and innumerable responsibilities. And they are ever-present. They don’t go away even on the weekend.
It’s not to say that all stress is bad. Doctors seem to agree that some stress is good for us to get things done.
The celebrated psychologist and holocaust survivor, Dr Viktor Frankl wrote:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”
Since COVID there’s been a lot of talk about building our resilience to stress. What does this mean? Well, there will always be traffic and deadlines and people who ask a lot of us. The idea here is that actually, the only thing we control is our response to the stressful item. That there’s a space in between the stressor, and in that space is our response. How will we react to it?
So how do we change our response to stress so that it’s more enjoyable for us? We all know people who seem to shake off annoying things and always seem to come up smiling. They seem to be enjoying life more than we are. How do they do it?
One of our favourite ways is meditation. Don’t get overwhelmed by the word – oh no here’s another stress you may say: I just can’t meditate, it’s just not my thing. Well read on and we’ll explain what it does, so you might think it worth giving it a try!
How did meditation get so big?
The oldest record of Meditation comes from the Rishis, the wise men of India over 5,000 years ago. The Buddha revived the tradition of meditation as a way for people to wake up and see clearly what their life is, and be happy with it. Meditation has also been recorded in ancient China with Lao-Tzu and Dosho in Japan.
In the West, meditation apparently started in the 1700s and became more widely accepted in the 1960s, mainly due to efforts of people like Deepak Chopra and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi via the Transcendental Meditation movement. They managed to scientifically prove the effectiveness of meditation on our brains thorough evaluation by a number of scientific journals.
Science has proven that meditation activates our parasympathetic nervous system the rest-and-digest mechanism that calms us down as opposed to our fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system. By slowing down our breath, especially lengthening our exhale, we are signalling to our bodies that we are safe and out of danger.
How can I start meditating?
For now, just sit for 5 mins. Set a timer. Close your eyes and focus on the breath going in and out of your nostrils. Place a hand under your nose and just notice the warmth and coolness of your breath. That’s it. 5 mins. You can do that. Sit in a comfy chair, not on a bed, and no need to be Buddha-like cross-legged on the floor either. Be comfortable and make sure you have back support. Sit somewhere quiet, at home before others wake up or after they’re in bed, in your parked car, or on a park bench. Do it once. If you like it, do it another day this week. Start small and simple. With micro-habits.
Join us for free with our live group sessions 3 times a week. There's nothing like live sessions to make you show up! And you can ask questions too. Our teachers use different styles- some based on repeating a mantra, relaxation and focusing on your breath. Sign up here for reminders.
All levels welcome
> Niki Gomez YouTube channel – join Niki as she breaks down different breathing techniques and mini-meditations.
> Headspace on Netflix – A mini-series with Buddhist monk and bestselling author Andy Puddicombe who leads the way with personal stories and meditation tips.