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For those of you who do not know my medical story, I have most certainly been through a lot. When it comes to pain, I have felt it. I started having surgeries at the ripe age of 8 years old. It started with titanium bars in my back for scoliosis, and then after they were removed at 12, it became a necessity to fix the problems that were created. Having surgeries on your spinal cord leaves an imprint on your nervous system that can be impossible to get rid of. I have had nights filled with so much pain that I would cry until there were no more tears, just because I was exhausted. I tried MANY different medications and therapies, most of which were just to cover up the pain so that I could sleep. None of them were actually getting to the root of the problem and actually reducing my pains, they were merely a mask.
After hearing about the miraculous things that the mind can do, including healing ones body without the use of any medication; I threw myself into researching as much as I could about meditation. I had heard stories all over the internet that through meditation, one could overcome any sort of pain. It sounded like a bunch of hogwash to be honest, but I was so willing to listen to anything at this point, I gave it a try. At first, I felt like I was just listening to my thoughts. Things weren't really all that magical, and it was as if I was still doing work instead of relaxing (I was thinking about my grocery list and my to do list while I was trying so hard to be contemplative and mindful of the moment). After awhile, once I got a better grasp on my thoughts and concentrated on my breath, I became better at putting myself into a mindful state; even when I wasn't able to sit down for a real meditation moment.
It was only minutely obvious at first, but at a certain point, after focusing myself on improving my meditation skills, I finally became able to control some of my body's pain levels. It took a great deal of focus and concentration, but when a nerve pain would start stabbing one of my calves with it's blade of fire, I would envision a bulldozer pushing that pain down my leg, and out my toes. In the beginning, I was only able to focus enough to get the pain out, but it would come right back as soon as I stopped concentrating. Eventually, my concentration became more exercised and I was more able to control how much of the nerve pains I felt when I was out in public.
Not all days were great. In fact, more of the days were terribly painful than not, but I was seeing results, and that was all that it took for me to continue my practice. As I have improved on my diet and my lifestyle, my meditation practice has reaped the rewards as well. My body feels more connected with my mind and that makes it much easier for me to keep tabs on what is going on with it. My mind has become so much faster, and responds quicker than it used to. I also feel like I come up with my best ideas during, or just after, I meditate!
While some people might have visions of monks in far off lands, sitting cross legged at the mouth of a cave overlooking a mountainous region; in actuality, meditation is a commonly practiced by many people all over the world. Meditation is a state of mind that any person can achieve by relaxing their physical body and concentrating on the breath where only awareness of the self remains. Basically, you shut out all of the things weighing upon your mind, and truly focus on yourself here in the now.
Who is meditation for?
It has been proven through many clinical studies (as well as anecdotal evidence from everyone around us) that meditation can do a LOT for a person on many different levels. It is not strictly for the spiritual person looking to forge a path and find themselves along the way. Meditation is for ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE. It is good for the physical body, the mental body, and the spiritual body. Meditation helps you to really stop and listen to your own voice, to become more in tune with your own needs for health and happiness.
As a Mother, the BEST part of meditation for me is the spa-like stress relief that I usually need on a DAILY BASIS. Running after a very high energy child means that by the time bedtime comes for him, I am in need of an evening refresher before I can even get to the fun adult time! Meditation also helps to calm and center the “crazy yelling mom” that can sometimes rear it's head…yes…I do it too. I absolutely HATE to yell, but there are those moments when you lose yourself and you go a little bit crazy because you have been ignored for the umpteenth time and you just want to go pee by yourself. I get it. Meditation is VERY helpful in these kinds of moments. Put your kiddo in their room and go put yourself in your own room. Take five minutes and meditate the stress of the moment away. It might not calm down your cranky kiddo, but it will help you to better deal with the situation with a much better outlook.
Clinically proven to help with stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression
Clinically, meditation has shown to be very effective in reducing stress levels, reducing pain, increasing cognitive function, improving moods, and even combating depression. Studies have even shown that during meditation, your brain achieves deeper states of relaxation than it does during sleep; so around 20 minutes of meditation can effectively equal 4 hours of sleep! A quick 20 minute meditation while you are on your lunch break can make you feel like you just took a 4 hour nap! That means even if you “don't have time” you still have time. You do not need to meditate that long to reap the benefits of meditation. 5-10 minutes a day can impact your life over a few weeks time as well.
What are the benefits of meditation?
It is incredible to note that there are MANY benefits to meditation and many studies done on meditation over the last 60 years. Meditation has shown to:
- Relieve stress & calm anxiety
- Lower blood pressure & cholesterol
- Increase fertility
- Increase brain capacity/size, power, & function
- Increase memory & and learning ability
- Increase immunities and lowers risks of cancer
- Anti-inflammatory (stress leads to inflammation)
- Make you happier
- Reduce pain
- Reduce anger and emotional instability
- Reduce and slow the aging process
- Treat IBS
- Treat migraines and headaches
- Increase productivity
- Increase compassion and love
- Increase self esteem and self-awareness
- Help overcome addiction
How Do I meditate?
There are MANY different methods that people suggest you should use to meditate. Every culture has a different method and none are incorrect. The most important thing you should remember is simply, Do what makes you most comfortable. What I have learned from my own practice, is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. These are my general rules before meditating:
- Wear clothing that is comfortable to you.
- Make sure you have gone to the bathroom and gotten a sip of water so that you are not rudely interrupted during meditation, to relieve yourself.
- Make sure the place that you meditate has a comfortable temperature and you are surrounded with whatever blankets or pillows you will require to be completely relaxed. I usually stack up pillows against my wall on my bed, so that I am sitting up against comfort and atop comfort. We are not meditating monks, we do not need to overcome any crazy meditation positions to achieve our goals!
It is helpful to try and meditate in the same spot and at the same time, every day. This helps to build the habit so that you no longer push it aside for sleeping in, or doing something else. (Believe me, I have been there…still am all of the time!) I also personally find it helpful to have either some sort of wordless music (words tend to distract me from my focus) or even those wonderful “nature” cd's that have rain forest sounds, rain storms, and ocean waves, sometimes even backed by relaxing music. I have found that it is REALLY difficult for me to quiet my mind without music or nature sounds to focus upon. That's ADHD for you, but I LOVE to roll-on my Calm Your Squirrel blend before meditating, to give me that extra focus and attention.
- Get into a position that is comfortable to you. You can lie down or sit up, it is totally up to you and what will help you achieve a better state of relaxation. Most of the time I like to meditate lying down, but I do find that I have a different sort of meditation sitting up; so it is beneficial to try out both until you find what works best for you.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus the entirety of your thoughts on your breathing in and out. Sometimes it helps me to focus better when I concentrate on the actual sound and rhythm of my breathing.
- You WILL find yourself straying from this thought process. That is ok and totally normal. Your mind is working through everything that it needs to work on to get through all of the information given to it on a daily basis. It can take some time to learn how to muddle through all of that stuff, and shut it off. When this happens, refocus yourself on your breath once again. Allows those other thoughts to pass on, and just experience your breath.
- During this, when you are ready, begin to relax your body. Starting at the very top of your head, think to yourself “relax your scalp.” moving down, while focusing on your breath, think to yourself “relax your eyebrows. Move on down and relax your jaw. Continue this “body scan” all the way down to your toes; breathing in and out, and consciously relaxing every cell in your body.
- Continue this until you feel that you are finished, you want to be finished, or until you fall asleep. I LOVE to fall asleep meditating because I feel super rejuvenated in the morning. My dreams always end up being quite vivid after I fall asleep meditating.
Happy meditating! What kind of meditation experiences have you had?
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