Meditation is easy. Right? 

Wrong!

When you think about it, sitting down quietly for 10-20 minutes, resting your body and mind and doing pretty much nothing, should be pretty simple.  But when you add that subtle but important instruction that you need to become more aware of all the noise in your head and just accept it, you’ll see most people running from their meditation cushion quicker than Usain Bolt to the finish line!

A recent study asked volunteers if they would rather sit alone in a room with their thoughts for ten minutes or receive an electric shock and leave straight away.  No prizes for guessing which option won out.  It really is a sad indictment on the state of our modern minds that we’ll willfully and gladly expose ourselves to physical pain rather than a few minutes of mental introspection.

It’s not meant to be easy

I was speaking with a fellow meditation teacher recently who said he was developing a course called Meditation Made Easy.  I told him that I thought he was heading in the wrong direction.  You see, everyone wants things to be easy these days.  We want that instant 5 minute cure that takes no real effort but ensures huge results. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a massive Oak tree growing.  It takes years just for the seed to get through the ground, let alone for that gigantic trunk to take shape.  I told my friend that if you try to make meditation sound easy, people won’t stick with it.  Worse still, the type of people he will attract will quit at the first sign of hardship.

Meditation isn’t meant to be easy!  Well not initially anyway.  If you want success with this practice and are keen to get all the wonderful benefits listed below then it’s going to take a little while to quieten some of that noise in there.  The mind has been left to its own devices all your life.  It’s been running the show.  Naturally, this will take a little time to recondition and settle. 

At least if you’re honest about this rather than trying to sugar coat the experience, you’ll know what to expect.  You can then have realistic expectations and possibly set some longer goals before you race off to the next golden new age promise of instant transformation. 

 Stop stressing out dude!

Human minds are stressed.  No surprises there.  It’s estimated that up to 85% of all deaths are in some ways stress related.  (American Psychological Association). 

Just pause, rewind and read that statistic again.  85% of ALL deaths are stress related.  It’s no longer enough to simply say, ‘it’s all good, I’m just feeling a little stressed.’

In fact, it’s far from good.  Stress is killing you at a rapid rate!

The reason meditation seems challenging at first is that your body has forgotten what it’s like to run on a slower internal setting.  It’s overheating all the time and needs to cool down.  If you’re like most people these days, you’ve probably been thrashing yourself, red lining the accelerator and virtually running on empty for years.  How’s your poor car going to feel at its next service when you tell the mechanic you’ve barely turned the ignition off for the last 12 months.  

The hard truth when it comes to stress is that 110 Million people died last year from preventable stress related illnesses.  The bottom line is that if you’re not controlling the biological and psychological markers of stress every single day then it’s like battery acid, gradually eating away at your organs, heart and brain from the inside out. 

Stress shows up all the time in little whispers that you often brush away.  Left unheeded, the damage often storms to the surface years later in the form of those big killers – heart disease, cancer, diabetes and alzheimers.


Treating the symptom or treating the cause

Go to the doctor at age 55 with heart pain and they’ll quickly throw you on Statins and blood pressure medication.  Rarely will they ask you about your levels of stress and how you’ve been managing this for the past 20 years. 

It’s just too easy to treat the symptom and forget the cause. 

There’s a Lorna Jane activewear singlet floating around your local yoga class with the play on words, Heavily meditated!

We can only wonder what might happen if both Doctors and the general public realised that there are safer, less invasive and more curative options than merely drugs.

The research on meditation is compelling and undeniable.  It’s become one of the most widely studied practices over the past 40 years.

What’s in it for me?

In as little as eight weeks of regular daily meditation, your body may start to experience any number of the following benefits:

·Improved immune function

·Lower blood pressure

·Enhanced memory

·Decreased anxiety

·Increased happiness and lower depression

·Reduced inflammation

·Better sleep

·Thicker cortex (large brains equals better life)

·Longer telomeres (reversal of ageing)

·Improved social connections

·Enhanced focus and clarity

·Greater emotional regulation

All this from just sitting still for 10-20 minutes each day!

As John Kabat Zinn, a pioneer in the modern mindfulness movement said, if a pill could even come close to doing what meditation does it would be worth Billions of dollars.  The great news is that meditation is a slow release pill that works gradually, healing, repairing and eventually upgrading many of your bodily systems over time.  There are no major side effects and because the practices work at a cellular level, the results are largely permanent.

What will it take?

If you’re at that point in your life where you’ve tried everything else, or you’re just ready to find that next level in your performance and health, then meditation is a no brainer. 

It’s no secret why 40% of Fortune 500 Companies are rolling out mindfulness programmes in their workforce this year alone.  Sportspeople are regularly seen meditating on the sidelines and schools are rapidly introducing mindfulness to kids as young as six. 

If you're going through a challenging time in life or just want to give yourself that supreme competitive advantage, this is a no brainer.

As a business friend recently reminded me, while I was trying to nail a 12 foot putt on the golf course, the best time to invest in the stock market is yesterday.  Well, without doubt the absolute best time to invest in your future health and positive state of mind through meditation is today. 

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Where to next: 

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References:

 Immune function - Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation
Davidson, Richard J. PhD et al Psychosomatic Medicine: July 2003 - Volume 65 - Issue 4 - p 564–570

Focus - Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention
Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.  2007, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 109–119 |

Memory - Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training
Consciousness and Cognition Volume 19, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 597-605 FadelZeidana  et al

Cortical Thickness - Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
Neuroreport. 2005 Nov 28; 16(17): 1893–1897.

 Emotional Regulation - The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter
NeuroImage Volume 45, Issue 3, 15 April 2009, Pages 672-678

Increased happiness - Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. 
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045-1062.Fredrickson, B. L., et al (2008).

 Depression - The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Cognitive Processes and Affect in Patients with Past Depression
Cognitive Therapy and Research August 2004, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 433–455 |

 Anxiety - Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Meditation Techniques as Treatments for Medical Illness
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol. 12, No. 8 Paradigms Albert J. Arias et al

 Inflammation - A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Volume 27, January 2013, Pages 174-184