I wish the world had a pause button.
One tap, and it would be completely silent and still.
No cars horns. No cell phones ringing. No kids crying. No news coverage of school shootings.
Except the birds (yep, let’s keep the birds). And maybe the sounds of the ocean.
But everything else would just hush.
No movement, no noise, no over stimulating barrage of assault. Just paused.
Can you imagine? (Insert deep breath here-now exhale.)
Because let’s face it. In this world of overstimulation we rarely find a reprieve from the business of our chaotic lives.
The funny thing is….the pause button exists. Finding it, however, is a challenge.
The answer is both simple and hard.
(Ok, don’t leave because I just got woo-woo on you- hear me out for a second. Remember how good it felt to imagine life paused and we took a deep breath together?)
I too, was a skeptic. In fact, I am one of the most fidgety, always-on people I know. Sitting still is hard for me and even when I am sitting still my brain is going 100 miles an hour. In the first 20 minutes of waking up in the morning my thought pattern goes something like this:
What day is it? What time is it? Where am I supposed to be? Did I check my calendar? Did I check my email? Oh crap, I have a missed call and 4 unread messages. Who needs me? What crisis do I need to avert now. Did I feed the dog? Where is the dog? Where are my shoes? Did I pay the bills? What day is it again? What was that really important thing I was supposed to remember not to forget to take to work this morning? Where is the dog????
Sound familiar? (And if it doesn’t, tell me what you do to push pause in your brain.)
We exhaust ourselves without even doing anything just by all of this constant THINKING.
Then add the noise of the world on top of that and no wonder we need a break. But we can’t seem to escape, can we?
So now back to Meditation. And why I am going to challenge you to read a bit farther.
I too was skeptical. Who has time for meditation? And it seemed every time I tried it, I would last a whole 30 seconds before the above pattern of thinking began. I just wanted to push the pause button in my brain.
According to Dan Harris, GMA host and author of Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics if you had told him as recently a few years ago that he would someday become a traveling evangelist for meditation, he would have coughed up his beer through his nose.
But an on-air panic attack in 2004 in front of 5 million people changed his attitude. He was overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and just plain “over-it”. He needed to find the pause button. He wanted work-life balance.
So Dan began, as most news reporters do, researching the topic and experimenting with the concept. Two things changed his mind. The overwhelming science that showed meditation reduced blood pressure, boosted recovery after the stress hormone cortisol was released, improved the immune system, slowed the age-related atrophy of the brain, and mitigated symptoms of depression and anxiety. The second thing that changed his mind about meditation was that it “did not necessarily entail a lot of weird stuff” he thought it might.
Pretty convincing, huh?
So how do we start to find this elusive pause button.
We just start.
Simple as that.
For instance, right now, you could stop reading this post, close your eyes, breathe in and out for a least five deep breathes. That’s it. That is a beginning.
(Give me a second here to convince you to try this-it will only take 1 minute).
Close your eyes. 5 Deep Breaths. Open your eyes. No cheating.
How was that? Maybe not earth shattering for a first try but do you notice how your body and your mind feel?
A little more relaxed? A little more Zen?
It was just one minute but you chose to pause….you pushed pause yourself.
Now establishing a daily meditation practice requires a bit more intentionality and some tools for those of us who won’t take a minute to do that unless someone makes us.
The major key in training your brain is to simply allow the rapid thoughts to come and when they do simply recognize they are there then shift your attention back to your breath. Getting lost and starting over, according to Harris, is not failing, it’s succeeding.
Thinking about your to-do list? Shift…back to taking a deep breath.
Thinking about the dirty dishes in your sink? Shift…back to taking a deep breath.
For me, it was helpful to have an App on my phone to guide me through the breathing. To direct me what to do next. To have a pattern (and thankfully) a time limit and I could do somewhere between 1-3 minutes to start.
Everyone can find 1-3 minutes.
(Even if you have to go in the bathroom, shut the door, and do it.)
The point is to get your mind out of the past or out of the future (I know, it’s really nice to live there) and into the present moment. There, as the pause button is pushed, you can reset your biology (blood pressure, cortisol level, breath pattern) into a state of calm. When you go back into the futuristic or past thinking again, you can now view it a bit more objectively. And that’s the key.
Need a few tools to help you get started? Try These:
- Headspace.com has both free and subscription options. It has guided meditation plans starting from scratch and rewards you for staying consistent in your practice. You can even schedule it on your calendar.
- 10% Happier App (Dan Harris companion to his books). Oh, and if you want to watch his live panic attack go here.
- Need a video? Try How to Meditate for Beginners.
You can apply meditation techniques while you take a walk outside, while you workout, and whenever you get your brain into a state of flow. Writing for example (and one of the reasons I write) is extremely helpful in getting the thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling is a great compliment to a meditation practice.
Ok, enough of the woo-woo. You are now empowered to press pause yourself. Take some time for you today and turn down the noise of your life.
Just try it. You have nothing to lose.
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