Rachel Kozy |
My entire life, I have been fascinated by the human brain and the mind-body connection. I have studied neuroscience, quantum physics, meditation, human physiology, and psychology so that I could better understand how much control we have over our health and our environment. I’ve also used myself as a human guinea pig for the past twenty years in order to gain a better understanding of the mind-body connection.
Because it’s important to me to connect people with the tools and resources that can teach them how to make small, yet measurable changes in their everyday lives, I wanted to share some tips on meditation.
Meditation Made Simple
As someone who is a daily meditator I am often asked by friends and colleagues, “How do you do it? I can’t stay awake. I just don’t understand how to do it.” I wanted to share my journey of how I learned to mediate, the science behind it, and some tools that can help you if you want to start a regular practice in a simple and straightforward way.
Meditation has the ability to help prevent, treat, and even cure physical and mental ailments ranging from fibromyalgia to depression. If that isn’t enough motivation for you, what if I told you that mediation also has the ability to make you feel happy, healthy, and whole and will assist in getting a better night’s sleep?
The average human being has 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day. The goal of meditation is not to silence these thoughts. It is simply to detach from them. You can do this by focusing on your breath, using a mantra like “all is well” or “I am not my thoughts,” or simply acknowledge your thought and left it drift by without associating any meaning to it. When we constantly succumb to any negative thought or feeling this can lead to heightened stress and feelings of hopelessness, isolation, fear, anxiety, physical stress, and disease. When you come to understand that you are not your thoughts you can literally change every aspect of your physical and mental well-being.
You also need to keep in mind that it is called a meditation practice for a reason. It is like any skill, and you have to continue to work on it to improve. I am also not going to sugar-coat if for you: it might be difficult to start your practice and you will have good days and bad days, but there is no such thing as a bad meditation. When I first tried to meditate, I immediately fell asleep, so I got angry and complained that mediation wasn’t for me. Over time, and with a great deal of patience, I eventually finished a five-minute mediation and then a ten-minute meditation. Now I can sit for up to four hours in a meditative state, so you will have to trust me when I tell you it’s possible!
The Science of Brainwave States
I believe that when we understand the science behind what we are doing we can assign meaning to our actions and have better results, so here is your crash course on the neuroscience of meditation.
In order to start meditating, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of brainwave states, and over time you will begin to slowly recognize as you enter into each state. Remember how I mentioned that I simply feel asleep when I tried to meditate? That is because my brainwaves went from beta to delta. That is the equivalent of pulling the emergency brake and taking a car from sixty miles per hour to zero. If you think it is going to be difficult to observe your brainwave states, don’t worry, you do it every single night of your life: when you drift off to sleep you move from beta, to alpha, to theta, and finally delta.
Brainwaves are classified based on their amplitude and frequency, and there are five distinct brainwave states as I mentioned above: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Gamma brainwave states are the fastest brainwave frequency and the smallest amplitude, and they are responsible for heightened perception and cognitive processes. Beta brainwaves are known for alert consciousness and arousal, such as when you are highly stressed and studying for an exam or sprinting 100 meters. Next there are alpha waves, a more calm and focused state that is ideal for creativity and relaxed concentration. Theta brainwaves are the next lowest, and they are considered ideal for a deep meditative state that will inspire you and connect to your intuition. Delta waves for are used for deep sleep and repair, and gamma waves are the brainwaves for enlightenment and transcendental states.
Image source: Binaural Beats Meditation
Meditation for Beginners
There are many ways to meditate. When something is a chore or painful you will be less likely to stick with it, so you should experiment with different methods of meditation and find a way that is enjoyable for you.
The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning or right before bed. These are the windows where you are less mentally stimulated and can more easily tap into your subconscious mind and theta brainwave states.
YouTube is an excellent and free resource for meditation, where you can search through thousands of audio tracks. I would recommend trying guided meditations, meditations with chimes, and meditation with music. Continue to test meditations until you find one that you love. Another option is brainwave entrainment music. This is a fascinating science where you can entrain your brain into a particular brainwave state through the use of different frequencies. I use these types of mediations when I am over-stimulated and they help me get into a meditative state faster. If you prefer to use an app to help you meditate, Calm and Headspace are two suggestions.
Or you can make it even simpler and just set a timer and begin. Start with thirty seconds and build from there. The key is to remain relaxed and keep a still body and open mind. You want your body to be asleep and your mind free flowing. If you have a thought, that’s fine. Simply recognize and detach. If you are struggling at first you can just focus on your breath.
If we want to understand more of the science behind meditation, and are devoted to a more dedicated practice, I highly recommend this free, eight-week course of mindful meditation.
Yes, You Have Time
Meditation has a positive impact on every aspect of your physical and mental well-being. Scientific research shows that any amount of meditation, practiced on a daily basis, has health benefits, so don’t complain to me that you don’t have time! If you have time to brush your teeth every day, you have time to meditate.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and input on meditation, so please share them in the comments below. Please also let me know what other topics you are interested in learning more about!
Rachel Kozy is the founder of Empowered Women Brunch. Learn more about her here.