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My sister, Eloisa, is my guru when it comes to mind-body matters and is a big advocate of the benefits of meditation. Here's why.
Giada: I know meditation is supposed to be great, helping to manage everything from stress to pain, but I have to admit, sitting quietly for more than a couple of minutes doesn't really come naturally to me. I'm so used to juggling a million tasks in my head that sitting still often makes me panic about all the things I need to be doing.
Eloisa: That's the whole point! Even a few minutes of meditation is the answer for anyone who's feeling like they have too much on their plate. It's a place you can go to center yourself, to calm yourself, when the thoughts running around in your head start to become too much.
G: I've heard mindfulness training can help us control our emotions and moods, and even help us sleep more soundly. For someone who travels as much as I do, that's pretty compelling.
E: Definitely. There are reasons why meditation has been around for literally thousands of years. And we're starting to better understand why it can be helpful in many aspects of life, from disease and pain management to sleep and emotional health.
G: My problem is that I feel as if I can never completely clear my mind,
calm your mind to get to that place where I'm thinking of nothing at all. The harder I try to avoid conscious thoughts, the more they intrude!
E: That's not unusual; few people can easily achieve that state where the mind is completely free of thought and outside concerns, especially without practice. What you should aim for is what we call mindfulness, where you aren't so much at the mercy of your thoughts. Instead, you are working to enjoy that experience for what it is. Mindfulness meditation can make us more self-aware, more in control of our emotions, and more attentive in our daily lives.
G: Right. That's why I like to call it "quiet breathing time" rather than meditating—it seems less intimidating that way. I just accept that I will have stray thoughts passing through my head now and then, but I try to ignore them and refocus on my breathing each time they do. I've also found that listening to a five-minute guided meditation on my headphones helps me be in the moment. One I use a lot is Daily Meditation, a free app you can download and take with you anywhere.
E: And that's the great thing about mindful meditation—you can do it anywhere, whether you have a half hour to devote to it or only five minutes. Here's one of my favorite meditations from Inelia Benz, who is known for her guided meditations—and her sense of humor! Give it a try, then take a moment to check in with yourself and see how you feel. Any time you start a new practice, whether it's exercise or meditation, making a conscious effort to feel the smallest changes will help you make a connection between that experience and the benefits. When you see the upside—less stress, a sense of calm—you're bound to go back for more.
G: I'll admit it, it took some time, but I'm a convert. See if it works for you, too.
"A Simple Guided Meditation from Inelia Benz of Ascension 101
1. First, sit in a comfortable chair that supports your back, or lie down.
2. Close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose into the lower belly for a count of 3, and slowly let it out for a count of 3.
3. Start to scan your body for tension. Start at the eyes and relax them.
4. Become aware of the muscles around your mouth.
5. Relax the muscles of your throat, neck, arms, hands, chest, shoulders, tummy. Then relax the muscles in your bum, your thighs, your calves, your feet.
6. Slowly count backward to yourself from 10 to 1. By now, you should be in a deep state of relaxation.
7. Now work your way back up the body: Relax your feet, calves, thighs. Relax your bum, tummy, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, throat, mouth, and eyes.
8. Now count from 1 to 10 slowly. When you reach 10, open your eyes. You should feel energized and refreshed and ready to start your day."