In the yogic tradition meditation is a form of mental hygiene. The same way you brush your teeth to keep them clean and healthy, meditation is a way of keeping the mind clean and healthy. The constant stream of thoughts (i.e. worries about the future and ruminations of the past) clutter the mind and create mental plaque.
We’re obsessed with dental hygiene, right? It would be unheard of to go days, weeks or months without brushing your teeth. Imagine what you might look like if you never brushed your teeth. Perhaps that’s what’s happening inside your mind…?
Today we’ll look at the role of meditation as hygiene and where you can get your mental toothpaste and brush. I’ll dispute the top 4 excuses people’s mind creates for not taking the time to meditate and I’ll teach you 2 easy ways to start meditating today!
When was the last time you felt clear headed? Is your mind calm or is it constantly racing in directions you don’t want it to go? What’s more important for your existence, your teeth or your mind?
Admittedly, I have a hard time creating and maintaining a daily meditation practice. I’m getting better but it took me a while to get there. Ironicaly I have spent years researching meditation. I’ve taken courses, read books, worked with meditation coaches and I’ve even led meditations. I’ve listened to yogis, intuitive and spiritual healers describe their meditation experiences. I’ve read peer-reviewed journal articles on fMRI studies of what goes on in people’s brains when they meditate. I’ve personally had awe inspiring experiences in meditation… Moments of stillness, beauty and connection… Yet, with all that, I could not always get myself to meditate consistently.
However, when one of my teachers, Yogi Charu, described meditation as daily hygiene a light bulb went off in my mind. That concept helped me get committed to a daily practice. Even if for just 5-10 minutes a day.
What stops people from meditating every day even when they know it’s good for them? Here are 4 of the most common, conscious and unconscious, reason and excuses, I’ve used and I’ve seen come up for clients:
1. “I don’t have time to meditate.”
I think people hear about people meditating for hours and think that they NEED 30-60 minutes in order to experience the benefits. Simply 5-20 minutes of meditation is enough to get the benefits. Five minutes is about the amount of time you spend waiting at 5 red traffic lights. The longer you domeditate the stronger the benefits get, but even 1 minute is better than nothing. Consistency is key.
2. “I don’t know much about meditation or its benefits.”
Research shows that meditation increases the factors that promote well-being and decrease the factors that diminish it. Meditation increases feel good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and stimulates the left prefrontal cortex of the brain associated with positive emotions. Meditation reduces stress, anxiety and risk for heart disease. It improves digestion and helps with weight loss. It promotes better sleep, attention and cognitive function.
3. “Okay, I’m sold on the benefits, but I don’t know how to meditate. I can’t get mental floss or mindwash at Duane Reade!”
This is true. However, you don’t have to go anywhere for mental hygiene equipment, the tool is literally under the tip of your nose… Your breath. In a moment I’ll teach you 2 meditation exercises.
4. “I tried it but… I don’t know if I’m doing this right…!”
Yes, when meditating you don’t get to pick physical things out of your mind the way you do when you floss, however, you will feel lighter. Research shows that meditation benefits rise slowly in the beginning, but over time every minute spent in meditation is exponentially stronger than early on in practice. In one study, the biggest benefits kicked in after 2 months of meditation. As far as doing it right, the mind will naturally wander. If you catch it and bring it back to your meditation, you’re on the right path. It’s deceptively simple, just stick to it.
The mental toothbrush and paste that cleans your mind up the quickest is your breath! Here are 2 practices that I invite you to play with:
1. Simple 5:5:5 Breathing
This basic breathe involves inhaling for 5 counts and exhaling for 5 counts and repeating for at least 5 minutes. Research shows that this simple exercise can increase heart rate variability (HRV); the higher your HRV the healthier you are.
2. Jedi Mental Hygiene
This exercise takes a lot more focus but it’s really powerful. It stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, while bringing more calm and focus into your body. You increase the count of your inhale each time by 1 while keeping the exhale constant, then after you get to inhaling for 10 counts you add another count on to the exhale. It goes like this (I = inhale, E= exhale):
- Inhale for 1: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 2: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 3: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 4: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 5: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 6: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 7: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 8: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 9: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 10: Exhale for 1
- Inhale for 1: Exhale for 2
- Inhale for 2: Exhale for 2
- Inhale for 3: Exhale for 2
- Inhale for 4: Exhale for 2
Continue like this… increasing the inhale for 1 until you get to 10, then increase the exhale by 1, until you get to inhale for 10: exhale for 10.
- Inhale for 8: Exhale for 10
- Inhale for 9: Exhale for 10
- Inhale for 10: Exhale for 10
The whole exercise will take about 20 minutes. Give one or both of these exercises a try and let me know how they go for you!
Your mental hygienist
P.S. Want to know why breathe is powerful more about the amazing power of your breathe?! Join me for my next FR-EE teleseminar title “Science of Breathe: The Secret to Health Under the Tip of Your Nose,” Monday, July 21th at 12pm EST. Click here to get access to the call. Limited spots available!