Life can be hard. And, for a lucky bunch of us, long. The longer it is, the more challenging it might be, despite an expectation that it would get easier. Is there a way to return life to a state of ease, where the mind is at peace? Is there a way to control the multitudinous pieces of the mind, those numerous thoughts that, like small children, clamber constantly for attention?
Well, I’ve been doing some meditation lately and “control” is most definitely not the correct word to use when discussing the mind and those nagging “pieces” of it, the thoughts. Turns out, according to www.headspace.com, the website I’m using to facilitate my daily meditation, our thoughts are not us and if you try to control them, they’ll just keep bopping you on the head and, possibly, leading you astray.
Do you like to people-watch? I do. Think of your thoughts the same way. Oh, there’s that “Rita’s not smart enough” thought and that “Rita isn’t worthy” thought and that “Rita worry about this!” thought and that “Rita needs chocolate right now or she might die” thought. Interesting. With meditation, you can observe the “thought” traffic, as Headspace calls it, but there’s no need to run into the busy road and play. Phew.
Now, we’ve talked about how exercise, as substantiated in the book Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. and also demonstrated by me instructing Jazzercise four times a week for over 10 years, is the fountain of youth. Well, add some regular meditation to that and add even more quality years to your life!
Here are four ways in which meditation, according to EquiSync, is the fountain of youth:
- It repairs old, frayed DNA strands. Telomeres within DNA become frayed, just like the bottoms of a dragging pair of favorite jeans, over time and under stress. Studies of meditators have shown more telomerase activity in white blood cells, which leads to greater health and longevity.
- It helps biochemicals specific to longevity. Under meditation, when you reach the brainwave frequencies of Alpha and Theta, DHEA can go up 40-90%, melatonin can go up 300% and cortisol can be lowered by half. DHEA and melatonin enhance memory, feelings of well-being, immune system function and restful sleep. Cortisol is a hormone that accelerates age by raising blood pressure, slowing the brain, causing inflammation, even causing you to be overweight and weak.
- Positive thinkers live longer. A recent 23-year study of 660 people found that those with a positive attitude live 7.5 years longer. A study of people who meditate on a regular basis found that their brains had increased prefrontal cortical thickness, an area of the brain associated with high levels of happiness.
- You know the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Meditation is so helpful to the aging brain, strengthening the hippocampus and the frontal lobe, areas associated with short and long term memory.
I’ve tried meditating on my own, you know, just setting my iPhone on a timer and laying on the floor, studying my breath and letting my mind wander. Interesting things happen to me when I meditate. I’m more “in the flow”, and can become weirdly telepathic, like when B and I were at the Aeolian Hall recently to see the Great Lake Swimmers and I leaned over to say, “That gorgeous redhead on the violin has a voice like one of Leonard Cohen’s angels.” (I was referring to the Webb sisters and Sharon Robinson – their voices are truly not of this world.) And then Tony Dekker, lead singer for the Swimmers, said, “And now, for our final song, one written by Leonard Cohen.” Whoa. If you know anything about the Swimmers, you’ll know that they don’t generally play things by Leonard Cohen, or anyone else for that matter, as they have tons of their own really good material.
Anyway, a friend suggested this website, so I thought I’d give guided meditation a try. I signed up for 10 FREE sessions of 10 minutes per session. Beyond that, you can pay as you play, monthly, for just $12.95, or you can sign up annually for just $7.99/month.
Andy Puddicombe, from England, is the pleasant voice of all things Headspace, and he certainly knows his stuff as he spent time as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. During my meditation this morning, he talked about how the blue sky is always up there, above the thought storm clouds, much like you notice at cruising altitude when flying. Blue sky is always there, it’s always waiting for you. Contemplating this reminds me of my Long Climb Back journey, when I reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“I know the world is round,” I say, referring to my friend Deb’s comment about looking at the sky and knowing that truth. “Straight up at its center, it’s a boundless blue, then it stretches as it falls away, for 360 degrees around me, into white cloud, or white glacier, or white snow. I spin around, to take it all in. The whole time I struggled, a small ant way down there under that stinky sky, hollering ‘why’ over and over, this pure version was always waiting. To show me truth. To show me beauty. We were meant to be reunited here. Me and the blue sky.”
Does your blue sky go missing from time to time? Well, you could go climb a mountain and hope for the spectacular view I found. Or you could just sit in your chair and meditate.
Says Puddicombe, “All you need to do is take 10 minutes out of the day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment, so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.”
(In the website picture of me meditating I’m wearing the lapis lazuli Intuitive mala by Tiny Devotions.)