Learning to sit still. How meditation works.

 

Learning to sit still-how meditation works

If you think you can’t sit still for five minutes and have absolutely no time, you aren’t alone. You might think you can’t add another “to do “list to your day, as modern life is fast- paced and stressful enough already. Sometimes you’re just pissed. So many diversions, like Facebook, or shopping online, steal our precious time. But sitting still, in meditation, can have tremendous benefits for your health and happiness. Stress levels in the US are steadily rising, with over 53% burnout across industries, (even non-profits), now more than ever, according to a Regus Group study. Antidepressants use alone has increased by 400 per cent this last decade. Meditation was once thought of as an esoteric practice, but scientists are showing that it makes you smarter, less anxious, less depressed, and increases resilience and social connection. Better yet, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. What’s important is the support and empowerment it gives to your day.

Relax a little more

In studies of happiness, says Emma Seppälä, Science Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, Americans are all about high intensity. Happiness is more of the “thrill’ and “excitement “ variety, with little value on calmness-that is, low-intensity positive emotions. For example, if you ask Americans to describe “happiness” they won’t say “inner peace”, says Seppälä.

When we’re stressed or angry, called unpleasant high-intensity negative emotions, we’re more likely to counter with even higher intensity doings-like running, to “ blow off some steam”. We’re more likely to turn to a myriad of distractions. Anything than sitting still. That’s where meditation comes in, as practicing sitting still helps you develop perspective and relax.

We need to take time for ourselves. We all want a purposeful, rich, and diverse world. When you take time for yourself, engage in a purposeful or idle pastime, you become more imaginative and grounded. Giving yourself space for quiet and stillness boosts happiness and encourages a healthy lifestyle. That stillness is why you need to meditate.

How to sit

There are so many ways to meditate, but one of the most profound yet simple ways is to sit tall. Sitting tall though, is really hard for most people. A bad back, inflexibility, or other physical barriers make sitting awfully uncomfortable. Aligning the spine straight and tall has an inherent subtle dynamic. Try these tips to work with posture limitations. Now you’re ready to slide into meditating:

1 .Use a pillow, or folded blankets under your sitting bones, to help tip your pelvis forward. If you don’t know what that feels like, it means your bum is a little higher than your pubis. You can also kneel with one or two yoga blocks underneath your rear, which can feel very comfortable. If you are sitting, your legs can be crossed, or more extended.

Shift your hips back a few times, to make sure you are grounded into the floor beneath you. Wiggle around a bit. Shifting or snuggling your hips back helps your spine be tall. If that isn’t comfortable, you can lean against a wall to support your back. Once you feel more grounded, feel yourself settle down. If you feel you need to just lie down to be comfortable, do it!

 

  1. Start to focus on your inhales and exhales. Let your breathing be soft and leisurely, not forced. Be leisurely about it, so you are not rushing.

Imagine your body feeling like Jell-O. When you tap Jell-O gently, it wobbles slightly, teaches yoga master Erich Schiffmann, author of Yoga-The Sprit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. That movement is your breath moving through you. Notice that you are starting to sit quietly, yet the body does have movement going on, and that movement is your breath rippling through you.

4. Stay as relaxed as you can be.

With a little time, patience, and practice, meditation gives back more than you thought possible.

 

 

 

 

 

We Can Be Better-How Stress on our Long Bones is Good for Us

DSC03362Modern man may not be the hottest athlete in history. Some prehistoric Australian aboriginals could possibly have outrun Usain Bolt’s 100- and 200-meter world record. With modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, it is possible that aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kilometers an hour chasing an animal. Anthropologist Peter McAllister, in his book “Manthropology; The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male,” believes our ancestors could most probably have outrun us, and opens his book saying to his male readers, “No ifs, no buts—as a class we are in fact the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet.” Ouch.

McAllister believes our predecessors were better at the basic Olympic athletics of running, jumping and throwing. His examples describe Roman legions completing more than one and a half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment. The 26.2-mile marathon that thousands now participate in is not a strange genetic marvel, but proof of our ancient, inherited endurance capacity, dating back to the fabled Greek foot soldier, Pheidippides. We were great runners, millennia before these great armies and men, when primitive humans left the forests to seek out and hunt for food in the open plains. They had a crucial functional advantage—the ability to run long and fast to tire their prey.

What happened? Have we become a slovenly lot? In the United States, we spend a large part of our day sitting: driving to work, sitting at a desk at work, sitting for lunch, playing Nintendo, texting, sitting at the computer or watching television. I’m not suggesting that we give up all our modern conveniences and run barefoot in the mud or sharpen a spear to catch dinner. But research clearly shows that a lot of us have become sedentary.

Stresses and loads on our long bones are good for us. Dr. Walter Bortz, clinical associate professor at Stanford University, writes in “We Live Too Short and Die Too Long” that “the robustness of any bone is in direct proportion to the physical demands applied to the bone. Use it or lose it.”

The same holds true for incorporating as much moving as possible wherever and whenever possible during the day. New research shows that when rats are not allowed to stand, there is a large drop in lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme in the legs that captures fat out of the blood to be used by the body as fuel. Blood triglycerides soar, elevating the risk for cardiovascular disease.

If you do spend a good part of the day sitting, make some small changes—stand up and walk around more often, at least once every 30 minutes. At work, get up for some water or walk to a coworker’s desk rather than e-mail. Go for a fast-tempo, 10-minute walk break. At home, watching television, do some easy squats or curl-ups during commercial breaks or run up or down stairs for a bathroom break. Stand on one leg for one minute while you cook, or brush your teeth.

Above all, keep working out regularly. Make our ancestors proud.

Connie Aronson is a health and fitness specialist and personal trainer based in Ketchum.
Published November 13 2009 in the Idaho Mountain Express.

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