Hey guys & gals! I wanted to let readers of this blog know: Goodreads is giving away five free copies of my book D.I.Y. Magic right now! You don’t have to do anything to enter. The contest runs for the next two weeks. It’s such a good deal I almost entered it myself. The book release date is April 7th, so excited! Here is the link: Do it!
Day 15 & 16
(I usually try to avoid getting on the internet at all on Sundays, which is why I didn’t blog yesterday.)
I found myself wondering what the brain chemistry is behind meditation. A quick search on the internet reveals a smattering of different articles, but nothing that clear cut.
1. The most straight forward research suggests that regular meditation raises serotonin levels. Serotonin is necessary to feeling stable and balanced mood-wise.
2. Another study suggests that regular meditation can physically change the brain so that it has more folds (gyrification)! This may allow it to process information faster. Which seems odd, we tend to think of zen monks as being calmer than most, not faster thinkers.
3. Another study suggests that meditation may make us less susceptible to pain. Again, that’s cool, but it’s not why we meditate.
4. Another study suggests that people who meditate can focus their attention better for longer, that seems like a real no brainer! And I imagine that you can get the same benefit to focus from playing chess or learning how to play piano etc. Likewise studies have found that meditation is relaxing. Again, no duh.
5.Yet another study found that long term meditators need less sleep. this might be because it increases GABA levels in the brain.
In short, there seem to be no shortage of scientific studies about meditation, but all seem to just be looking at one tiny piece of the puzzle. None are able to give us a broad big picture so far. This is no surprise as science is by nature reductionist, it works by taking something complicated and reducing it down to smaller parts. Ultimately I’m fine with that. I like sitting down to do something that science still hasn’t figured all out and mapped out in a flow chart. Meditation is ancient, and in many ways just how it works, and exactly what it does is a bit of a mystery. Even if it is also very simple. Just breathe.
I didn’t realize that something was different about today’s sitting meditation until I was already finished. I hadn’t thought about whether to do it or not. I just woke up, sat down in my spot, and did my morning meditation.
I think every day up until now I thought about it first, I thought about putting it off, or whether I would even actually do it at all, it seemed like a chore I had to talk myself into. But now, two weeks into it, I think the lazy part of me that doesn’t like to form new habits has given up, has thrown in the towel and admitted defeat, and said “OK, I guess this is a thing now, I’ll stop fighting it.” And so a new habit is born, and becomes automatic, happening with ease, without any debate.
It was nice.
Meditation day 13
“Sitting and breathing mindfully brings four important elements into our lives: peace, clarity, compassion, and courage. When we are peaceful and clear, we are inspired to be more compassionate. Compassion brings courage and courage brings true happiness. When you have great compassion in yourself, you have the capacity to act with courage. You have enough courage to look deeply at old habits, acknowledge fear, and make decisions that cut through craving and anger. If you don’t have enough compassion for yourself and for others, you won’t have the courage to cut off the afflictions that make you suffer.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation day 12
So I started the day with my usual meditation. Sure I was tempted to skip it. I had a particularly busy day going on. Do I really have the time to just sit down and do nothing for ten minutes? But I sat down, I did some Oms, paid attention to my breath, let go of thoughts, and tried to just be chill.
Then I had a very big deal interview with radio producer and I knew I had to do great at it. Of course the problem with doing well at anything that feels high pressure is that you can tense up, you get nervous, and then you are more likely to flub up stuff and not say the right thing. We tend to be our own worst enemy with the things that are most important to us!
This is where being present in the moment, and being able to just let go of your thoughts and relax is so key. And that is exactly a part of what you are practicing when you practice meditation. Right before the interview I brought myself back to my meditation practice, just for a few moments. I relaxed my breathing, I let go of my thoughts and was just present. I even chanted a couple of Om’s under my breath. And it helped a lot. I’m not saying I wasn’t still a little bit nervous. But I felt a lot more grounded, I basically felt a lot more myself. Because that is what the practice does for you, it gets you in touch with your self, not your worries, not your hopes, desires etc. Just the you that’s always there underneath all that other stuff.
And you know what? The talk with the producer went great! I landed a spot on a show that I am very excited about (more on that soon) and I think a big part of what made that happen was being able to let go and relax when I needed to.
As Bill Murray said:
“The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything. The better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.”