Remember Karate Kid?
The original, of course.
It’s that 1980’s coming of age movie where an older jaded karate master coaches a bullied boy to greatness.
One of the most memorable parts was Mr. Miyagi’s teaching style.
The boy, Daniel, coaxes the retired master into teaching him karate. So Mr. Miyagi puts him to work washing his cars. He instructs, “wax on, wax off”. Mr. Miyagi shows the boy just how he wants him to do it and Daniel spends hours polishing cars.
Finally the boy thinks he’s being used and challenges the master who then starts to attack Daniel with some karate —the boy easily defends himself with the “wax on, wax off” moves he’d been practicing all along.
He had been learning the whole time! Daniel was building muscle memory and when he needed it, it was right there.
That’s how I think of meditation.
It seems like it can’t possibly do anything except maybe give us a 15 minute quiet break, but you’d be amazed at the skills you’re developing doing the practice.
I’ve heard for years about the fantastic benefits of daily meditation. Studies have shown that it can reduce blood pressure, ease stress and anxiety, help with pain and menopausal symptoms, improve memory and sleep quality and even subdue food cravings.
But it wasn’t until I decided to start a daily practice in earnest (by using the Headspace App) that I knew of the benefits first hand.
What I’ve found is that the mind training, which is really what meditation is, creates a space between my thoughts and me. I can observe the situation from a slight distance and make a decision how to respond rather than being led by my (unconscious) reactions.
Here’s how this helps in real life:
It reduces stress: I get myself into a lot less trouble.
When my reactions are slowed I can decide to interpret whatever has just been said to me in the best possible light, instead of reacting defensively all the time. It turns out, people usually mean well. It’s just that sometimes it comes off wrong. Allowing a little minute for the potential doubt to be cleared up saves a lot of drama and heartache.
It reduces emotional eating: I don’t start or stop a lot sooner.
That observer position allows me to see what I’m doing to myself. I’m getting better at catching the emotions and the thoughts that led to them. When I can do that, it’s easy to see that food is not the answer to anxiety, another action is.
It helps me sleep better (which is a gift not only to me, but to all who are around me)
I rarely have trouble falling asleep, but I do often wake at ungodly hours. Getting back to sleep was practically impossible until I started using some meditation techniques. Watching my thoughts rather than getting caught up in them allows me to drift off more often.
Ten to 15 minutes once a day gives me all that.
I highly recommend a daily practice. Here’s where to start:
Headspace is awesome, but all you really need is the timer on your phone (start with 5 minutes, really).
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe normally and follow it by saying in your head, “in, out”.
When you notice your thoughts have drifted (and they will, many, many times) just gently bring your attention back to the breath.
When the timer goes off you’re done for the day, until tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how many times your mind wanders, just bring it back. That is the training, bringing back the focus.
You can do this and you’ll be amazed at the changes you notice in the weeks ahead.
Let me know how it goes!! I'd love to hear :) Leave a comment below or email me at [email protected]