Meditation: Grounding our Reality
During this time, one of the things that has kept me grounded is meditation. If you're at a place where stress is getting to you, take a two minute breathing break. Even taking a voluntary breath that is even and balanced transmits joy, peace, and greater clarity to the whole center of being. Breathing diaphragmatically communicates to every cell of our body via our central nervous system that we are safe.
Meditation never says that life isn't happening around you, rather, the goal is to become the eye of the hurricane. We can't change what's happened to us in the past, but once we let go of attachment, we can look at it with equanimity and peace.
A specific type of meditation I do is called soft belly breathing. By doing this breathing technique, my diaphragm is giving my heart a massage with every breath you take. Soft belly breathing can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm. Instead of allowing your secondary breathing muscles to take over our breathing (like the scalanes and pectoralis minor), we want to welcome the beautiful union of the heart and diaphragm.
Another metaphor I like to visualize with meditation is an ocean wave. On the inhale, the belly expands, the wave rises. On the exhale, the naval contracts, the wave returns to the ocean.
On a physiological level, meditation has been proven to enhance cell health, balance our hormones, and lower blood pressure. Just like going to the gym to work out our bodies, a daily meditation practice is like going to a gym for our brain. We’re strengthening our brain’s ability to recognize joy and to be more present. Lastly, meditation has been shown to increase the length of the telemores at the end of our chromosomes. On a cellular level, mindfulness is actually slowing down or even slightly reversing the aging process. Both mindfulness as well as the relaxation response are hacking at the root of certain causes of disease and helping to promote a state of well being.