I’ve long known, admired and respected today’s guest author, Betty Ann! (To me, she’s always going to be Elizabeth because that’s what she went by when I met her back in college) She and I have crossed paths many times as fellow fitness instructors and wellness professionals in this beautiful city of Mankato, Minnesota that we both call home! I’m all about “community over competition” so I was thrilled when this woman of many talents offered to write a guest post for my blog! She gave me a list of topics to choose from and this one jumped out at me immediately.
When I first started teaching BODYFLOW I didn’t value the meditation portion at the end of class so I would cut it short. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of it and I didn’t realize how much I was cheating my participants. Now it’s my favorite part of class! I chose this topic for Elizab errr Betty’s post because I think it’s one that a lot of my “followers” might need to hear and I like to challenge you guys….
If you find yourself rolling up your mat and sneaking out of the studio during those 5-7 minutes of relaxation and mediation at the end class because you don’t see the point and you need to hurry along to that next thing (yes I’m talking to you)….I urge you to give this post a read…
Take it away Betty!
Meditation is Supposed to be Hard
The first meditation class I took was led by a Buddhist monk in a universalist church (I figured if I was gonna meditate, I was gonna MEDITATE! …You can tease me later). The monk gave us a simple breathing exercise and then we were instructed to sit quietly and practice. And we sat. And we sat. And we sat. Only I didn’t sit, I fidgeted. And after only a few seconds my brain began whirring away and I was lost in thoughts, completely forgetting about my breath. I figured I had failed. Meditation over.
I was wrong.
What I didn’t know then was this: Meditation is supposed to be hard. I had naively reasoned that meditation would be this easy, blissful experience that would just happen magically. Nope. The mind definitely has plans of its own, and magical bliss just isn’t in the blueprints.
Our minds constantly chatter – go ahead and listen in for a minute right now, what’s it saying? That chatter is compelling, it draws our awareness and attention from the present moment experience, labeling it, judging it, taking us into the past or the future. It can be helpful, or harmful, or neutral. Acceptance and awareness of what is, as it arises, is lost in all that noise. And sometimes its a lot of noise.
Cutting through all that chatter is hard and that is exactly what mindfulness meditation, the practice of awareness and acceptance, asks you to do. Meditation is to step back from your thoughts, to bring awareness to the mind’s chatter, to stay grounded on the shore rather than being swept away as your thoughts roll in and out in constant waves, to recognize we are not our thoughts, but the awareness behind those thoughts.
So, yes, getting carried away on a stream of thought is part of what makes meditation hard. But here is the good news! Getting distracted and “failing” (like I thought I had) to meditate is a-ok. Because then you have recognized you weren’t aware, and that recognition brings you into awareness, and boom! you are meditating again. So sure, meditation is hard. But don’t sweat it, its supposed to be.
Be sure to set your self up for success, too. A forty-five minute meditation class was probably not the best way to kick things off, considering I impatiently fidgeted and internally swore to myself for the duration of that session. Try shorter meditation sessions (1-2 minutes) and increase duration gradually. Seek out meditation exercises that jive with you, maybe its breathing, maybe its sound, maybe its a body scan, find what works best for you.
And don’t lose hope.
Sometimes meditation is easy and blissful, but not always and not even all that often. Ease or difficulty aside, the scientifically studied benefits of a regular mindful meditation practice are remarkable, so give it a go, and be sure to struggle a least a little, ok?
Benefits of Meditation:
- Stress reduction (I think I can probably stop here, but…)
- Improved focus and memory (Where are my keys?)
- Enhanced physical performance (PR, here I come!)
- Improved processing of emotions, lower risk of depression (Enough said.)
- Helps you be more aware, less judgmental, more compassionate (Be a better person!)
- Better immune system (Goodbye cold season!)
- Better sleep (And… best for last! Zzzz.)
About the guest author: Elizabeth “Betty Ann” Harsma is an educator, yoga instructor, and wellness professional based out of Mankato, MN. Betty is also a dancer, musician, and circus art enthusiast, practicing meditation to help her balance the tendency to do all the things, all the time. Follow her on Instagram @happybettyann
“The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer (2007)
“Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013)