By now every stressed out, exhausted, emotionally wrought, physically weak, hyper human being on this planet has been told that there is one solution to it all: meditation.
And you know what? It is true! Meditation, the indescribable experience of being the detached observer is the key to connect with the part of us that is timeless, ageless, and formless. Meditation gives us the courage to live our truth and the inner guidance to deal with day-to-day stresses. Life goes on but with the help of meditation, there is more joy, more clarity, more creativity and more energy.
But meditation needs a few solid foundations. If any of the three main pillars of meditation are weak, then going within and touching that blissful silence is not only challenging but also impossible. Lets take a look at these three aspects and what we can do to balance them in our lives.
The Right Food
There are two aspects to food that need addressing.
First let's talk about the kind of foods that steer us away from our center.
Foods that sedate, numb or intoxicate are going to come in the way. While alcohol comes right up on top, there are other foods that add to the acidity of the body, creating hurdles to our experience of higher consciousness. These include coffee, refined sugars, processed, chemical-laden and heavy foods. If you eat something and don't feel vibrant and alive a few hours after eating it, then it's probably the wrong food for you. The best way to find out is to keep a food journal and track what you eat and how you feel.
The second thing about food is the state of our mind when eating, which is equally, if not more important that the food itself. The same food, eaten joyously, lovingly and in gratitude will have a different impact on the body-mind than eating with sadness, anxiety and/or stress. Sharing a meal with loved ones will nourish us differently from a meal eaten in the car on the way to work.
The Right Movement
Lack of physical activity has completely disconnected us from our bodies and the intuition it brings with it. This disconnect is costing us dearly, from physical ailments to psychological issues. Add to that the tremendous amount of food (not necessarily nutrient-dense) that we have access to 24/7 and we are an unhealthy bunch of people.
For meditation, movement has great significance and usefulness, because movement allows for centering opportunities. Energy from the brain starts moving downwards and with that, balance and harmony within our being are possible. If you're a runner, you know that in those moments when your body is in motion, there is no room for thought, contemplation or worry. Movement lets the experience of 'no-mind' occur and is therefore a very powerful building block for meditation.
Movement can range from simple household activities (doing the dishes, carrying children around, taking the stairs) to more active styles like running and working out at the gym. Dance, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Chi Gong are all forms of movement that support the energy to move from the head to the navel, also called our second brain.
I often us the analogy of dating: you have to try out a bunch of different movement types to find 'the one'. Take a few classes or try some DVDs at home to see which style resonates with you and make you feel vibrant and energetic.
The Right Sleep
With disorganised food and exercise patterns, is it any surprise that we're a nation (and planet) riddled with sleep disorders?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity"
There's a reason for that. The liver carries out some serious work in our sleep, especially between 10pm and 2am. This work involves detoxification and filtering out toxins from the body that we ingest during the day. If the liver isn't able to complete its job, the toxins return to the blood stream and circulate, causing imbalances and in turn a host of disorders. This capacity to regain and recoup during the night, what has been lost in the day, is central to our physical and psychological health.
While there are guidelines for how much sleep is required, every body is different and other factors like age play a role as well. Eastern wisdom recommends waking up with the sun because with the rising sun the body's temperature begins to rise as well, but I recommend experimentation and coming to your own conclusions.
By balancing these three areas in our lives we have a good shot at enjoying the bliss of meditation. How's your foundation looking?