When I first started meditating, I had already been practicing asana (yoga) for 6 years. I had experienced small doses of meditation in my classes and teacher training, but nothing along the lines of a disciplined daily practice. When I became a full time yoga teacher, I found myself constantly drained by the demands of teaching all day. My body was tired and my energy was low, thus I decided to embark on a 7 day meditation challenge of 11 minutes a day. This endeavor really challenged me as I found myself resisting making time for this practice and would sometimes have to carve out time in my schedule to meditate. What I experienced over the course of those seven days was life changing. The benefits began to filter into other areas of my life and I noticed a huge change in my energy levels throughout the day. I continue to meditate to this day and have only experienced a greater sense of purpose, patience and well being as a result of my mediation practice.
Here are 7 things you’ll notice after 7 days of meditation:
I can remember my first meditation like it was yesterday. I spent 11 minutes chatting away in my mind, rehearsing events from the past and acting out conversations to come. I found myself overanalyzing every situation and trying to make sense of my environment until my mind, around minute 8, finally got tired and came to a grinding halt. It was in that moment that I started to hear the sounds of the trees around me, the birds chipping away and the ocean waves crashing against the shore. I felt a serene sense of presence that washed away all of those repetitious thoughts and cleared the way for my mind to come into the present moment.
2. You’ll release negative thought patterns
One of my favorite quotes comes from Swami Kripalu, “the highest form of spiritual practice is self observation without judgment”. When I really started to embody this act of watching my thoughts and actions from a place of inquiry rather than judgment (aka labeling good/bad or positive/negative) I was able to clear away the ones that were no longer serving me. You can feel which thoughts raise your vibration and which ones diminish your light. It not always your ability to steer clear of negativity, self doubt and judgment but rather how quickly you’re able to catch it and replace it with an empowering thought. When we transform our thoughts in this way, our pattern becomes to lead with positivity. We start to give ourselves the opportunity to thrive and the others the ability to shine. It’s a remarkable place to be and every time I notice myself falling back into the spiral of criticizing behavior, I ask spirit to show me the way back to my true essence, love.
3. You’ll become more in tune with your bodies natural rhythms
Are you someone who forgets to eat? Doesn’t get enough sleep? How about never takes time to rest or recover in between work outs? I certainly was one of those personalities that would neglect my bodily functions in order to stay more productive at work. I would avoid using the bathroom if it meant I was going to miss a call and skip meals to get more work done before the clock struck 5pm. What happened to my health is that it deteriorated over time and I became extremely indecisive. Someone would ask me, “what do you want to eat?” or “what do you like to do?” and I wouldn’t know how to respond. I was so detached that I would enter into a critical thinking process to determine what I thought was the “right” response. It took years of checking in with my bodily functions and innate desires to start to make decisions based upon what was good for my body rather than falling into the trap of needing to be right. Our bodies are extremely intuitive and if we can learn to listen rather than control our responses then we will be in greater harmony and alignment with our physical needs.
4. You’ll feel empowered in your decisions
After you complete the process of clearing away what is no longer serving you, you open up a channel to the greater good within. Some people call this “tapping into Source, your higher Self, Spirit, your spirit guides, your intuition” etc. All I can say is that you slip into what Deepak Chopra calls, “the gap”, and from that place you can receive words of wisdom from a small voice inside of you that always has your back. Gabby Bernstein called her recent book, “The Universe Has Your Back” based on this similar concept; when you’re tapped into the universal wisdom within you are truly supported in all of your decisions. I think back to those days when I was struggling as a new teacher and trying to find ways to cover my expenses. I realized the more I meditated, followed the guidance of my heart, and trusted that I would be supported during the process, the more abundance and prosperity I called into my life. Clearing the negativity and making way for positivity allowed me to connect with the right people so my career could thrive.
5. You’ll get better sleep
One of the main reasons doctors prescribe meditation is to help people sleep. A calmer mind allows you to “turn off” at the end of the night and stay asleep in between sleep cycles. When you allow your mind and body to rest, you increase your recovery rate and can produce more efficiently during the day. When you’re body is constantly strapped for rest, then you remain in a state of fatigue which stimulates the fight or flight response in your nervous system. I would highly recommend a short meditation at the end of the day to relax the mind and reduce tension in the body. If you find yourself with constant headaches that could be a sign that there is an abundance of stress in your system and you need to balance it out with relaxing, mindful practices. I would even recommend a quick meditation in the middle of the afternoon instead of reaching for a second cup of coffee or sweet treat to boost your energy.
6. You’ll feel better throughout the day
When you meditate, the chemical makeup of your mind changes; alpha brain wave activity increases, the grey matter become denser in specific areas such as the hippocampus which is crucial for learning and memory, and you stimulate the rest or relaxation response in the nervous system. This allows you to be more at ease with your environment. When the mind is able to concentrate and focus, then you can be more awake, aware, and productive. I remember feeling so refreshed and revitalized after those first few meditations, to the point that I would spring up from my seat and complete tasks that had been on my to do list for weeks. Almost instantly I started making better choices and my overall well being improved.
7. You’ll become more present with your surroundings
Most of us have an innate ability to multitask. After a few days of meditation, I found myself not only giving my full attention to certain responsibilities but actually completing them so they didn’t continue to plague my mind. Have you ever found yourself immersed in nature or even in a conversation only to discover that you were thinking about something else the whole time? When you meditate, you are practicing the art of becoming more aware of your surroundings. The practice of Pratyahara is commonly known as “withdrawal of the senses” but I tend to lean on the side of believing it means becoming aware of your senses without the need to react to stimuli. Yoga is the art of directing your mind to the present. When we direct our thoughts to the here and now you release the need to repeat the past or anticipate the future. You will always have access to your life lessons as tools for how to handle present day situations, but you will not fall into the same cycles over and over again. You will find inner peace and bliss, appreciating your present day in a whole new way. You will see new colors in nature, the grass will become greener, the skies more beautiful than ever. You will notice the slightest change in your colleagues demeanor and be able to stand as a strong support for your partner. You will enjoy your meals, savoring each bite because you’re paying attention to what you put in your mouth. You will be calmer and more compassionate towards other people’s behavior. Overall, meditation allows you to become more peaceful within and pleasant and with other people.
There you have it! Better sleep, a greater sense of calm, overall health, balance and wellbeing, not to mention a greater sense of purpose and direction in making decisions throughout the day. It’s all the little things that add up to monumental change. When we settle for quick fixes or one stop shops, we oftentimes find temporary solutions when the real answer could be just the slightest change to your daily lifestyle. If you haven’t tried meditation, give it a go. I highly recommended starting with an app such as YogaWakeUp. They have meditations and classes suited for every one plus you can check out a whole series I recorded on the 7 chakras (one a day for your 7 day challenge) that will help you become more aware of these energetic centers.
Love and blessings,