My nighttime guilty habit is to conk out on a chair and peruse Reddit. It can funny, sad, wholesome, less than wholesome, trash, inspiring, if you’ve spent a minute on Reddit, you know what’s up. It’s not exactly meditation at its finest.
I came across this post last night, though, that lit a fire under me:
TIL* a recent study showed that subjects preferred to give themselves electric shocks rather than occupy themselves with their own thoughts for 15 minutes. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative
Clicking the post takes you to the full article. In short, in 2014, a series of 11 studies conducted on college-age kids had them sit alone for 6-15 minutes. The study goes more in depth, but essentially found that many of the participants were so averse to spending time in silence, alone, with no stimulus, that they were driven to self-administer an electric shock. The results are parsed out (m/f, etc), but the results are clear: “The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.”
Mindfulness & Meditation As Mind Tutors
And what are these tutors?
Both are rooted in ancient Buddhism, and both can increase wellbeing and bring peace of mind. Medical Daily describes the differences as such:
Meditation is a large umbrella term that encompasses the practice of reaching ultimate consciousness and concentration, to acknowledge the mind and, in a way, self-regulate it. It can involve a lot of techniques or practices to reach this heightened level of consciousness — including compassion, love, patience, and of course, mindfulness. So mindfulness is a type of meditation, alongside tantra, yoga, sexuality, silence, breathing, and emptiness.
Mindfulness is the act of focusing on being in the present, such as focusing completely on drinking a hot cup of tea, taking in its scent, warmth, and taste and removing overpowering emotions from the mind.
The benefits of developing both practices are wide-ranging. In addition to developing a comfort with silence and the self, people who meditate and practice mindfulness were found to have healthier glucose levels (possibly tied to greater self control), which in turn affects obesity and unhealthy eating habits. It also improves sleep quality. Meditation and mindfulness also improve focus, reduce dependency on drugs, and lower anxiety and depression.
There’s also indications that these practices could have an effect on DNA, meaning that the implications of mindfulness meditation could be more far-reaching than expected.
Dip Your Toes
I only recently started to meditate during my yoga teacher training at Saint Paul College with Maria Toso. She introduced us to Insight Timer, which is a great gateway into the world of meditation. Insight Timer is totally free (well, you can purchase some things, but for the most part, it’s free) and there are unlimited ways to use it. From music for class to guided meditations for just about anything you can think of to a simple timer which can be used to simply keep time while you sit. Add me (megtalla) for inspo!
I wrote a post previously on mindfulness, along with a step by step process for engaging in it–
Mindfulness helps us switch off of autopilot and learn how to be present and deal with these situations with helpful methods, not destructive tendencies. There’s even research showing that mindfulness can rewire our brains.
–and while it’s connected to meditation, not all mindfulness is meditation (and vice versa).
When you’re ready to start meditating, consider following these steps to make the most of your experience. Don’t feel obligated to sit for hours at a time – my average session is around 20-30 minutes–so aim for just a couple minutes, maybe five to start. Build up from there. And if you need some encouragement, reach out!