I chatted with Charity Collier, a Boston based Meditation teacher who is currently enrolled in the pioneering Master’s program of Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is also a substance abuse counselor and uses meditation as a tool in her counseling practice. She currently facilitates meditation groups three times a week in the addiction recovery community.
Charity’s mission is to change the stigma of meditation and make it accessible to all who are looking to stress less and feel more happiness in their day to day lives.
Case Study: Me, female, 35, Personal Training and Holistic Health and Nutrition Consultant. Understands the importance of meditation for stress relief and all round health and well being, but struggles to find the time and motivation. Has an ‘all or nothing’ approach, I feel I should meditate for 30 mins a day twice a day every day, but of course this does not happen….
I understand on a basic level the importance of meditation, but can you elaborate?
This question has many layers. Going back to the foundations of meditation in the Buddhist practice, meditation was a form of mindfulness. It was how a person could be enlightened from their suffering mind. Meditation has worked its way into Western culture and is becoming popularized in a secular manner.
Meditation allows a person to view their thoughts in the present moment. Whatever those thoughts are, the goal is to not judge, or cling to the goals is just to be aware of the thoughts, or of the fact you are thinking.
By being aware of ones thoughts you can see where our mind is going to, ‘we befriend our mind’. We begin to see what emotions and feeling arise, and in these moments better understand ourselves, realize that we can let go of thoughts, and slow down the physically reaction stress and anxiety cause. The tool of meditation can help heal the stress filled mind. Once stress is lower then the physical benefits can be reaped.
Who can benefit from meditation?
Every single human being. As a student of the first graduate program in the US for Mindfulness Studies I am seeing my colleagues apply mindfulness meditation to children in schools, children and adolescents with mental health issues such as ADHD and Autism, CEO’s and employees of companies and elderly people with Alzheimer’s. I myself facilitate meditation with people in addiction recovery.
What are the common myths about meditation?
There are so many. I think the most common one is that people believe they have to shut off their mind, that the mind should not be thinking. That is impossible! Meditation is about being aware that your mind is wandering and just being aware of those thoughts.
Another myth is about people sitting around saying OM – this does not happen in a secular meditation practice. There are mantra meditations that I often do, but that is to help keep me in the present moment.
A big myth is that to benefit from a meditation practice you have to meditate for 30 minutes or even an hour. A five minute meditation can be just as beneficial for someone as 30 minutes. Life happens and I can not always get in 30 minutes, some days it is 10 or 15. I have a practice I recommend to beginners for doing meditation while at a red light. That is only a few moments and could change your whole commute.
A common myth is people believe they need to be in an exact environment. While being on a cushion sitting upright is the ideal position, it does not have to be the only position. There are body scan meditations which are done more successfully laying down. Also someone could meditate in bed. Some days when I wake up and have time I either sit right up and meditate or continue laying there and meditate.
How would you help someone like myself create an achievable, sustainable meditation practice?
First I would propose a realistic goal of time. Having a goal of 30 minutes 2 times a day is hard to sustain. Then when you do not achieve it you end up feeling bad, guilty and start judging yourself (ie the ‘Suffering Mind as mentioned above).
I would recommend looking at your schedule. On busy days having the goal of 15 minutes, on quieter days or at the weekend aim for up to 30 minutes. I believe people can benefit from any amount of time in meditation.
Finding the time in the day would be the next step. Perhaps setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you have to and getting in a meditation practice before you start your day. Remember you can still lay in bed and meditate! Have videos for meditation in the office; come back to your office 15 minutes earlier from lunch, put on your ‘Do not Disturb’, and meditate for 15 minutes.
If you find that your day has gotten away from you and you haven’t found time to meditate, as get into bed for a night time meditation. It is a great way to ensure a wonderful nights sleep, as well as to let go of the stresses from the day.
Just like fitness, the best way to start is to not think about it, just get started! Once you do you have already tackled the hardest part. Our ego minds are fearful of us doing something good for ourselves and it will talk us out of anything. It is being aware of that ego mind (which becomes clear with a consistent meditation practice), and when the ego mind starts talking you know not to cling and follow it.
Let go of the idea of a perfect meditation practice!
Please find below a 5 minute stress relief meditation that Charity was kind enough to create especially for us!
For more information on Charity and Meditating Together check out her daily meditation affirmations, inspirations and education posts on:
Periscope: @meditating2ther (Every Wednesday I do a live meditation on Periscope at 9pm EST)
Charity will be joining me for the Wellness Talk next Tuesday to discuss how meditation can relief stress and aid a restful nights sleep. For tickets please click the link below: