My employer, a large non profit institution, is REALLY committed to keeping health costs down. It seems a little contradictory, since you can get a free meal any time of the day or night on premises and two steps outside the gate are three ice cream/frozen yogurt shoppes , four pizza parlors, two amazing hamburger emporiums and the bakery that won Cupcake Wars. Maybe that’s why, against all odds, they work so hard to get us healthy.
As part of the healthy living initiative, we are provided access to a personal health coach. This person has a background in nutrition, physical fitness and is a diabetes educator. She bravely leads field trips, past the pizza parlor, the cupcake shop and ice cream store to the farmer’s market. She supplies recipes so that we know what to do with the stuff we purchased from the farmer’s market. She keeps track of our weight and what we tell her we eat. She reminds us of our commitments to be healthier: to stop eating after 8am, to start eating breakfast and to exercise every week. She is a coach, a supporter and a cheerleader.
Over this past year, my health coach’s support has been particularly important because of my stressful job situation. Challenging employees, constant disagreement with my supervisor and boredom were my excuse to wallow in emotional eating. After several weeks of meeting, my coach suggested something that I (the dieting hobbyist) had never tried before: meditation.
I was intrigued. How hard can it be? Sit and breathe, right? I do that every day.
Newsflash: it is really hard, especially for a person like me, who is always trying to stay two steps ahead of everyone.
First, you have to take the time to sit and be still. Twenty minutes doesn’t sound like much time, but it is dificult to find 20 minutes a day that is totally clear and without interruption or other obligations.
Second, you have to manage the mind chatter. Mind you, I didn’t say SILENCE the mind chatter, but manage it. When thoughts come into your head you have to practice just letting them float by--noticing the thought, but not engaging it. Like “What’s for dinner…” the thought should just float through your mind instead of thinking “I didn’t take the chicken out of the freezer!” or “Daughter has cheerleading practice so she will be late.” If you are like me, once you start to engage in the thought, it’s off to the races and the next thing you know you are mentally walking the aisles of Shop-Rite trying to find the toilet bowl cleaner.
Third, you have to stay awake. Meditation is not nappy-nappy time. It is a time to focus on being mindful. How the body feels, where the breath comes in and out, is it cool or hot. Just being. Not sleeping. This is difficult, especially when you are tired. I still nod off from time to time, but I shake it off and keep trying.
I started my meditation journey by Googling free guided meditation and that worked for a while. Recently, at the suggestion of another DS blogger, I joined Headspace.com, a guided meditation subscription series. The first 10 sessions are free and its worth checking out if you are curious. Or if you are a basic kind of sister, just sit in a chair, close your eyes, breathe and count your breaths for 5 minutes.
Funny thing is, even though I don’t feel any different physically, I think there have been real benefits. My blood pressure is normal all the time, without medication. My blood sugars have stabilized. I haven’t lost any weight, but I feel calmer and not like my brain is racing all over the place.
So if you have been curious about the whole mindfulness movement, need some quiet time or just want to carve out a little mental space for yourself, try meditation. Its worked for centuries.