Understanding Meditation and Mindfulness l Sukey & Elizabeth
Maybe you’re one of those people who have thought that meditation and mindfulness sounded like a good idea, but you’re not sure exactly how to get into it. That was me, once a upon a time. Maybe you think you don’t even have the time. Well my guests today want you to know that you do have the time for it.
They want you to put aside your busyness and any other roadblocks and just begin, so that you can reap the benefits.
Aside from the practicalities of meditation, Sukey and Elizabeth also shared some really amazing stories about their experiences on meditation retreats that you won’t want to miss. Our conversation ranged over cultivating mindfulness, developing mantras, meditation gear, and even got into how the practice has improved our personal relationships.
How to Get Started: Breathe
When I started meditating, or really just before, I remember I was really uncertain about how to begin. When I asked them how they respond to this question, Sukey and Elizabeth replied, “If you’re breathing, you’re halfway there!”
Paying attention to your breath is a big part of meditation.
As for the time commitment, they point out that all you need when you’re starting out, really, is 2 minutes a day.
2 minutes. You can do that, right?
But it’s key to anchor those two minutes to something else in your schedule. Put it right before you shower, or right after you brush your teeth, or right after you drop your kids off at school.
Just spend those two minutes focusing on your breath. If you can keep that up for two weeks, you’ll be able to lengthen the time you spend at it.
We all agreed that another great way to start is to download an app and just use that. That’s the way I started—I committed to using a guided meditation from an app every day for 12 days, and that’s what got me in the groove.
Aside from busyness, you may have other roadblocks:
Maybe you think that meditating is all about emptying your mind, and you know you can’t do that. Of course you can’t! So get that idea out of your head.
You may object (like I once did), “My hips are so tight, there’s no way I can sit cross-legged on the floor!”
But you don’t have to do that—just get comfortable on a chair, the couch, or wherever.
It may feel awkward or weird at first, as with anything new.
Sukey’s answer: “being comfortable in the uncomfortableness” is an important skill to be developing anyway.
The important thing is to just start.
As Sukey and Elizabeth put it, just show up.
The surprising thing about discipline in meditation is that it seems to follow pretty easily once you get yourself started. Make that first commitment to a week, 10 days, or two weeks of 2-minutes a day, and you’ll soon find yourself doing 5 minutes, then 10, 20…
But you can fall off the wagon.
Sukey and Elizabeth stressed that a huge way to keep yourself on track is to have a meditating buddy—someone to keep you accountable, even if they don’t actually do it with you.
A trick I have is to keep my meditation cushion (nothing special—just a cushion that I sit on when I meditate) right next to my bed so that I can just pop up first thing in the morning and do my little routine. I don’t leave the room before I’ve sat on that thing.
And don’t worry that you don’t have time, or aren’t in the right mindset, or don’t feel like it. Again—
Just show up.
In our conversation, we agreed that a huge bonus of getting yourself into the discipline of meditation isthat discipline can seep into other aspects of your life. You’ll find yourself able to swear off that break-room donut, make it to the gym regularly, whatever it is that you’ve been struggling to discipline yourself to do.
How Meditation Can Change Your Brain
Did you know meditation can actually, measurably change your brain?
The results that you see in life can actually be seen in your brain! It looks like like reduction in stress and anxiety, or the ability to be calm in the face of a screaming whoever-it-is. As Sukey said in our interview, if we all had MRIs at home, we could see our gray matter grow and our amygdala get smaller. Studies have shown that is what’s happening over time as we meditate—
Our brain is literally changing.
It works like this: When you’re anxious or stressed, your breath gets really shallow and you’re in “fight-or-flight mode.” But—when you do deep belly breaths, as Sukey explained, you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down. Your fear center and your amygdala that are repeating, “Fear, fear, fear,” literally get smaller with the practice of meditation.
It’s like Change Your Thoughts-Change Your Lifeby Wayne Dyer, but perhaps more like “Change your breath, change your brain, change your life.”
The benefits can be immense. Rather than focusing on what you’re going to get out of it, just enjoy it. As Elizabeth put it, “The act of trusting that meditation is helping you. Even if you don’t exactly know what you’re getting back it can be tremendously helpful in many other aspects of your life.” I couldn’t agree more.
Guest Bio: Elizabeth and Sukey Novogratz
Elizabeth and Sukey Novogratz have traveled the world to study all forms of different meditations. They studied in all types of classrooms, from Lakota sweat lodges to Tibetan houses, from ashrams to vision quests to the Oneness retreats. They have worked with people like Sharon Salzberg, Krishna Das, Ram Dass, Amma and the monks at the One World Academy in Chennai, India. All of this has given them in-depth knowledge about meditation. They’ve collected all that knowledge in a book meant to help everyone figure out how to incorporate meditation into their lives.
Elizabeth and Sukey’s Book: Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t
Elizabeth and Sukey’s Website: https://justsit.com/
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Editing & Mixing by: Aaron Johnson