Overcoming The Challenges
“But I don’t have time to sit around meditating!” The good news is that you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk meditating on a mountain and living only on the air you breathe to enjoy the benefits of meditation. You’ve probably heard the old adage “If you don’t have time for 20 minutes meditation each day, then you probably need 2 hours.” The bad news (in my experience) is that this is completely true. But you don’t even have to spend 20 minutes a day meditation – you can achieve incredibly powerful results with even 5 to 10 minutes a day, so just start off bitesize, at least until you have life back under control!
“But meditation is haaaaard… and I can’t empty my crazy monkey brain, no matter HOW much I try!”
It’s very possible you’ve tried some form of meditation or mindfulness and it just caused you more stress. But the magic of meditation is not to be found in the attainment of some kind of zen-like enlightenment (although that may be cool – I really couldn’t tell you myself). But for us ordinary souls, the magic of meditation is that for a few minutes, you can stop trying to achieve anything. Yes, you can actually stop striving. It’s an opportunity to sit and observe what comes up, without judgement, frustration or getting caught up with whatever unfolds – almost like a detached, but curious, third-party observer. Let go of any expectations and gift yourself this opportunity to just sit and let whatever unfold. And when you catch yourself getting distracted by thoughts, that’s OK - just smile and gently bring yourself back to the Present Moment, where all is exactly as it should be.
Where can I get guided meditations that I like?
This hack suggests using a guided meditation audio because this simply makes it easier for you to drop into a meditative state of Presence. We’ve given you a few short, guided meditations to get you started – try your first today. If you love those, there are plenty more to be found in our library and other programs, but if you don’t love them, you’re bound to find something in the unlimited number of guided meditation apps to be found online. You’ll be able to find guided meditations that suit your preferences or mood and you save your favourites, so you always have something to hand. Take a few minutes to set up a few so all you literally have to do is push a button to get started.
“I keep losing focus and missing the audio.”
Absolutely no problem! The audio is just a tool to make meditation easier – it isn’t a lesson with information you have to remember. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t hear a word – in fact that may even indicate you are sinking quite deeply into a meditative state. If you catch yourself not listening because you’re getting caught up in your own thoughts or emotions, that is OK, just smile and gently bring yourself back to the audio or to your breath – both great tools to bring you Present.
No quiet place? OK, I get it, you can’t even go to the toilet in your house without a kid or a dog trailing after you? Or constant interruptions from the people and responsibilities around you? I eventually realised if I waited for the perfect moment, it never happened. So now, I just crank up the headphones, let go of all those expectations and get on with it regardless of the noise, the interruptions and the stresses of the day. If I am interrupted, I just smile sweetly (wallowing in my woke zenness), respond as needed and then let myself slip back to Presence instead of getting frustrated and annoyed (it wasn’t always like that).
“But I just fall asleep when I close my eyes!” If you’re teetering on the edge of burnout (or have fallen down that chasm), you might fall asleep at the drop of a hat – and that is perfectly OK. You'll likely wake when the audio ends, feeling far more refreshed than you would expect from a 5-minute nap. Perhaps don’t do this lying in bed if you know you’re prone to falling asleep, unless it’s bedtime, in which case meditating to sleep will likely give you one of your best sleeps in a long time!
Not sure when is the best time? What works for you? First thing in the morning can set you up for the day, last thing at night could mean a deep and lovely sleep. Or maybe you just have to grab it where you can. But scheduling it into your calendar or attaching it to another daily habit (like just before or after brushing your teeth) might help ensure it happens.
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My take on the
(if you’re all about “But why…?”)
It’s well known that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system – your fight or flight stress response - but did you know that meditation, much like deep, slow belly-breathing (also a form of meditation), short circuits this stress response by engaging your parasympathetic nervous system – your ‘rest and digest’ state? Through the parasympathetic nervous system, meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the release of cortisol and other stress response hormones and inflammatory chemicals into the body. Your body starts to digest food more effectively and tension can start to ease from your muscles as your body starts to let go of being on permanent ‘alert’.
These well-observed biological changes in the body demonstrate a real and physical reduction of stress on the body, which might explain why research has shown that meditation can improve the symptoms of stress-related disease and inflammatory conditions such as fatigue , heart-disease, hypertension [3,4,5], diabetes [5, 6], cancers , asthma , skin conditions , IBS [1, 3,4], chronic pain [1, 3,5], headaches  and even aging!
Meditation has also been shown to have a significant effect on the brain and overall mental health  and appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from:
- Slowing down aging in the brain  and age-related memory loss 
- Improving attention and concentration in just a few days by reducing activity in the ‘monkey-mind’ section of the brain [2, 3, 5]
- Reducing anxiety [2,3,5] and depression [1,2,3,5] with a similar efficacy as antidepressant medications.
- Helping addiction recovery [2, 3, 5], including managing eating and food cravings 
- Easing symptoms of PTSD [1, 3, 5]
- Reducing cloudy thinking or ‘brain fog’  and enhancing connectivity between brain regions , improving problem solving and (yay!) decision-making skills , which are reduced while you are in ‘fight or flight.’
- Boosting self-esteem through a more positive outlook and improved self-awareness [3,4]
Functional MRI scans have shown that changes occur in the brain activity in people who meditate and that these changes hold even when they are not meditating .
In addition, meditation practices may help reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality [5,6], which in turn improves nearly all of the above and more!
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Here is a collection of articles from reputable medical or media sources that make easy reading with references to the original studies if you want to dig deeper. The fact that these are all mainstream points to how the benefits of meditation are so widely accepted by science today.
- When science meets mindfulness – Harvard Gazette https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
- Seven Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain – Forbes Magazine https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/?sh=10d3e5c71465
- 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation - Healthline https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation
- 16 Health Benefits of Daily Meditation According to Science – Positive Psychology https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-meditation/
- Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know – NCCIH https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-and-mindfulness-what-you-need-to-know
- Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress - MayoClinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858#
If you follow me and my hacks, Presence is definitely something we’ll be touching on time and again. But if you can’t wait to find out more, there are countless studies on the effect of meditation and mindfulness on health and should easily be found by a google search. You can also read and research around neuroscience, embodiment and presencing.