Meditation: Just Do It

WELLNESS--By now every one of us has heard of the benefits to meditation, but why is it so hard to start a meditation practice? The brain benefits span wide from helping to grow the cortex, which is that that ribbed looking outer part of the brain where all the higher human thoughts occur, to pulling us out of fight or flight and helping us enter a calmer more mindful state. There are even links to meditation slowing down the aging process. 

All of this information begs the question, if meditation is so good for us, why is it so hard for us to do it? The answer also comes back to the brain. In today’s busy electronic world filled with screens of all kinds from our cell phones to our tablets to our computers, the eyes and brain are used to being stimulated during almost all of our waking hours. The problem is that as the pleasure centers of our brains are being stimulated by screens (and often sugar) while the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not being used or stimulated in ways to develop us towards a higher awareness and a more altruistic lifestyle. 

While sitting quietly and breathing has myriad proven benefits, it’s just so tough to get that practice going. Our brains are addicted to the quick fix and quick stimulation. Unless you are actively reading your kindle, the research shows that passive TV viewing in kids actually causes changes in their brains that lead to a weakened ability to communicate verbally. There is also evidence that the children watching hours of TV a day are more apt to violence.  

Here are two highly effective ways to get your practice going once and for all. Find a meditation buddy. This doesn’t have to be someone living with you but if so, that’s even better. This person is someone that you both check in with each other every day where you each take 5 minutes or less to talk about your meditation practice, let each other know if you meditated or not, and give each other feedback and ideas on what’s working and what’s not. Research shows that having someone to be accountable to increases people’s chances of actually completing a task. 

Another little trick that I have picked up through the years and I find very useful for me and my patients is to go to the area that you meditate every single night even if you don’t plan on meditating. The act of sitting on the cushion or stool every night even if it’s just for a few seconds before you go to bed will increase the chances that eventually you will sit for longer. 

The trick is to go to that area of your home with no pressure on yourself to sit for a great length of time. You can actually sit down to meditate and then get right back up and go to bed. The next night try to increase your time from 5 seconds to 30 seconds and then each night increase your time that you meditate another 30 seconds until you eventually reach 20 minutes. 

If there are mornings or nights, depending on your preference, that you fall back and really don’t want to meditate, then simply go to the cushion, sit down to meditate and then get directly back up and leave. Then you will start over again at the 5 seconds and you will start again to build from there. The trick is to get on the cushion every single day no matter how short the duration. Over time this will tell your brain that this is simply a part of your every single day and with time you will be meditating and breathing regularly.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)