The Hart’s resident meditation expert and certified ThetaHealer, Anna Ames, shares some common misconceptions and benefits of meditation. You can enjoy Anna’s Meditation and Yin classes and special workshops at our Flossmoor and Frankfort locations.

The concept and practice of meditation has come a long way from the 1960’s hippy days of new age idealism, thankfully. Today, meditation meets science. The benefits of meditation can be looked at from two perspectives: logistical and metaphysical.

Let’s first explore the logistical benefits. When we are in a chronic state of stress, however your mind perceives stress, there is a physiological response to that stress: elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, inflammation and pain.

Meditation invites the breath to slow down. In turn, this calms the respiratory system (lungs), which then relaxes the central nervous system (brain). When these systems relax, the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. This blankets overall stress relief within the body as a whole because it’s no longer in fight or flight mode. The state of which leads to inflammation which in turn causes pain. So, you can see how the support of just one system feeds the entire body holistically.

Knowing a little bit of the science behind it now, we can talk about the metaphysical changes that then occur. Once the physical body is feeling a sense of safety and relaxation, the protective guards come down. The subconscious mind is given permission to step forward (the same thinking that we are present with while dreaming). The subconscious is an incredible housing of everything we hide from ourselves in our consciousness (our analytical mind, day thinking, problem solving). With practice, after the body begins to get a muscle memory and a knack for meditation, most begin to experience emotional breakthroughs. Feelings arise that were long forgotten or buried because they have finally been given permission to surface. This is a beautiful opportunity to acknowledge them, reflect in gratitude, and start the healing process.

Outside of deeper emotional freedom, a sense of unified connection to source is unavoidable with continued practice. This is a by-product of a clear and balanced channel (relaxed body, healed emotions, balanced mind).

Meditation has a sliding scale of philosophies, techniques and levels of difficulty. However, I invite you to throw out any picture you may have in your mind where you think you need to sit in lotus (cross legged with feet woven in and up) for an hour and think of absolutely nothing. That concept is completely unrealistic! It takes many years of consistent practice, even for monks, to get to that place. Plus, they do not live in modern society. All of their needs are provided for, and meditation and development is their sole focus. For the rest of us, we have daily concerns we bring into our meditative space, and it simply takes practice to manage the noise.

When starting your practice, start small. Begin with five minutes, and make your goal for the next week to hold for seven. Let it build from there. Also, and this is very important; be patient and compassionate with yourself. Often times we bring self-judgment into our practice and if we don’t meet our own (albeit unrealistic) expectations, we are beating ourselves up in that space and coming out frustrated and deflated. This doesn’t make it very motivating to continue to practice.

So, again, start small and leave old perceptions of meditation at the door. Simply acknowledge your experience, reflect on your progress and celebrate your achievements.

Happy meditating!