Picture this: an inner city public school system plagued by behavioral issues, low attendance, poor academic performance and limited resources to deal with all of this.
This same school system implements one simple technique into the school day and monitors the effect over a 4-year period of time. The result: a 79% decrease in suspensions and a noticeable increase in attendance and academic performance.
So what’s your guess….More security on campus? Nope. Hiring teachers with more qualifications and higher credentials. Nope. Sprinkling pixie dust on each child as they walk down the halls? Nope.
How about this…meditation. The San Francisco school district extended the school day by 30 minutes in order to implement two 15-minute periods of meditation during school hours. Everyone participates. No child left behind.
If you consider the well-researched and documented health benefits of meditation, it makes sense that these changes in behavior, attendance and performance were achieved. The Mayo Clinic recognizes that meditation:
- increases focus and concentration
- promotes a sense of calmness that extends beyond the actual practice
- reduces symptoms of anxiety & depression
- reduces the effects of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia, cancer, pain, heart disease and digestive problems
Could you use any of these benefits? Because if meditation can work for inner city youth, it can work for you too. I want this for you! Heck, I want this for me.
In truth, a daily practice, for as little as 1 minute a day can, over time, yield some of the benefits that I mentioned above.
If you’re not quite sure what meditation looks and feels like, think of it this way. It’s the practice of focused, relaxed intention where you are fully immersed in simply noticing…..the air as it moves in and out of your nostrils, the movement of wind across the surface of your skin, the sound of the fan swirling above you. It’s not the practice of clearing your mind….a feat that’s nearly impossible for most humans to accomplish, especially in our modern world.
Admittedly, my own meditation practice has been mostly fueled by desperation. Not unlike a lukewarm person of faith who prays when they’re between a rock and a hard place, I tend to seek out meditation when I’m having trouble sleeping or I’m having an acute case of “monkey mind.” It wasn’t until this year that I became inspired to make meditation a (somewhat) daily practice.
My source of inspiration (and I didn’t even have to leave our office!)….the one and only Ali Owens, who many of you know as our Office Manager. She is the only person I know who has made a New Years resolution and stuck with it. Her resolution: 365 days of meditation. She’s now 8 months into that commitment, and I was curious to know more about her experience so far.
Prior to starting this challenge, how often did you meditate?
I had tried meditating on and off throughout the years. I started going to Michael Kane’s free weekly meditation group regularly for close to a year [see “Resources” below] and found that it helped me through a difficult time in my life. After that, I fell out of practice for a while.
What made you decide to make daily meditation your New Year’s resolution?
First of all, I usually don’t keep my New Year’s resolutions, so this has been a first for me. I liked the fact that you can meditate for one minute, and that counts. Once I started and was consistent with it, I started to notice moments of stillness in my mind throughout the day.
What has changed now that this has become a daily practice for you?
I feel more calm in general and appreciative of the little things in life. I’m more emotionally balanced and this helps me as a mom and as a partner….honestly, it helps with all the relationships in my life.
I’ve been told that you can start feeling the effects of meditation after 10 days of consistent practice, even if it’s for a short period of time each day. How long did it take you to start to notice a difference?
For me, it was around the 60 day mark. I noticed how much more appreciative I was of simple things: the different colors of green in the grass, a child’s smile. I also found myself “in the moment” more frequently.
What would you recommend to someone who is interested in getting started with meditation?
While I love using the apps [such as Insight Timer, see “Resources” below], there is something powerful to being in a like-minded space with others who are practicing meditation. It’s not unlike the community healing space in our own clinic: the collective intent and group healing process is very powerful. Michael Kane’s free meditation groups on Tuesday and Thursday nights are a great place to start [see “Resources” below].
Is there anything that has surprised you about meditation now that you’re 8 months into this regular practice?
I now understand that this is a lifelong practice. It’s not something that leads to one perfect attainable goal.
I think there are misconceptions about meditation….that it’s about clearing your mind of all thoughts, or being a perfect, peaceful being. For me, it’s really more about the space between thoughts: you drift off and come back. The more I practice, the more space I have between my thoughts.
It probably took you 3 minutes to read this blog post. I bet you have one minute to spare. Want to get started? Like right now? Don’t tune out…you’ve come this far. Check out this 1-minute meditation offered by Don Reed Simmons, which is also available on the free Insight Timer app. After all, this present moment is all we have.