Meditation-What it is and why it matters
152nd Airlift Wing Recreation Specialist
It’s my great hope, as your Recreation Specialist, to positively influence your understanding and attitude concerning both overall, and focused mindfulness.
So, what’s mindfulness? First, I feel it’s an overused, “hippy-dippy” term with no real substance anymore because people largely think it means whatever they want it to, and it “auto-magically” makes them Zen.
To be accurate, being mindful, is continuously being aware of what thoughts and feelings are naturally arising in your mind, where your body is in- space, (proprioception), and your immediate environment, in a calm and alert manner. Not just when you’re in the mood, either. Always!
Mindfulness is sitting or lying stone-still; it’s active, or walking meditation. It’s taking back the management position from the body and brain and their abilities, or inabilities, as the case may be. The management job rightfully belongs to your consciousness. This is also, hopefully, governing your will power. How Do I know it’s not? Because you lost your attention in the first six seconds of reading this! I know because the average person loses their attention six to ten times every minute. It’s called concentration, right?!
Studies have verified that on average, an adult human brain has 60-70,000 thoughts per day. We know 80-90% of the thoughts scrambling in your head are the same thoughts you had yesterday, and the day before, and back and back. We also know 90% of those worn-out, repetitive thoughts are only 50% true and accurate! The brain typically forgets certain types of details, and also fills in blanks. No, I didn’t fabricate those stats, those are scientifically verified test results, based on large, long term studies.
Mindfulness is an active discipline, not a trendy word. Without it, you eat too much, too fast, and too often. Without it, you drink too little water, wonder why you’re grumpy or sad for no reason, and forget what you walked into that room for. Where did you park your car? You don’t notice that coworker walked up behind you; you stop and re-read the last paragraph because your eyes were just skimming and not transferring data.
Then add to that--the obvious--we have more instant accessibility to pretty much all the information that there is, and maybe ever was, almost anytime, almost anywhere; the concept of unplugging sounds scary. The very idea of sitting still and doing almost nothing makes most people uncomfortable. And why? Because it’s unfamiliar? Hello? Still awake? Focus! Remember?! Still wondering why a short, old bald guy would believe we all need this stuff?
Mindfulness is being in control of the brain and the body all the time, by habit. And one good way to start that habit, is by committing to another habit; meditation. This practice is older than recorded history, and still proves highly beneficial today, so there must be something to it, right? Okay, so here’s another term that absolutely does not mean whatever you want it to!! You’re welcome to look up formal definitions for this and get back to me.
It’s definitely an exercise, at first. And even with those flimsy, pre-recorded guided meditations with the “plinky,” spa-like background music, which promises to turn you into a monk of spiritual strength and tolerance in three easy lessons, you will need to be consistent in that practice to actually see results. What aren’t you doing? Sitting back “zoning-out.” But, it’s quality self-care time. Sometimes challenging at first, and even seasoned practitioners have rough days, yet totally worthwhile. In many ways, every bit as important to find time for as: eating a balanced diet, getting quality sleep, and exercising 150-300 minutes per week!
Why? Because, knowing what we do so far, we can easily surmise that being actively alert to our thoughts and feelings as a habit, should be enormously productive to our overall health. Emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. When you can effort to be still, and observe, much in life becomes very clear to you. Single-pointed-focus. Thoughts and emotions are very frequently connected. So the body and brain share a chemical-cocktail produced by the bar tender in your endocrine system.
Typically, humans would prefer to feel something, as opposed to nothing. So even though we know bad habits are bad, and negative thoughts are destructive, the human body can get a kind of rush from the stimulation of the hormonal effects associated with those kind of thoughts and feelings. Just like adrenaline junkies seek a dangerous thrill. While sitting stone-still for an hour or - two is exceptional to the positive training effects bought by meditation, it’s not the only option.
You can practice Tai chi, (taijiquan), you can choose chi gong, (qigong), yoga, kungfu, fencing, ballet, learning a classical musical instrument, sculpting, and painting. An applied task that truly requires time and effort to become skilled at; a practice that expects no less from you than your full undivided attention.
Multiple studies, with years of research and reproducible results show us the many virtues of some type of sitting, or still meditation yields amazing results for quieting to mind, and taking charge of your own thoughts, feelings, habits, and the mind-body connection. It will require you to be serious and committed for a period of time, even strict with yourself. But that’s how you get the prize! With that said, don’t focus on what you expect to get. The breakthroughs happen when you aren’t looking for them. When you allow the sense of self to dissolve into the practice.
Here are a few of my favorite reasons to practice daily: reduces stress and anxiety, controls and lessons depression, improves sleep quality, improves healthy circulation, improves self-talk, improves work and exercise recovery, slows cellular aging rates, increases energy levels and mental clarity and recall, increases creativity and dopamine levels, builds strong control over habits and reactions/impulses, to various forms of stimulation, improves trust in your intuition, aids weight-loss and recovery from surgery, and can strengthen your immune system! There are, naturally many more great reasons to meditate, but regardless of what, how when or why, you have to make time to practice every day!
Please, get this integrated into your life! I recommend finding a qualified instructor, so they can guide you on this path. He/she should be capable of directing you in getting started, maintaining the work, and in listening to/interpreting your experiences. They can indicate when to progress, and what to be cautious of along the way. Even training by correspondence can be useful.
Maybe start slow, easy, with something basic and for only five minutes. Challenge yourself to sit for one-hundred days in a row. Gradually ramp-up the duration from a few minutes, to an hour or more at each session. Morning is most likely the best time of day to sit, because you get more from efforts made here practicing before you’re fully awake and engaged in your usual day. But whenever you can is fine. Keep it regular, and do so in a place that you can practice undisturbed. Set a timer for your session, so you’re not constantly concerned with how long it’s been, or are you done yet, or when you have to get back to work, etc.
Regardless, be ever vigilant to your thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Just observe them and be still. Use no judgment or criticism, just be aware. Then continuously bring your full focus back to the feeling and sound of your own breathing, (for starters). Rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and force yourself to be absolutely still. Your body is overly-used to moving whenever it wants to. Take charge. Sometimes a prop, like a candle to light, (or turn-on), is a good object to assist letting-go, while you stay present. Being present starts with you, in your body, in your breathing, in the space you are taking up, right there, right then. Period. Amen. Other things; feelings, memories, thoughts, sensations and distractions will occur. They must not hinder your concentration.
The more often you practice, the stronger you’ll get. Just like math, or swimming, etc. For many beginners, earplugs or white-noise, and a blindfold are very helpful accessories. A comfortable chair or pillow to sit on required. After that, just keep doing it! Make an agreement with yourself to make this part of your daily life, the same as hygiene, eating, and sleeping. Come up with two or three great reasons why you practice. Allow that these may change, but have a good why!
Check out Eckhart Tolle, His Holiness The Dali Llama, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Gangaji, Osho, or Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, to get lots more great help and details on this topic. They all have books, videos, and downloads.
Directly from the Recreation Specialist:
There is a well trusted supplement that can greatly aid the body's ability to burn fat, even from stubborn areas. It also helps stabilize blood-sugar levels, aids serotonin uptake, supports healthy brain, heart, and joint functions, and has few, if any side effects. It's called: CLA-conjugated linoleic acid from Safflower oil. It's all natural and in some cases can yield fat loss, with higher energy and yet better sleep. Weight loss from adipose tissues of up to 20 pounds in 30 days has been verified in some cases. Also, it's safe for short term or long term use. It will never cause anyone to fail a urinalysis, because it's natural and your body already makes it! The body just "forgets" how much to make and process after a certain age, or because of some medical or genetic conditions. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to use. If you have further questions, ask the Recreation Specialist in the gym!
For ladies using the contraceptive, Depo Provera: Please use great caution when participating in strenuous physical activity and exercise!!! Ask your doctor if there is another option that better fits your needs. This product has long been known to cause bones to become brittle and frail, with symptoms much like Osteoporosis, or Osteopenia. This may lead to fracturing a bone doing things that never would have been more than a bruise for you before.
Nutrition for weight loss and depression
by 152nd Airlift Wing Recreation Specialist
Meal Prep: Plan your meals out for the whole week, make a list of the healthy foods you need to combine to make compartmentalized meals for the next seven days, keep it simple. Use a little variety, and limit or omit added, processed, and artificial sugars!
Make a schedule on a calendar that you will have to see every day. Stick to the plan! "Premeasure" the portions for every meal. Combine foods with a high density of nutrients. Nuts, seeds, berries, beans, bright colored veggies, and dark leafy greens.
If it grew from the earth in some way, or came from the life in the air, fields, or waters, it’s more likely to nourish your health. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store first, as it’s more likely to be the wholesome and natural foods. Practice “3-2-1”, three parts greens and veggies, two parts protein, and one part starchy carbs, in your planning, prepping, plate construction, and taking mouthfuls
For weight loss and for good health, try Intermittent Fasting. Pick sixteen to eighteen hours of your day, to include your sleep cycle, and do not eat any solid foods, only water, coffee, teas, or juices. Then over six hours, over three meals, eat your required calories. Stay on this strict pattern for six to eight weeks to observe results. Always avoid any full meals within four hours of going to sleep.
Foods that fight depression: Eat these weekly to stay level: chia seeds, cold water fish, cabbage, kale, and beet greens, Brazil nuts, raw cacao, avocado, dark molasses, coconut oil, royal jelly, and dark chocolate. These help due to several ingredients: selenium, antioxidants, magnesium, proteins, and healthy fats with high HDL.
Supplements to fight depression: These are whole food sourced products and herbs, that have unique micro nutrients and trace minerals. Check with your doctor before trying these: ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, astragalus, licorice root, rhodiola, SAM-e, camu-camu, safe-to-eat mushrooms (cordyceps), St. Johns Wort, and black cohosh, and saw palmetto. These effectively stabilize hormones, and particularly control Cortisol in adults.
Lastly, put yourself in an environment that is supportive to your task and goals. Surround yourself with people who are on the same path.