You have certainly come across or heard about meditation. Whether it is in an article you read, or an app on someone’s phone, it seems like meditation is everywhere.
Why is it so? Is meditation just a new trend? Or, is there more to it?
My name is Oumnia El Khazzani, I’m a certified yoga teacher, a personal development writer, and a meditation instructor. Today, I’d like to tell you more about the power of mindfulness.
There are many types of meditations, but they all serve the same purpose
What is meditation?
Let’s start here. Meditation is a practice. You may have the image of someone sitting eyes closed. That’s how most people meditate, indeed. Meditation is a tool used in the yogic and Buddhist philosophies as a way to purge ourselves and reach our true essence. In practical terms, meditating consists of sitting still and detaching from ourselves — our body, our thoughts, and our emotions.
There are many types of meditations, but they all serve the same purpose: to peel the layers until you reach a state where the mind chatter stops (that incessant stream of thoughts in your head) and you can just be.
Why is it so trendy now?
The coolness of meditation came alongside the rise in the popularity of yoga. Yoga and meditation are intrinsically linked. As a matter of fact, the physical practice of yoga was created only as a preparation for meditation.
By opening up the body, heating the energy, stretching and strengthening, squeezing and twisting, we can reach deeper layers of peacefulness when we finally sit and meditate.
This is why you might have seen yoga teachers finish their class with a seated meditation — they are just following the ancient principles of Yoga. Meditation is also popular today because we live in a world of hyperstimulation.
When we’re not in front of a computer screen, we’re on our phones. And most of the time, we are not focusing on one task, but on several things at the same time — chatting, scrolling on Instagram and thinking of what we’ll have for dinner.
This hyperactivity of our brains has led us to feel exhausted and stressed.
Overstimulating, our minds don’t know how to stop anymore, which leads to anxiety, sleep disorders, stress or even, burnouts. We are a generation of “everything now.” When we’re not fast enough, others beat us to it. When we’re not everywhere, we lose the race (#fomo).
The thing is that our brain and body have not been built to be in this constant state of hyper-attention and hyper-action. This state, scientists call it the fight-or-flight state, and it’s been coded in our human nature for a very specific reason. Fight-or-flight, as the name says, is the state that used to save our ancestors from dangers such as a lion racing after them, or a storm threatening their fragile refuge. In this state, our heartbeat is higher, our muscles contract in anticipation of life-saving actions such as running away (flight) or defending ourselves (fight).
Do these physical reactions ring a bell to you? They sure do to me — this is the state I am in when I am overstimulated and stressed. When I have 500 emails waiting for me when I come back from my holiday, when I receive calls and messages at the same time, when I have to be at three places at the same time because I have overbooked myself or when I’m stuck in a traffic jam and already late for an appointment. I’m sure you can relate.
Flight or fight is a survival instinct that is here to save us when needed. However, our nervous system has not been designed to constantly be in that state. Our normal state is the “rest and digest” mode, when we’re relaxed and at ease.
So, here’s the hook: our modern lives are so intense that they trick our nervous system into being stuck on the fight-or-flight mode. Always alert, always tense. This leads to the exertion of our body, lack of sleep, constant alertness, but also, diseases and risks of serious illness such as diabetes, heart diseases, and more. Stress is hurting us… and the solution is?
You got it. Meditation is a powerful tool to get our nervous system back to the state it is designed to dwell into — relaxation.
By sitting still and preventing the stimulations and buzz of the world from getting in, we can finally come back to a state of peaceful being.
It’s not just about stress…
But, the power of meditation goes even beyond helping us with stress.
Over the last 5 years, I have been experimenting and digging deeper into this practice, in Europe, India, and Bali, and I have discovered that meditation touches much deeper layers of spirituality and personal growth.
I call my meditation practice today my “spiritual striptease.” Through meditation, I strip the layers of identification in my daily life. Meditation takes me back to my inner essence which is pure consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t have needs or wants, it doesn’t have possessions and, most importantly, it does not identify to its possessions, job, family situation, finances or origins. Consciousness goes beyond the human aspects of who I am. It is a peaceful state of just… well, being.
To use an image that often comes to me when I meditate: when I sit to meditate, I place my body on the floor, and I leave it there. I detach from it, and I observe it, from the outside, as consciousness who’s using this body and the personality that goes with it as a costume for this life.
Meditation and Yoga.
As I said before, meditation goes hand in hand with yoga. Through the physical practice of yoga, we cleanse the body from toxins. We move the energy all around, we create heat, sweat, breath flows. And, if we manage to sink into the practice, magically, the chatter of the mind shuts down, and we experience the state of being, presence at the moment, that meditation is about. Physical yoga is just another form of meditation — a moving meditation.
The combination of meditation and yoga can give amazing results, not only for our health but also on our mental health and wellbeing.
If you don’t have a yoga practice, or if you really don’t know where to start with meditation, an immersive experience can be the tipping point that will take you to a daily practice.
When you remove yourself from your everyday life environment and routines, you help yourself build new habits. Immersive experiences, such as a wellness retreat, are a great way to build new habits. In a new environment, your mind is like a blank sheet waiting to be filled. With what? New routines, new habits, new behaviors, new beliefs.
I used to meditate here and there, when I had the time, or when I was bored, which was very seldom as I always kept myself distracted and busy. The tipping point for me that changed everything was my yoga teacher training, an immersive experience of 26 days during which I meditated and practiced yoga every single day. Not only did my body change (more muscles, more flexibility), but I also gained the routine of meditation.
There is something very powerful in taking the time to remove yourself from your everyday life and creating a bubble that will create new patterns in your life. I call it “recalibrating”: like a machine, sometimes, we do need to stop and have an honest look at ourselves and ask ourselves questions such as “Where am I in my life right now?” and “Am I content with the way I live my life?”, and if not, like a machine needs to stop and go into maintenance, we need to stop, remove ourselves from our normal environment and routines, and recalibrate. It has been now severa