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What is Meditation?


This blog was created by therapist, Coryn Murphy. To ask questions or schedule an appointment, feel free to reach out here.


Greetings! I assume you are here to learn a little bit more about meditation. Meditation is quite the buzzword and has many fantastic benefits attributed to it. Still, at the same time, many people say they can't do it!


I began meditating in 2007. I actually got serious and started practicing somewhat daily around 2012. I have studied meditation in China and Hong Kong, including vipassana, Burmese style, Shambala, MBSR, metta (loving-kindness), chanting, breath, and body awareness. I am currently enhancing my studies with the Nalanda Institute.


Meditation is an ancient practice in which a person will have focused attention sometimes on the breath or the body. But there are also a lot of myths about meditation.


Myths about meditation


Myth 1: Meditation is about clearing your mind It's impossible to clear your mind. Your mind is not supposed to be clear! The brain stays active and alert to keep us safe. The brain stays active even as we sleep and dream. If your mind was clear, you would be dead.


Myth 2: You need to sit still

There are many different ways for a person to meditate. Meditation is a practice to help bring the mind back to a focal point, but that doesn't mean that the body has to be still.


In fact, there are many kinds of meditation, walking, sitting, standing, lying down, focusing on the breath, breath awareness (concentration), focusing on body sensations or senses (body scan- vipassana- insight), focus on emotions (loving-kindness- metta), focus on thoughts (visualization). Other kinds of meditation are mantra meditation (TM), mindfulness (eating, present-moment attention), sound bath, yoga. You don't have to sit still for many of these. You can move actively like in yoga or lay down like with a body scan.


Myth 3: You need to do it perfectly

No one is perfect at meditation, but we are trying to help train the brain to return to the focus. Who wants to just sit still and focus on their breathing. We learn to meditate to help bring the mind back to the focal point, making it easier to focus on other tasks.


Myth 4: You can fail at mediation

This was my first feeling of meditation… I can't do it. I can't focus on my breath. What is wrong with me? And so on. The whole point of meditating is to bring your mind back to the focus, whatever that may be. When you lose focus, that is fine, but when you realize that you have been thinking about your favorite song for five minutes, that is actually the best time. This is the moment that you recognize that your mind has wandered. This is the time you are winning.


What are you trying to do when meditating?

The entire point of meditation practice is coming back to the focal point. The best part of meditation is when you return to the focus. Many people can get discouraged that you can't even hold on for a couple of seconds. This is absolutely normal. When you are able to bring the mind back, you can celebrate. Returning to this point is victory~ CELEBRATE THAT VICTORY!


Personally, I do a lot of self-compassion meditation because of the judgments that arise when I am meditating and in my everyday life. I am also a therapist, and I often talk to my clients about cognitive reframing or thought-stopping techniques in my work. These are common within a therapeutic practice, but I connect meditation with therapy. I often tell my clients that their mind is not in control. We all have these reactive thoughts, but recognizing the thoughts as reactive and focusing on what is real can be very helpful. This is the same as the practice of meditation. Acknowledging that you are distracted and bringing the mind back to that focal point is the same as recognizing these thoughts and redirecting them to something else. I am not saying this is an easy task, but meditation helps to reorient the mind to do this more easily.


Why is meditation so popular?


There have been multiple studies that have shown meditation has visceral effects on the brain. Some of these include more grey matter in the hippocampus and less in the amygdala, which has to do with stress. The amygdala is the emotion part of the brain, mainly the fear center, so the brain can lower activity in the fear center while increasing activity in the hippocampus. The hippocampus focuses on learning and memory. This means a person can remember and choose their actions instead of reacting with fear.


There has been a lot of research done; some are more reliable than others. Meditation has been shown to be somewhat helpful with fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But some of those studies have been questioned because they had small sample sizes or problematic experimental designs. The good news is that several conditions, including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety, have shown promising results from well-run and well-designed studies that show increased benefits with meditation.


Here are a few links that you may want to check out:

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/

Meditation is all about the journey. Your thoughts will come and go, but it is about the practice. Even a few minutes each day can create more concentration and result in your life.


Curious about meditation? If you're interested, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or schedule an appointment. I also offer workshops and groups to learn meditation. Email: coryn@atlantatherapeuticcollective.com


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This blog was created by therapist, Coryn Murphy. To ask questions or schedule an appointment, feel free to reach out here. The term hypnosis means sleep. A therapist who uses guided hypnosis is helpi