A Conversation about Meditation

Our meditation and yoga specialist Mindy Sumsion sat down with one of our coaches Burgundy Heiner to talk about the power of meditation.

Our meditation and yoga specialist Mindy Sumsion sat down with one of our coaches Burgundy Heiner to talk about the power of meditation. Here you will find the transcript of their amazing conversation. Whether you are a big believer in meditation, a skeptic or somewhere in between this conversation is for you!

How did you get into meditation? 

            I became really interested in meditation while going thru my yoga teacher certification about 10 years ago.  Dabbled in it a little here and there then realized how much better I was feeling, felt more calmness and inner harmony, was amazed at how much clearer I was thinking and began lengthening my time.  Now, I enjoy deliberate meditation twice a day…morning and night…and small times thru-out the day. 

What would you say to someone who is hesitant about doing/trying meditation?

            I would say…I can relate.  It took me a while before I actually began practicing.  I thought about it a lot and kept hearing people talk about it and loved the list of benefits.  It wasn’t until I realized there is no right or wrong way to meditate.  I had in my mind that you had to sit on a hard floor with no back support for hours on end in a cross-legged position to do it correctly.  While that is one way to meditate, you can meditate in any position that works for you. 

What is the purpose of meditation? 

            Many purposes for meditating…get better at life, helps you notice moments of joy, meditate to find peace, meditate to find your unique mission, meditate to find your stillness.  Great reasons!  There is a one common denominator when it comes to the purpose for meditating.  The #1 reason and benefit for meditating is to learn to be present.  Present in your thoughts, present in moments throughout the day, present in your conversations with others, and present in your difficult times.    

When and where should you meditate?

            Meditation is one of those things you can do anywhere and at anytime.  Wherever you are, get in a comfortable position… sitting, standing or lying down. 

How does breath play into meditation? Why is it important?

            Vital…Your breath is available at any time.  You own it…it is a gift from God…use it to benefit you.  How many times a minute would you say is a healthy breath rate?  I ask my yoga class members what they think and I usually get numbers like…30, 20, 15.  Actually, 5-6 breaths per minute is the healthiest…taking 10-12 seconds per breath…breathing in for 5-6 and breathing out for 5-6. 

What is the proper way to breathe?

            I learned from Brooke Snow that breathing in through the nose and breathing out through the nose gives the most nourishing breath.  There have been scientific studies shown that it is a more pure form of breathing.    

            We tend to breathe from our chest, which gives us access to only the very top of our lungs.  A healthier way to breathe is from our belly.  That’s what babies and animals do in a calm state.  Shallow breaths tell the body we are in fight or flight mode, ready to run from a predator; belly breaths tell us all is well, so we’re free to rest and digest.  Deep breathing is essential for real relaxation.  It turns on the parasympathetic nervous system.  Your heart rate slows down, blood pressure and muscle tension decrease and helps to distance yourself from your cravings. 

Are there different ways to meditate?  What makes a meditation different than another? Are prayer and meditation similar? 

Great question…If you google types of meditations, it may seem quite confusing because there are a lot of different categories used to describe meditations…my favorite are mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, movement meditation, visualization meditation, loving-kindness meditation, focused meditation, spiritual meditation, guided meditation.  Let’s talk about these:

Mindfulness meditation…is paying attention to your thoughts as they pass thru your mind…don’t judge, simply observe…living in the present with openness and curiosity…moment by moment…having a connection with your thoughts, feelings and physical surrounds judgment free.

Mantra meditation…out loud or quiet to yourself…using a repetitive sound to clear the mind, using a word, a phrase or a sentence…choosing one that brings peace to your heart and stillness to your mind.

Movement meditation…yoga, walking, tai chai, pilates…gentle forms of movement that guide you into a deeper connection with your body and  present movement.

Visualization meditation…focused on enhancing feelings of relaxation, peace, and calmness by visualizing positive scenes, images, or figures using all five senses to add as much detail as possible.  Involves holding a beloved or honored figure in your mind with the intention of embodying their qualities.

Loving-kindness…is used to strengthen feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward oneself and others.  Typically involves opening the mind to receive love from others and then sending well-wishes to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and all living beings…promotes compassion and kindness…ideal for those holding feelings of anger of resentment. 

Focused meditation…using any of the 5 senses…increases focus and attention…like staring at a candle flame or counting breaths or listening to a singing bowl…some may call this day dreaming. 

Spiritual meditation…prayer…reaching to our higher power…Heavenly Father and acknowledging that He and our Savior, Jesus Christ are our true source of strength.  Have you ever tried having a gratitude prayer?

Guided meditation…involves instructional apps, videos, and tracks that can help lead you…gives you instruction on the meditation style of your choice…there are a lot of free meditations available.

Any tips on how to make meditation a habit? How do you overcome obstacles and distractions during meditation?

            Begin with a few minutes and add a little at a time…even start with 30 seconds and build up. Use a timer or app, if needed.  If everyday feels like too much at first, start with 3-5x/week. Eventually you will decide and desire to go longer.  Quality is more important than quantity. 

Your mind will wander so don’t be too hard on yourself… we are all human.  If it is a problem that needs to be solved, imagine yourself gently placing them on a shelf above your head and tell yourself you are going to come back to it. 

Focusing on the time will be less important than focusing on the process when developing the habit of meditating. Really there are only 2 important things to remember when you realize your mind is wandering off…1) forgive yourself and 2) begin again (see PITP meditation library)

How can meditation help us make it through trials and the storms of life?

            With your breath work, you can develop an acceptance of difficult emotions, relax into the pain or turmoil instead of trying to run away from it.  You can actually curb the activity of part of our brain called the amygdala which helps to govern anxiety, stress and anger…helps to teach you how to accept things as they are instead thinking everything has gone wrong and you have to change it. 

While bison are similar in some ways to cattle, there are significant differences.  They react to storms differently.  For example, cows huddle together and weather the storm out.  On the other hand, bison take the storm head on, traveling directly into its path…they will turn into a snow storm because they instinctively know that walking into the storm will get them out of the weather quicker.  Breathwork will give a sense of calmness and confidence that you can make it thru those trials and storms of life.

How has meditation blessed your life?

            Meditation has helped me to slow-down and seek for that feeling of calmness as often as I can.  I used to think it was a badge of honor to be super busy with a packed schedule and go to sleep exhausted every night.  I still have a busy schedule but my mindset about it has changed.  Now, it’s so rejuvenating to find moments thru-out the day when I can slow down, take a few deep breaths, recite a mantra…brushing my teeth, standing at the sink doing dishes, waiting for an elevator or traffic light, in a boring meeting or a heated conversation…there are many moments to slow down and have a short meditation.    



By Mindy Sumsion

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