“Free Yo’ Mind”

Our brain is by far our most powerful muscle. Like our bodies, the mind requires proper training and nutrition to perform at maximum capacity but is often forgotten, especially when it comes to daily maintenance until we start spinning. This past month hasn’t necessarily been a spin for me but it’s been NONSTOP. Birthday celebrations, unexpected funerals, classic Summer Time Chi nights, and the grind of volleyball camps has caused me to experience some emotional imbalance. When I find myself in these moments, some type of physical activity seems to temporarily ease my stress but it’s not until I tell myself, “Kayla, STOP. Sit down and sit with yourself for just 10 minutes” do I feel myself level out. There are a lot of ways people achieve their equilibrium. Some people disconnect from technology, or reassess and remove toxic relationships from their lives, others read a book to escape or go for a walk to connect with nature. Through my own trial and error, I’ve learned I need someone to take the lead in closing allll the tabs I have open in my mind – the pathway I use to get to some topics is actually alarming and makes me sound legit crazy – which is why guided meditation has been my saving grace during rocky times.

Trainspotting spotting was a term I learned while attending a lunch seminar at Northwestern University on the evidence of mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI) presented by Jason Ong, PhD. His findings concluded that insomnia – which can be measured by the inability sleep or inability to remain asleep (I experience the latter. One of my friend’s actually calls me “crackhead” because I’m ALWAYS up with the birds ) – isn’t necessarily caused solely by excess external stimulation, but may also include our minds need to engage with all thoughts we process on a daily basis. Quite literally, trainspotting is a hobby of train enthusiasts who enjoy watching trains and writing down the number in which each engine hasnot the movie. If we take this concept and apply it to our minds specifically at night with those who experience insomnia – like Dr. Jason Ong has – we see our anxieties, fears, worries, excitement are constantly running rampant – mine prefer the message “pop-up” style – and this is where mediation steps in to slow things down. If we think of our minds as a highway, we see lots of “cars” passing in different directions, each with different levels of priority, emotions, etc., all demanding our attention. Now I don’t know about you but 90% of my thoughts solicit the majority of my focus when only 10% are truly worthwhile – please note this is not an exact calculation, just my personal analysis – meaning I consciously make the decision to engage with the majority of my thoughts on a daily basis which can obviously result in the…wait for it…SPIN. Think about it! How many thoughts do you choose to take the dive down the Rabbit Hole which 9/10 leads to the stirring of unsettling emotions when the MAJORITY of the time these thoughts – specially the negative ones – are out of your control? If we take a moment to step back and asses the traffic or act as trainspotters of our minds we would have so much more clarity in our lives. And this is what I’ve learned, and am still learning. Meditating has taught me how to turn down the inner dialogue to increase clarity of my thoughts and heightened my awareness. I’ve always believe that not everything that happens in life requires your emotional attention and/or energy yet we so willingly give it away and are left feeling drained and overwhelmed.

What it boils down to, for me, is the more emotionally aware I am the better I handle my world. I’m less affected but the noise and chaos around me. I started meditating in January and I’ll admit, my practice is far from perfect. Some weeks I wake up and hit Headspace ready transcend into a zen Stoic….and others I forget where the app even lives on my phone. Regardless, I try to start each morning with a centering thought that I return to throughout my day. No matter when you practice or how often, we all need to take more time to sit with ourselves. Tune down the noise, external and internal, and feel that connection that is your mind, body, and soul.

I challenge you to a 5-day practice. Dedicate three minutes at some point in your day over the next five days to simply sit and focus on your breathing. Do your best to clear your thoughts, acknowledge thoughts as they come but learn how to dismiss them, and express a moment of gratitude at the end of your practice. We have SO much to be grateful. Simply place your hand on your heart if you need a reminder.

5 Personal Benefits I Achieved through Meditation:

  1. Clearer decision making
  2. Greater appreciation for my time, the way I spend it and who I spend it with
  3. Handle on emotions
  4. Trainspotting: identifying emotions and choosing not to engage with negative
  5. Feeling centered, focused, optimistic

P.S. Kudos to those of you who understood my En Vogue reference in the blog title. 😉

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