The Importance of Nurturing the Spirit

(Lisa Feeney, Stir the Embers co-founder and facilitator)

In our Introductory Self-Defense Workshop, I encourage participants to establish a regular practice of meditation. I think this is one of the most important resources in our “toolbox of responses,” but there are two concerns that often come up during this part of the workshop. The first is a chuckle as some attendees envision dropping into the lotus position and chanting their personal mantras to regain a sense of calm and focus when a bad guy jumps out of the bushes to snatch their purse. While I don’t advocate that response to a threat situation, the physical and psychological benefits of regular meditation (outside of a threat situation, of course) are well documented. These include lowered blood pressure, strengthened immune system, lower levels of stress hormones, and release of stress and fatigue.* And while the health benefits during meditation are indeed beneficial, from a self-defense and empowerment perspective, most of the benefits of meditation occur not when we’re actually meditating but in what we bring back with us when the meditation is finished. When we meditate, we allow ourselves to reach a state of calmness, connectedness and centeredness. We find clarity in thoughts and feelings and a sense of peace. Practiced regularly, that feeling of being calm, centered and grounded carries over into our every day life and becomes a basis for all our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. Meditation isn’t about forcing your mind to be quiet, but about experiencing the quiet that is already there. So even when your mind is filled with agitated thoughts, you still have access to the inner stillness and calm that always lies beneath the choppy surface of thought and emotion. This, to me, is vital to an appropriate and success response to a threat situation.

The other reaction I often get when talking about establishing a regular meditation practice is resignation, and usually from busy parents. “I’m sure regular meditation is great and all, Lisa, but I don’t have time to meditate every day. I barely have time to take a shower or check my Facebook page. When am I going to find the time?” My response is that you will never find the time – you have to make the time. We will always make time for those things we feel to be important or non-negotiable and neglect those things we feel to be of little benefit. The good news is a beneficial meditation practice doesn’t have to take up hours of your day. A regular half-hour meditation practice offers numerous health benefits and provides more psychological rest than a full night’s sleep.* As you meditate on a regular basis, you will notice an increased sense of well-being as well as greater energy and creativity, which to me sounds like an excellent return on an investment of 30 minutes per day.

I love what the flight attendants tell us during that safety brief we all ignore at the start of each flight – in the case of cabin depressurization, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting other passengers. Do you know why they say that? Because if you’re unconscious from lack of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else. Stressed out, tired, distracted people can’t take care of anyone, including themselves, and they are easy targets for predators looking for a quick strike. It is okay to take 30 minutes per day to meditate and take care of you … indeed, it is vital to your health and well-being.

*For more information on the benefits of regular meditation, check out http://www.chopra.com/meditation.

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