[Note: I’ve been away from this blog for a while, as I’ve been helping start up our Ladies’ Home Journal group blog called
Ladies Lounge. But I’ve missed Doctor Yaya, and this is a subject very close to my heart.]
Stressed out lately? Who isn’t? Worried about catching the flu, too? No doubt.
Stress Makes You Sick
We have a very useful story coming out in the December issue of Ladies’ Home Journal with some surprising ways to help prevent colds and flu. One of them is meditation. Yep, new research shows that stressed-out people have higher levels of the inflammatory stress chemicals that burn out your immune system and make it harder for you to fight off an infection. But people who practice meditation three to four times a week have lower levels of those nasty chemicals in the body, which may make them less likely to get sick.
What better reason than scary flu fears to start now? But the thing is, it’s tough to teach yourself how to meditate if you’ve never done it before. Many people who try to sit quietly, focus on their breathing and quiet their thoughts report that they can’t “turn off their brains” and that they’re too easily distracted. Then they judge themselves by thinking they’re terrible at meditating, which is definitely counterproductive. Guided meditation, with music or talking or chanting, can help.
Coincidence or Not?
I had practiced meditation before in my life, but hadn’t done it in years. Too busy, too stressed, no time, blah, blah, blah. But several things happened to push me into practicing it again. First, I worked on the story mentioned above. A political writer friend in Washington, D.C., said he’d recently discovered the benefits of meditation. And after I’d written a Ladies Lounge blog on Michael Lang’s book The Road to Woodstock, Ticia Agri posted a comment on it. Turns out, she was Michael Lang’s assistant at Woodstock, and now she's a healer based in New Hampshire. She sent me a CD of her guided meditation called The Ribbon Breath Meditation. Enough with the nudges! I sat down and tried it.
First Time’s the Charm
This meditation, which is only 15 minutes long, uses drumbeats and music as it leads you upward from the feet to the top of the head, using color imagery that’s easy to visualize. You sit quietly, listening to Agri’s soothing voice and somehow your breathing slows and you know what to do.
The first time I listened, though, I had an odd reaction: I felt my eyes well up with hot tears, and in fact cried through the whole thing. And yes, I distracted myself by wondering what the heck that was all about. Agri reassured me that it must have unblocked something in me, which is a good thing. “Better out than in,” she said, followed by "Yippee!"
The Pleasure of De-Stressing
The next time I listened, no tears. But I did feel that familiar lightness and lifting of the spirit that I remembered from my long-ago meditation practice. I’ve been listening to the meditation for several days now, and I think it’s making a difference.
Today was a particularly stressful day, including an expensive visit from the refrigerator repairman. So when I got home tonight, I sat in my chair and took my pulse: 88 beats per minute. Then I sat and listened to The Ribbon Breath Meditation. Fifteen minutes later, I checked my pulse again: 52 beats. That’s a 41 percent reduction in heart rate, folks—nothing to sneeze at!
You can do any form of meditation, yoga, focused breathing or relaxation training and get benefits, of course. But if you want to try Agri's approach, you can order it on her website meditationhealing.com. And report back here on how you do. Cheers!