People tell me all the time they 'can't meditate'. It's often due to overstimulation and being trapped in a fight or flight response pattern. Your body regularly produces biochemicals as a shortcut thinking it 'knows' how you will react and respond to certain situations. These hormones and neurotransmitters are released in anticipation of the event before it takes place. It keeps you stuck in the same vicious cycle until you actively intervene to change the outcome. What most people don't realize is that everyday stressors like traffic, work, juggling too many projects, too much time on electronics, poor eating habits and the feeling of having too little time or money are all contributors to maintaining the fight or flight biochemical response.
"According to a study published in 2019 in Behavioral Brain Research, when people who had never meditated before did a 13-minute guided meditation session daily for eight weeks, they reported less anxiety, fewer negative moods, and reduced fatigue." 2022 Article in The Healthy outlines the benefits of guided meditation.
A regular meditation practice creates new neuro-pathways in the brain and sends a signal to the endocrine system that there's no emergency and no need to produce adrenaline and cortisol, namely. Cortisol in particular takes about 48-hours to reset and is highly acidic. Your body has to work extremely hard to recalibrate the blood by raising the pH to an alkaline state after a fight or flight response which means it needs more oxygen and the ability to enter rest & digest. Adrenaline and cortisol accumulation creates the optimal breeding ground for burnout, and a tired but wired mindset. It reroutes nutrients, minerals, blood & oxygen away from the brain, heart and vital organs as it prepares to leap into survival action.
Guided meditations can help you achieve a restful state without the pressure of sitting in silence. It's an allocated time and place in which the instructor helps you enter the alpha brainwave state by using visualization, music, breath work and other tools to allow your parasympathetic nervous system to heal the body. In a private session, you learn how to identify and combat your specific triggers and reactions. Then over time, you'll learn how to maintain a waking meditative state so the emotional response to external stimuli is changed and you once again have agency over your reaction.
When I first began meditating, I had a hard time quieting my mind. It was all too eager to review the meetings and to-do's of the day or was busy thinking about the myriad of things waiting for me to do tomorrow. I first explored meditation apps and they were useful, but my environment was a trigger for me. I could still see the laundry and dishes that needed to be done, and my computer to send 'just one more email' was in close proximity. I found the apps to be a great starting point, but after about a month or two, I noticed my mind wandering and drifting, or I was simply falling asleep. While sleep was welcome, it's not truly the point of meditation and you don't reap as many benefits.
I needed a change of scenery, a set time and the support of a guide to help me overcome my barriers to stillness and present moment participation. The instructor provided cues and instructions on how to handle a racing mind, how to reduce physical discomfort and bodily aches & pains, and how to breathe. I didn't realize my breathing was so shallow (likely due to trapped emotions, stress and trauma) until I began meditating. I now had a time and place in which to give myself relief. I also had accountability as it cost money to attend and if I registered and no-showed, I forfeit my payment, and knew I would disappoint the instructor. These three things: 1) dedicated place & time outside my home; 2) accountability; and 3) guidance were critical ingredients to my learning. Over time I was able to take the tools I learned from my guide and transfer the knowledge into a rich, nourishing self-practice back in my home.
The difference: I could be in my home - fully aware of the emotions, mess, triggers, to-do's, etc. - but had rewired my biochemical response through the year-long guided meditation process, and could now meditate with greater ease and comfort DESPITE my triggers. This is true empowerment!