SOUND co-founder, Salim Najjar, is talking today about his experience with meditation and the science behind what it actually does to your body.
Meditation. We hear about it all the time, now even more so in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But is meditation truly effective? And if so, how does it even work? My hope is to help answer these two questions by sharing my personal experience and what I’ve learned through the years.
A little backstory
Those who know me know that I am a high energy guy, which all started about 10 years ago when I decided to change my diet, moving away from heavy carbs and processed foods to “whole foods” (you are what you eat, literally). Once I got a taste of this improved energy from changing what I was eating, I buried my nose in all kinds of books to learn and explore other methods to increase this energy. “The Power of Now” by Echkart Tolle was one of my favorites and completely shifted my perspective of the world as it was the first time I realized that my being (soul) could be separate from my mind. This was the beginning of my “spiritual” path which led me to start practicing yoga. I loved vinyasa classes and found serenity during savasana (laying still on the floor at the end of classes). I was familiar with meditation at this time, however, my mind had me believe that sitting in silence was a total waste of time as I would be more “productive” doing other things. I questioned whether meditation would even bring me any notable benefit, and couldn't grasp adding something else to the never-ending to-do list constantly running through my mind.
I then was introduced to bikram yoga (can I still call it that? 🤨🤷♂️) four years ago and I became totally obsessed. Instructors describe the class as a “moving meditation” and always remind students that the closing pose of savasana is the most important part of class because it is where all the healing takes place. Of course, I would get up as soon as the mandatory two minute savasana ended and quickly exit to get back to that to-do list. At the time, I didn’t realize that one of the reasons I was so obsessed with bikram was because being in a 104 degree room at 50% humidity holding 26 postures for 90 minutes forces your mind to shut off the rest of the world and concentrate on yourself.
What finally got me to start meditating
As I continued reading “self-help” books and biographies on successful entrepreneurs, I started seeing a common theme of mediation amongst them all. The book “Tribe of Mentors” by Tim Ferris was the tipping point for shifting my perspective. Tim sent the same ten questions to his network of 100+ extremely successful people to give readers an insight into their lives. One of the most common habits amongst them all was meditation. At that point I decided I was going to dedicate 20 minutes each day to meditating (or trying to), regardless of my doubts and suspicions.
Why I meditate every day.
The phrase “monkey mind” has been used to describe the 1,000+ thoughts per minute of an average human. That absurd amount of noise keeps our autonomic nervous system (responsible for control of bodily functions not consciously directed) in a sympathetic state (fight or flight), constantly producing adrenaline and spiking cortisol levels. In other words, that busy mind creates excess stress which, at a cellular level, is the root cause of all disease and death (outside of accidents). The ability to quiet these thoughts feels impossible and that’s exactly what my mind had been telling me for all those years. What I’ve learned is we must think of the mind like a muscle that we consistently train day after day to quiet all that noise. We want to keep our bodies in a parasympathetic state (rest and recovery) as much as possible to reduce the harmful effects of excess stress.
Not to mention, meditation can help improve anxiety and depression, and may even improve memory.
Alright, now you understand why meditating is good for you! The other question is: What exactly is happening when you meditate?
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling all of our unconscious bodily functions (think breathing, heartbeat, digestion etc). This system operates in two states: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Each state is associated with a range of brain frequencies (see images below).