Why I Chose Meditation for My February 10-Minute Daily Challenge

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When I wrote my last post, I hadn’t yet decided on what I’d do for my February 10-Minute Daily Challenge. A part of me wanted to do something fun, like learning to play a song or two on an instrument or brushing up on my French (lately, I’m a bit obsessed with going to France). And, alas, there are the ever-present cleaning chores, which I don’t love before I do them but always adore afterwards.

Any of these and dozens of others would be great for my soul. But there’s another thing that I really need to do, to try to reprogram a bit of physiological stuckness.

Here’s some background. You’ve likely heard of the sympathetic nervous system, but know it as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. It’s that part of our innate, autonomic physiology that stimulates hormonal reactions to perceived or sensed dangers, thereby causing our hearts and lungs to speed their rhythms, our pupils to dilate, our skin to flush. If necessary, these things can also help us run like the wind. And in most people, once perceived threats have passed (we’ve given our speeches or the family of bears has walked away), our systems calm back down through another set of responses, the parasympathetic system, or ‘rest and digest.’ (To learn more, see this, which explains it well and not too clinically, from Harvard Medical School.)

When I first started going to Doc nearly a year ago, he told me that my vagus nerve wasn’t functioning properly. The vagus nerve is significant to the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, the ‘rest and digest’ part. And for years–for as long as I can remember, really–I have always had a sense of disquiet, a vague unease that rarely goes away. Magnesium helps take the edge off of it and I think for most of my adult life, I hoped that a glass of wine or a cocktail would, too. But it’s always been there. My body, it seems, is in a constant state of over-stimulation, pumping out too many stress hormones. Over time, this constant revving actually exhausts the system, weakening the adrenal gland, too, which messes with hormones. Along with my gut issues, the overabundance of stress hormones and lack of parasympathetic balance may have contributed to my autoimmune issues.

Doc’s tried to unknot some of this, but I think I now understand a bit better what it is that I need to do, too. With my gut seeming to be on the mend, it’s time to turn to healing my unbalanced nervous system. And to do that, I have to come to terms with a deep and old issue that, while benign, manifests itself in my body as extreme fear. To help you understand how extreme this can be, imagine that you’re allergic to bees, but it’s not just the sting of a bee that causes a physical reaction but, rather, the mere thought of bees that’s enough to cause a response. That’s the sort of overreaction that I experience throughout my body, even when this thing is a fleeting thought.

For decades, I’ve dabbled in meditation and always felt some benefits but at some point, I always get distracted and my ‘practice’ crumbles. And when I started to see Doc, for a short time, I also restarted meditation, but with so many other changes in my life (diet, supplements, no sugar or caffeine or coffee-love or booze), it fell by the wayside while I dealt with making those other changes stick.

Recently, though–specifically, as I’ve been contemplating what to choose for my 10-Minute Daily Challenge–meditation came up again as a possibility. But it was only in the last day or so that I realized it’s not just meditation that I need to do. I need to do a very, very specific 10-minute daily meditation on the thing that causes me to have this totally overboard physical reaction even when there’s no provocation.

So, for 28 straight days, I’m going to meditate on this and only this. According to studies (summarized a bit in this article in Scientific American), meditation can help reduce the amygdala, which is at the base of sympathetic nervous-system response, while also helping our brains more effectively separate real threats from those to which our bodies and minds over-react. With a mitigated sympathetic response, maybe it’ll leave more room for my parasympathetic system to re-emerge or strengthen.

So, while I’d love to be fluent in French and talk about so-and-so’s je ne sais quoi in my ludicrously clean home, what I really need to do is get over this hurdle, this hump, this stuckness that is so undeserved all around and that could be preventing further healing.

Can 10 minutes of meditation help? Can I make friends with these thoughts, even? I hope so. I’ll let you know.

What will you do for the February 10-Minute Challenge?

{Note: These are my own experiences with applied kinesiology, which clearly aren’t meant as medical advice for anyone else. But I know a lot of friends and family members are grappling with a huge variety of autoimmune issues and other ailments, so I’m happy to share my experiences. And if this is your first visit and you’d like to follow chronologically, click here. Otherwise, enjoy!}

Photo credit: Photo by Nandhu Kumar from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/amazing-balance-blur-boulder-312839/

 

 

 

 

 

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