Meditation lives within present awareness. In a meditative state, we promote flexibility in our brain by creating new neural pathways, meaning, through complete presence, we change our brain.
Through this practice, we literally outgrow outdated habits and develop new ways of living, all by training our brain to be strong and supple. This is the process of increasing neuroplasticity — developing new pathways in the brain — and this is the healing power of meditation.
👇🏽 Click on the video for a guided meditation, which is an introduction to mindful embodiment, conscious breathing, and training of the mind. It can also be used as a preparation for a longer meditation by simply remaining in silent meditation through the closing of this video.
Integrating the Separated Self
When we develop new pathways in the brain, we heal the patterns that have been stored in us from the past by creating the potential for new. In a meditative state, we light up our entire brain, connecting the left and right brain while connecting ourselves — integrating all aspects of ourselves that we’ve been cut off from for different reasons:
Trauma. Guilt. Shame. Fear. Denial of unwanted parts of ourselves that parents, partners, friends, or media — society — deemed as unlikable or shameful because they told us this, with their actions, with or without their words.
Rejecting parts of ourselves ultimately means a rejection of ourselves in whole. This disconnects us from ourselves, and this is the most fundamental source of illness.
This segregation within ourselves is why we can feel unseen or unheard, even when we actually are because we aren’t expressing our whole selves. Consciously, or unconsciously, we don’t feel completely authentic.
It is because of this separation within ourselves that we can feel a void, deep loneliness, that needs to be filled with another person, work, status or prestige, or food, alcohol, smoking, and so on.
This separation from our whole selves leaves us deeply unsettled, and therefore, the integration of all aspects of ourselves — both desirable and undesirable — is the most fundamental aspect in our healing, our power, our freedom.
This is liberation: when we have nothing to hide from ourselves or from others, when we are aware and in love with the whole of ourselves, only then can we feel truly expressed and in service and love with others and the world around us.
The Power of Presence, Awareness & Acceptance
But to do this, we have to bring all of the aspects of self into the light, and the most effective way to do this is through presence, awareness, and acceptance. In case you’re seeking change for the world at large or within your own life or improvement in your health, acceptance doesn’t mean that change isn’t possible, but rather that change isn’t possible without our awareness and acceptance of what presently is.
This may sound paradoxical, that “acceptance is the prerequisite for change,” (Tara Brach) but only through acceptance of this moment as it is, with the sensations or emotions that arise, do we allow a softening into presence, to feel the nuances within what we perceive as discomfort or pain, to be with ourselves as we are in each moment as gentle and compassionate observers and caretakers.
In this sense, we permit this momentary reality to shift because allowance is expansive whereas resistance against the whole of ourselves, our sensations, our thoughts and feelings in their momentary existence, is restrictive. In turn, we reject ourselves; we create the need for escape or numbing; we experience contraction, stress, shame, fear, or guilt, and when we remain in this resistance, we set the stage for illness.
In a state of acceptance, we give ourselves the ground for investigation of our internal worlds. We give ourselves the peace of observation without judgment, to train ourselves to experience our external world with less reaction, and this creates space to be able to pause, act, and speak with clear intention. This equanimity — to be grounded, centered, in rest or action rather than reaction — provides a solid foundation necessary for us to live in health, balance, and serenity within our experience of our external world.
To radically accept even gives us stability and freedom despite our external world as well as offers insight, by sparing us from the stress response that limits our higher-functioning brain and body-mind. Acceptance aids us to actively define and uphold our personal boundaries that in turn, shift the world around us, within our direct experience and influence.
This is the foundation for social change — it begins within and ripples into the world at large.
This is where our power lies with our own health. This is where it lies within social health. This is how we can change our limiting thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that have been shaped by our external world. This is how we can change that world that has shaped us for better and worse — by first becoming aware of and embracing what we and our world currently are, ugliness and all.
We can’t change something we ignore. We can’t consciously change that which we cannot see. We can’t intentionally change our unconscious mind until it becomes conscious.
Presence shines the light of awareness, and acceptance rests into this awareness, where we discover clarity, our wholeness, our soul, that illuminates and motivates any action required of us.
This is meditation.
Resting into presence in this moment, here and now, is the most powerful medicine we have.
Distinguishing between Meditation & Mindfulness
Mindfulness is focused: when we’re guided by someone. When we focus on our breathing. When we’re counting. When we use tools to loosen our grip on our thoughts and daydreams. These tools prepare us and lead us into the meditative state.
Depending on the tradition and whom we talk to, there are varying definitions of meditation versus mindfulness. Many say that meditation only lasts a certain amount of time. Some say that we can carry meditation with us anywhere we go through anything we do. Here I propose that meditation is resting into presence, and that mindfulness is actively focused.
I offer this distinction because each state impacts the brain differently — expansive presence lights the entire brain; it secures and broadens the connective tissue between the left and right brain and therefore integrates our ability to access their functions, and in this state, allows trauma from the past to heal. The “I” dissolves into everything and nothing, into a state of no mind.
Mindfulness, a focused awareness, activates the left brain, sharpens our ability to concentrate, acts as a tool to bring us into the present moment where we are free from our past and future and any trauma from the past that is stored in our body or mind. It gives us instant access to calming the nervous system.
I distinguish the two states because personally I feel a difference. I can focus presence on the tip of my nose and my awareness on my breath moving in and out. In the beginning, I may need to continually bring my focus back to the tip of my nose or observing my breath, but with practice and time, I no longer have to focus, and in turn, I expand beyond “I.” I am the presence. I am the awareness itself.
In those moments of what I’ll define here as meditation, there is a greater silence, stillness, expansion, and restoration. This is called the fourth state of consciousness, distinct from sleeping, dreaming, and awake.
Meditation & Mindfulness Methods
When we apply these definitions to meditation and mindfulness, if you just sit and “try to meditate,” what is your mind doing? Are thoughts running wild, and does this make a meditation practice less appealing or even frustrating?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Do you notice a difference in ease and relaxation depending on the time of day that you sit in meditation?
👉🏾 Begin with a seated or lying meditation practice just after awakening or before sleep as the mind is more relaxed in a theta state — the frequency in the meeting of the subconscious and conscious mind. Developing a meditation practice is typically suggested as a cornerstone of a bedtime or morning routine because this is when it’s least demanding.
Another way to simplify resting into present awareness, where the space between you and your thoughts is greater, when the space between the thoughts is longer, when there is deep stillness, silence, and powerful restoration, is to practice any of the following (this list is far from exhaustive):
👉🏾 Focused breathing such as pranayama.
👉🏾 Returning presence and awareness to a focal point such as in Anapana.
👉🏾 Scanning the body such as in Yoga Nidra or Vipassana.
You may then discover moments of resting in meditation, when no focus is necessary, and if not, the mindfulness practice gives a point of focus to return to when the mind wanders (as it loves to do).
The point of yoga as the modern world knows it — the physical practice — is to prepare the body for meditation (Savasana). Pranayama, and other breathwork practices, offer as a tool for deeper meditation as well.
Anything can be done mindfully: taking a walk, playing a sport, writing or reading, in conversation, cooking, and eating. Anything. We do so by being completely immersed, with focused awareness, in each moment. This is also what we may call and experience as “flow” or a flow state.
We often consciously begin to learn mindfulness while doing nothing else to hone our mindfulness skills, and to intensify our conscious experience of mindfulness into a meditative state. We do this while seated, lying, or walking. Herein we may take advantage of the mindfulness practice to focus on our emotions, to become more emotionally integrated and intelligent. We may be mindful of our thoughts and relationship to them, in training to become the master of our minds. It’s endless what we can focus on or envision mindfully.
We may be mindful of our breathing or being embodied, because they are potent preparations to ease us into a meditative state, and because embodiment, and breathwork, provide a long list of other health benefits.
Embodiment & Breathwork Benefits
Because Jyllin.com mostly focuses on reducing the causes and symptoms of chronic stress, we want the breath to be gentle and easy. There are times for more activated breathing practices (to create acute stress in building resilience, which is for more experienced practitioners and can be harmful depending on various health complications) but for those of us with tense nervous systems, we need to begin by taking the pressure off of ourselves. Gentle, conscious breathing is an incredible tool for this!
👉🏼 Consciously slowing and smoothing the breath impacts the entire body by slowing down the heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing stress hormones as thoughts naturally become less distressing with this breathing.
👉🏼 Elongating exhales to twice the length of inhales stimulates the vagus nerve. This acts as an automatic brake on the sympathetic nervous system, which repairs stress-effects, such as reducing inflammation, strengthening brain-gut communication, and increasing positive emotions and social connection. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a systemic, and therefore, potent treatment for many health conditions that stem from chronic stress and trauma.
To be embodied means to consciously be in our body, to feel our body, to know our body from within. The simplest way out of a stress response, and to find our way out of chronic stress patterns, is to get into our bodies. This is also a powerful tool for healing trauma.
Our body is our unconscious mind. All memories and emotions are stored in our bodies! When we take our consciousness into our bodies, we make the unconscious conscious. We can then intentionally embrace ourselves in full awareness. This is the process of knowing our whole selves, to be able to listen to our body that already knows how to care for itself.
The meditation here is intentionally only ten minutes so time isn’t an issue — and beginning with shorter meditations is helpful for those with a history of trauma — and it isn’t too challenging when beginning to practice. Again, feel free to stay and enjoy a longer meditation as feels appropriate when using the video.
Let us know how it works for you by commenting here, or keep in touch by subscribing below.
Jyllin is an integrative health coach and creator of the Holistic Liberation Method that repatterns chronic stress in the body, mind, beliefs, emotions, and lifestyle. Learn more about Jyllin and The Holistic Liberation Programs.