Frequently asked questions
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation is a technique involving focused attention, in which one concentrates on a single object or experience. (For example, a simple meditation would be to focus on your breathing.) While there are different forms of meditation, most have a similar goal; to quiet the mind.
Meditation is a tool for discovering the body’s inner intelligence, and can help reset and rebalance your physiology, particularly one that is wracked with stress. Meditation helps cultivate mindfulness so we can make more conscious choices and learn to get off the “hamster wheel” of life.
Is meditation religious?
No, meditation is not a religious practice, and does not conflict with any family or cultural beliefs. Sometimes people make the assumption meditation is religious because meditative practices are found in many of the word’s faiths, but chanting, dancing, music and drumming, are also found in certain religions, yet that doesn’t make these practices inherently religious. It is the same with meditation. You don’t have to be religious or have spiritual aspirations to practice meditation. And if you are religious, you can practice meditation without any conflict to your faith or doctrine.
Will I need to change my lifestyle when I practice? For example, will I have to become vegetarian or do yoga?
There are no major lifestyle changes that are required with meditation. The only new thing you will need to add is to allow time in your schedule to meditate. Other than that, any changes in your life will come naturally.
I have too many thoughts, how can I possibly meditate?
It is ok to have thoughts during meditation. It’s a natural part of the process. We measure the effects of our meditation not on how “blissed out” we are, but on how we feel the rest of the day. It’s important to remember there is no such thing as a bad meditation.
When should I meditate?
The best times to meditate are first thing in the morning, and at the end of the activity part of your day, which ideally means when you come home from work or finish school, etc. Specifically, this means between 5 am and 7 am, and 5pm and 7pm. That said, in these modern times of shift work and after work errands any time you can find in your schedule to meditate is beneficial. If you do meditate right before bed, just notice if you are falling asleep during your practice, or if conversely after your practice you are then too energized to sleep. If either of these things happen you may want to push your meditation practice back a little earlier.
What can happen when I meditate?
There are many different experiences you may have when you meditate. You may fall asleep. You may have lots of thoughts and feel restless, you might have physical reactions like tingly hands or you may slip into a level of peace and silence. You may also have no discernible reactions. Any experience you have is ok, because it is what is best for you at that time.
While it’s interesting to talk about our experiences, we try not to put too much emphasis on what happens during meditation. Instead, focus on noticing the changes that happen during the other hours of the day. Are you more patient? Do you feel more energetic? Are you getting a better quality of sleep?
Have the benefits of meditation been scientifically documented?
A resounding yes! The last few years have seen a volume of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of meditation. The most lauded of these was a study from Mass General which took MRI scans of participants before and after 8 weeks of meditation. Post meditation results showed areas in the brain associated with stress (the amygdala) shrunk while the area associated with memory and learning, the grey matter (hippocampus) increased. These results were only from practicing meditation for half an hour each day for 8 weeks.
Rather than being a fringe treatment, meditation is now widely known and accepted by the scientific community, and promoted by the medical community. Extensive research has shown the benefits of meditation on a wide range of medical conditions and mind / body physiology.
What are your credentials?
I am a certified accredited meditation instructor with the Chopra Center, California where I studied meditation and the Vedic Arts under founders Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon. In order to remain current I attend re-certification every 2 years. I also have an Honours BA from York University and I previously worked as a corporate liaison in the financial sector, where I designed training and coaching courses. In addition, I was the Artistic Director of my own dance academy, where mindfulness and empowerment were a huge part of the curriculum and culture. Over the years, I have taught in many diverse places, including federal penitentiaries, veterans residences and kindergarten classrooms.
I have also been meditating for over 20 years.
Can children practice meditation?
Yes, teaching children meditation gives them a wonderful tool for life. Meditation can be taught to children from approximately the age of 4 and up. Generally for the younger child it is about a minute of meditation for the age of the child; up to about 10 to 15 minutes for young teens.
Children should never be forced to meditate, just gently introduce it to them, and allow them to take what they need. All children can benefit from meditation, including those with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
Why should a child meditate?
There are very few of us who are not exposed to stress in the fast pace of our modern world, and children are no exception. With the advance of technological stimuli and hectic schedules, children are experiencing greater levels of stress and anxiety at younger and younger ages. Meditation for children can help reduce anxiety, and regulate emotions. Teaching children meditation gives them a life skill that will help them not only cope, but thrive in our changing world. There are many benefits to a meditation practice. It strengthens the immune system and improves memory, focus and concentration.