• Rusty Harrison, MEd


Success in sitting meditation has nothing to do with your own subjective sense of accomplishment. It is like no other activity on earth. It is the opposite of doing something. Success does not mean having a magical experience. It does not mean becoming blissful or enlightened. Success in sitting meditation is the act of practicing. If you practice and feel like nothing happened, you have still succeeded. If you practice every day for a month and feel like nothing happened, you have still succeeded. Practice is success.

"Regular meditation improves mental and emotional fitness."

Meditation is not an inactive mental state. In fact, it requires sustained, focused attention. Research has shown that structures in the brain are actually transformed through meditation. Among other changes, people who meditate regularly have been found to have a thickening of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain governing attention, concentration, and executive functions (decision making). Regular meditation improves mental and emotional fitness.

There are many schools of meditation. For Aging Heroes, we recommend two meditation strategies, 1) sitting meditation and 2) mindfulness meditation. Below are instructions on how to add sitting meditation into your wellness lifestyle:

Sitting Meditation

1. Clear your schedule for uninterrupted meditation.

2. Choose a space for your practice. Make it comfortable and private.

3. Music with long slow notes played at a low volume can help to calm the mind’s chatter. New Age Spa music is perfect for this.

4. Set an alarm for how ever long you plan to practice so that you don’t need to check the time. Start out with something easy (5 minutes), and work your way up to a daily, 20-minute session.

5. Find a comfortable position. Some people lie down to meditate. I prefer to sit. Lying down can make me sleepy and again, meditation is about focused attention.

6. Take three of four slow, deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. The autonomic nervous system activates the fight or flight stress response. Breathing is a part of the autonomic nervous system over which you have some control. Slow, controlled breathing can actually slow down your heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and reverse the stress response resulting in relaxation.

7. Create an image in your mind that represents the Aging Hero. The defining characteristics of heroes are honor and valor. Now, imagine yourself as the perfect embodiment of these qualities. Fill in the details. How does it feel inside to be the perfect Aging Hero? What expression do you have on your face? What does your posture look like? Burn that image into your mind and hold it there.

8. As you breathe deep and slow, try to keep your mind focused on the image you created.

a. Your mind may wander (a lot). Each time it does, gently bring your attention back to the image of you as the personification of the Aging Hero. If you have to bring your mind back 1000 times, you are still meditating successfully.

b. Allow distracting thoughts to flare and disappear like sparks.

c. Meditation is not about beating your mind into submission. It is about patiently refocusing your attention in a kind and gentle manner.

9. Stay put until your alarm sounds.

"Meditation is the process of putting you in the driver’s seat. Sitting meditation shines a bright light on your relationship with yourself."

The Buddhists compare the mind to a wild monkey that tears around uncontrolled. Note the many ways your monkey mind rebels against the practice of meditation. The more you practice the more you are able to control your mind. In an untrained mind, the monkey runs the show and you are lead around by the nose. Meditation is the process of putting you in the driver’s seat. Sitting meditation shines a bright light on your relationship with yourself.

Now that you have a little info on the practice of sitting meditation, let's talk about mindfulness. Mindfulness is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the practice of being mindful in daily life. In mindfulness meditation, your life is the object of focus. Considering the amazing opportunity we have each been given to live exactly one human life, most of us allow much of the experience to pass without our notice. While brushing our teeth in the morning, we are preoccupied with planning our day. While driving to work, we are thinking about our "to do" list. While doing our work, we are thinking about going home. While home washing dishes, we are thinking about a chance to relax.

"Given that the present is where we will live our entire lives, doesn’t it make sense to drink in the experience for all it is worth?"

Our minds are forever dreaming about the future or ruminating over the past. The truth is, neither the future nor the past is real. All we ever have is the present. Given that the present is where we will live our entire lives, doesn’t it make