In my last post on mindful meditation, I mentioned that it’s surprising how long only a few minutes of breathing meditation feels. And it’s true. Sitting still, actively not acting, focusing only on your breath, acknowledging and then dismissing thoughts is hard! It’s hard to not let yourself think about all of the things you have to do or all of the things that might have gotten under your skin recently. It’s like when you’re supposed to be working on a literature review and you realize you just spent 20 minutes mindlessly reading Facebook statuses; emphasis on the mindless aspect.
Though I’ve been wanting to devote more time to meditation, I just haven’t been making the effort. I know this is going to sound absurd, but focusing on relaxing often feels like one more thing on the long list of things that I already have to do (especially these past couple of weeks). Thankfully, a conversation with a friend reinvigorated my desire to attempt to practice meditation more frequently. She told me that all you need is 12 minutes of meditation each day for it to be really effective – that’s half of an episode of New Girl on Hulu! I can (usually) do that!
Of course, I had to know more about this 12-minute factoid. It’s my nature to look these things up, not because I don’t trust my friends’ information, but because I don’t want to inundate them with endless why and how questions. Like, why 12 minutes, but not 10 or 14? Well, I never did find the answer to why 12 minutes versus some other number of minutes makes a difference, but I did learn some other cool things. In a study* published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 15 people who were struggling with memory issues practiced Kirtan Kriya meditation daily for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, those who practiced Kirtan Kriya had statistically significant improvements in cerebral blood flow and cognition (performed better on tests, reported better memory and attention) compared to a group of people who listened to Mozart for 12 minutes each day (not sure what this says about Mozart, hopefully he isn’t rolling in his unmarked grave at St. Marx Cemetery).
So, after some research, I was convinced that meditation is beneficial, but I still had no idea what, exactly, Kirtan Kriya is. Thank goodness for Google. Kirtan Kriya is a meditation from the practice of Kundalini Yoga**. To practice Kirtan Kriya, chant the syllables sa, ta, na, ma.
- SA is the beginning, infinity, the totality of everything that ever was, is or will be.
- TA is life, existence and creativity that manifests from infinity.
- NA is death, change and the transformation of consciousness.
- MA is rebirth, regeneration and resurrection which allows us to consciously experience the joy of the infinite.
In essence, birth, life, death, rebirth.
I have not tried Kirtan Kriya, though I probably will try it out some time. Perhaps practicing a chanting meditation will help to keep me on task. What I have discovered is the broad range of free guided meditation podcasts available on iTunes (and also directly available on various meditation websites). I’m still trying some out, but I’ll be sure to write about those which I find particularly helpful as I continue my journey in learning to be still.
*Newberg AB, Wintering N, Khalsa DS, Roggenkamp H, Waldman MR. 2010. “Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function and Cerebral Blood Flow In Subjects with Memory Loss: A Preliminary Study.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 20(2): 517-526.