Connecting to your essence.
Published: May 26, 2012
by Sarah McLean
Finding peace in meditation.
Whether we are busy working moms, celebrities, judges, physicians or average Janes trying to make it in this world, we all want the same things: happiness, peace, fulfillment and love. In the following Q&A with HealYourLife.com, author Sarah McLean explains how becoming more Soul-Centered will lead us to all we desire.
How did meditation transform your life?
I was a sad, stressed, confused young woman, and I searched everywhere—even traveling to other continents—to find peace and relief. When I finally found meditation, it was the key to transforming my life- from one of suffering and pain to one of inner fulfillment. My meditation practice helped me to know who I really am, what I truly want, and find that peace I had always been searching “out there.” I am certainly living a fulfilling life now, and have been for years– a peaceful, satisfying and magical life- one beyond my wildest dreams!
Is it really possible for someone to transform his or her life in eight weeks with meditation?
Absolutely. Research proves it. Studies show that those who meditate almost 30 minutes a day on average, for eight weeks, have measurable changes in brain regions associated with their memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress response. In a study that appeared in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, one of the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. Less stress, more empathy, and a greater sense of self would change anyone’s life. And that’s only the beginning of the transformations that can occur.
What does Soul-Centered mean and how did you come up with that for the title of the book?
I came up with the term “soul-centered” to describe a shift in perspective which meditation cultivates: a transformation of the vantage point for one’s life. I’ve seen it in my students and in my own life. And there wasn’t a word for it.
With daily meditation, you connect to your essence, your awareness, or what some people call “the soul.” Though it’s always been there, meditation helps you to experience the soul’s qualities: peacefulness, stillness, creativity, wisdom, awareness, acceptance and more self-awareness on purpose. This gives you a moment of respite from the external world. Eventually, these soul qualities radiate outward.
With this practice, this soul’s connection becomes more prevalent in your awareness - no longer overshadowed by external conditions. This transforms your perspective. So when you go to answer the question “How are you?” you don’t look toward externals. Instead, your reference point is internal. You check in. This is what being soul-centered means.
Meditation seems to be becoming more mainstream. Celebrities do it, basketball coaches like Phil Jackson have their teams meditate. Oprah has her staff meditate. What are some of the benefits?
There are many different ways to meditate, perhaps hundreds. I often say that the best meditation is the one that you do. The practice of meditation is like brushing your teeth. You do it because you like the way it makes you feel right away, and you know it has long-term benefits. You don’t hem and haw each day to determine if you are going to do it. You simply do it.
Research shows countless benefits of meditation: stress reduction, improvement with sleeping, lowered blood pressure, increased blood flow, decreased respiratory rate. It relieves anxiety, depression and even improves your job performance and relationships. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation. There is really no good reason NOT to meditate. It’s always a good time to start your daily practice.
In terms of different kinds of meditation, I believe the simpler, the better. I generally find there are meditation practices, and then there are meditative practices. Each requires two things: your attention, and a focus for your attention. For instance, meditation practices can include focusing on your breath, a mantra, or a candle flame. Meditative practices can include focusing on an activity such as a walking meditation, or a prayer, and can include a visualization practice.
The research about the brain changing in eight weeks was based on a simple mindfulness meditation, paying attention to the movement of the breath and sensations in the body in sitting meditation. There are some differences in how the brain and the body respond to meditation and meditative practices. However, the most important thing is to choose a practice and do it regularly.
When she’s not writing, teaching, or meditating, Sarah loves to hike the hills of Sedona with her husband and two rescued pups, Rudy and Gigi.