Beth Lipton is a writer and certified health coach. She is a contributing editor at Clean Plates.
Have you ever had an experience where you meet a person, and soon realize that you’ve met them at the precise moment in your life that you needed them?
It was fall 2015, and I was going through one of the most stressful periods of my life. Essentially everything was in a state of emergency, from tension in my marriage to issues with my then-6-year-old child, to strife and uncertainty at work, and my elderly mother’s sudden onset of illnesses.
I was pretty much at my limit.
It was at the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference in Pasadena, which I was covering as a journalist, where I wandered into Emily’s meditation talk after lunch and everything changed.
Finding the Meditation Right For Me
Meditation was on my radar; it was bubbling up as a trend in the wellness world. I had read Dan Harris’ book 10 Percent Happier and had experimented a little, mostly in the form of listening to a guided meditation every day. But I wasn’t sensing much of a difference, and secretly I thought I was incapable of meditating for real. I’m very energetic (OK, annoyingly fidgety), and though I thought meditation was interesting, I also have a really hard time getting into anything that feels remotely self-help-y or spiritual.
At the risk of sounding hokey or woo woo, it felt like destiny sitting in that conference room, listening to Emily’s rare combination of expertise, empathy, warmth, and humor, as she talked about how meditation helps improve performance, tap into brain power and — most importantly for me in that moment — manage stress. She touched on things that mattered so much to me personally — like approaching the world with a sense of kindness, and the need to fill your own cup before you can serve others. And along with all the wisdom she dropped on me in that hour-long talk, she also led the group in a brief meditation, and it was more powerful than anything I had done on my own before.
A week or so later, I interviewed Emily for a magazine story, and while chatting afterwards, she invited me to sign up for her 4-day in-person meditation course. I set aside all of my self-doubt and preconceived notions and did it.
In the 3-plus years since then, I’ve become a dedicated meditator, twice a day for 20 minutes at a pop. I’m not perfect; there have been days that I’ve missed the second meditation (though never both), days I’ve only had 10 minutes instead of 20 for one of them, and there are times I do my afternoon meditation on the subway because that’s the only time I have. But, as Emily says, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” (See what I mean about her?)
Someone recently asked me how I’m able to find the time to do it when I run a busy small business, care for my kid, keep up my relationship (it’s much better now, thanks), take care of my mom, manage my home, work out every day, and all the other things that I do—which probably sounds a lot like all the things you do. The answer is: I don’t know how I would manage all of it without meditation.
Meditation has given me the ability to really focus, more patience (I’ll never be what anyone would describe as a very patient person, but the improvement is marked), and the ability to be in the moment. I don’t react emotionally to things as much, there’s a sense of taking a beat and seeing the whole picture. Problem solving is easier. as is sleep. And there’s so much more — meditation has brought so many gifts into my life, and all I’ve had to do is get my butt into a chair and repeat a mantra to myself for 20 minutes twice a day.
Meditation doesn’t remove stress from your life; nothing can do that. It gives you the ability to manage it better. You become the conductor of the orchestra of your life, instead of always feeling like the third-tier violinist who got the sheet music five minutes before the performance.
“We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.”
Just as Emily brought her irresistible energy and passion to her talk, she does the same in her new book Stress Less, Accomplish More.
There’s neuroscience and Ayurveda and deep breathing exercises and other seemingly esoteric things — but everything is framed within subjects that are immediate and relevant to all of us: How stress is prematurely aging us, all the illnesses we think are just part of life but are actually linked to stress (depression and anxiety, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.), the financial and opportunity costs of the things we often use to medicate ourselves against stress, like alcohol, “retail therapy,” binge-watching TV, medications. If you want to meditate because you heard it can help you lose weight or have better sex — that’s in there too.
What’s never lost in Stress Less, Accomplish More is the why of meditation. As Emily writes: “We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.”
One of the things I found most useful about the course was that, along with teaching us a very straightforward method of meditation, Emily identified the many roadblocks, mishaps, and misunderstandings that can happen — and solutions for them as well. She does the same in the book. She explains her technique simply but thoroughly, then essentially offers up a FAQ to pre-troubleshoot for you.
You come away from Stress Less, Accomplish More ready to meditate, with a simple technique, and the confidence to know that you’re not doing it “wrong.” It gives you the tools to become a meditator, with plenty of solid information and scientific references — but it reads like a talk with a friend instead of a medical text or self-help book.
If you are curious about meditation, if you’ve tried it before and given up, if you think meditation is silly but you’re drowning in stress — hell, if you just want to lose weight or have better sex — I can’t encourage you enough to read Stress Less, Accomplish More. This is a book that can truly improve your life, in a real and sustainable way.
Get the book: Stress Less, Accomplish More; $23
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