Meditation has an image problem. Every time we mention we are opening a meditation studio named Deep Belly we get one of two responses “oh that’s a cool name” or an imitation of the familiar cross-legged lotus pose, hands held upwards with thumb and forefingers touching, dramatic breaths in and out and of course a stereotypical OM. No meditation imitation would be complete without an OM.  Typically, the imitation lotus poses come from middle aged women, the men, especially older men just grimace uncomfortably, and the younger generation think it’s epic or sick and are ready to come experience Deep Belly as soon as we open.

The mixed bag of responses obviously has a lot to do with each person’s exposure to meditation. The younger generation have grown up with a plethora of studies finding for meditation or as the scientific community frequently likes to call it “mindfulness.”  Study after study boast the benefits for improving your heart health, decreasing cognitive decline, improving your body’s response to infection, reducing cell aging and most needed nowadays with stress levels at all-time highs, helping people cope with stress, pain, anxiety and depression.

Without all the science to back up the benefits, exposure to meditation for the older generation was found through less secular means, which meant joining a new religion, a cult or becoming a part of the hippie counterculture. Too often, the best coping tools people from that generation could hope for were alcohol, cigarettes and bottling up their emotions.

Falling somewhere in the continuum between the young and the old generations my exposure to meditation came as a way to deal with excessive stress which liked to rear its ugly head as anxiety and occasionally full-fledged panic. I even walked a fine line to becoming agoraphobic at one time, and it was then that I knew I had to find a coping mechanism that would permanently help me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not touting meditation as a panacea, but when I began practicing meditation in conjunction with more balanced choices in my life like eating right, getting enough sleep, knowing my limitations, exercising, being moderate in consumption of so called “bad” things, the results were profound.  The panic subsided, the agoraphobia receded, and the anxiety became more situational rather than a daily occurrence. With consistent daily meditative practice, I have found that it takes an inordinate amount of stress now to topple my typical calm state. Things that would have sent me in to a tailspin before don’t hold the same sway. However, I still dislike the dentist. That may be a lifelong project for me.

Besides the obvious relaxation benefits of meditation though, I have also learned to sit still long enough to just be. What I mean by being is just sitting still in a chair, not in lotus position and not even in yoga gear, and yes with thoughts, some days even frenzied thoughts. At 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day it’s futile to try to stop your thoughts, in fact you can’t. Even anesthetized we still dream, so it’s safe to say if your thoughts stop you are pretty much a goner. So, I suspect since you are still reading this you are very much alive and could benefit from just being. It sounds crazy, aren’t we always being? Sadly no, too many people are doing, not being, and have no down time for themselves. It’s always about something else, the kids, work, school, friends, the family, making money, appearing happy, perfect, beautiful, tough, cool, being a good mom, dad, honor student, CEO, and the list goes on and on. With this non-stop pressure to always be doing, we miss sitting in silence with ourselves and listening to what’s in our hearts. We miss finding what makes us happy and following the path to discovering our ultimate joy.

And joy is something that we all can have, it’s not just a seasonal thing. It’s a learning to be thing. It’s a meditation thing.

So, come help rebuild the image of meditation. One where meditation is for everyone, not only those who can sit in the lotus position, or who believe in a specific religion, or who wear fashionable yoga tights or are the right age, sex, color, identity, ethnicity, orientation, or body size. Because meditation is for everyone. Deep Belly is for everyone.

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