Meditation for Longevity
by Brett Cotter
The International Journal of Neuroscience published a study showing the cells of people that meditate looked 12 years younger under a microscope than their actual age. The most extreme example was a highly experienced meditator with a 27-year biological age reduction.
A recent study showed a biological age reduction in the immune cells that fight the aging process after a three-week meditation retreat. After three weeks of meditation, our DNA changes, so we age slower. Meditators also have 87 percent fewer hospitalizations for heart disease than non-meditators.
The easiest way to start meditating is to set aside five minutes a day. Turn off any distractions, sit or lie down on the back with eyes closed, placing one hand on the heart and the other on the belly button. Start breathing deeply and slowly, feeling the air flow in and out of the body, and silently saying the mantra, “I’m okay,” once per breath. Over time, we will feel our heart rate slow, emotions balance and worrisome thoughts float away.
After completing a consistent week of practice increase the five-minute meditations to 10 minutes. Continue until reaching 20 minutes a day, and after a consistent week, add a second five-minute meditation, increasing time at the same rate. The goal after two months of consistent practice is building up to two, 20-minute meditations per day in the a.m. and p.m. This level of practice opens a gateway of self-healing, self-awareness and inner peace that cultivates acceptance, self-love and happiness.
Can’t stop thinking: This is normal. Repeat the “I’m okay” mantra or visualize the thoughts as clouds fading away into a blue sky. If thoughts persist, write them down.
Feeling too anxious: Express everything that’s upsetting us, identify the one thing that is most upsetting, express the worst-case scenario, express our biggest fear about the worst-case scenario and embrace the emotion by touching the area of tension in the body. Then close the eyes, breathe deeply and slowly, and repeat the mantra once per breath.
Can’t sit still: Put on some soft music and get on the ground. Do one or two very soft, slow stretches to open the tension, breathing deep and slow, using the mantra and holding the stretch until the tension releases.
Take the Practice to the Next Level
Manage stress: When we get upset, listen to the thoughts as if we are listening to a radio. Then identify with the part of ourself that is observing the reaction, not the part reacting. Buddhists call this “observer consciousness”. Stop the reaction by breathing deeply and slowly, and silently saying “I’m okay,” once per breath. Repeat until the tension is gone.
Heal trauma: When painful memories come to mind, try lying down, closing the eyes and continue breathing deeply and slowly throughout the exercise. Hold the memory in mind, move the hands to wherever we feel tension and let the memory play out to the most stressful moment. Pause the memory and visualize ourself inside the memory, breathing deep and slow once per breath, calmly saying, “I’m okay.” Continue until the tension releases from the memory and the body. This can take a number of minutes.
Adjust the mantra: For a more spiritual experience, use, “I am eternal.” For depression, try, “I am lifeforce.” For anxiety, “All of my affairs are in divine order.” For fear, “I am cared for.” For processing the loss of a loved one, “I am okay here, and (insert name) is okay over there.”
Apps to jumpstart a practice: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Aura and Stress Is Gone. Each have useful features, so try them all.
Brett Cotter is a stress relief coach who helps people quickly heal stress, anxiety and trauma. He is certified by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, accredited by the International Mindfulness & Meditation Alliance, and his method is certified by the American Institute of Stress. Brett was trained by a 35th-Generation Shaolin grandmaster and the Himalayan Institute. Learn more about his coaching at StressIsGone.com.