Competitive meditation: We just made it a thing

Lynne and I are both a little competitive, but we like that about each other. It’s fun to compete at Ticket to Ride, arm wrestling, and parallel parking, so of course we found a way to compete at having the best brain waves. Because, why not.

What— you haven’t heard of competitive meditating? Counter-intuitive, you say? We must be creative geniuses and intolerable pills of people to even invent such a thing? Yes.

I purchased the Muse biofeedback headband for Lynne’s 40th birthday. I’ve been using it myself and forcing encouraging our children to use it. The headband listens to our brain waves as we listen to relaxing beach/rainforest/city/desert sounds. As our minds get distracted and busy, the sounds get louder, reminding us to calm down, and when we get really calm, we faintly hear birds. The app counts up how many birds chirped congrats at our calmness, and it tracks progress. Lynne hates it. (Possibly because I’m winning.)

I find that the headband helps me meditate better than without it and Lynne has seen gains in her ability to control her mind. She’s also been using the app Streaks to keep motivated on her main goals.

If you’re not already  meditating regularly, you’re not as healthy or happy as you could be.

After (almost reluctantly) realizing that the yoga she was doing as physical therapy was helping her emotions and increasing her compassion, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar began studying meditation and yoga’s effects on the brain. Research reveals that meditation shrinks the amygdala (fear centre), and grows the hippocampus (memory, cognition, emotional regulation). And there’s more!

(According to an infographic on the internet, meditation even reduces your chances of getting HIV. I’d like to see the controlled double-blind study for that one: “Sign up for our study wherein you will be exposed to the HIV virus. Our ethics committee said it’s fine.” I guess, if you’re meditating all the time instead of having sex or doing drugs….)

I resisted meditation for years. My brain was frenzied with overactive thought, which I attributed to being so damn smart. (Not so smart a conclusion.) Years of anxiety-provoking events had built up enough generalized anxiety within me that my family asked me to conduct an intervention on myself. A friend recommended a guided meditation by philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris. A few minutes in, I felt tempted to pull my own hair out to distract myself from my restless mind and tense body. But as I persisted, Sam’s emotionless, neutral voice calmed me into a massive revelation: Up to that point in time, I was never relaxed unless I was asleep.

Meditation changed my personality so much that my family was like,

omg-ralph-threes-company

I began effortlessly giving my full attention to people speaking to me and to tasks at hand. It made me a better worker, partner, and parent.

I am convinced that every workplace should prioritize meditation spaces and breaks for all employees. Guided meditations are great starting points, and Muse is especially great if you’re someone who likes performance feedback or feels anxiety about whether or not you’re doing something the “right” way. But if you’re left unconvinced, this video will impress you, and you get to see a newscaster have a panic attack on air, which makes your gaffes this week pale in comparison.

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