Mind Over Matter
Women are discovering the passion and power of their minds
There’s a movement going on, a quiet, deliberate, mindful movement that benefits everyone who participates — and even those who don’t. What’s quietly taking the world by storm? Meditation. While meditation is hardly a new-fangled concept or trend — meditation practices are documented as far back as sixth century BCE. Even earlier: Matt J. Rossano in Cambridge Archaeological Journal ponders that perhaps meditating helped with human evolution.
Closer to home, and closer to modern-day reality, though, is the fact that women are practicing meditation for a myriad of reasons with endless benefits and infinite possibilities.
Mandy Benedict heard about Joey Klein’s Conscious Transformation from her mother; the program blends mind and body. It’s a trainer-led, four-part series that includes teachings, meditations and daily action plans.
It simply sounded right to her from the start. She had been feeling unfulfilled, as though something were missing from her life: a connection, a richness. Now, five-and-a-half-years later, Benedict is a certified trainer who is living the benefits — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“These practices put me in touch with a spiritual aspect within myself, that you can bring to anything that you do. It gave me access to heightened experience of intuition and connection with all,” Benedict says, her voice full of energy and joyfulness.
She credits Conscious Transformation, and her daily meditation practice, with a drastic changes in personal and business relationships; with helping her be physically stronger and more fit; helping build her business and running it with more energy and passion; with being more uplifted emotionally and spiritually; and overall being less stressed.
“It’s learning how to manage your emotions. Stress is an unmanaged emotion. The amount of accountability and responsibility in my company has gone up ten times but my stress level has gone down by a thousand,” she says.
Laina Eskin, owner of Align Vail, started her journey four years ago when she was feeling uninspired and not in a great place in her life. She combines her background in physical therapy with Conscious Transformation.
“I was sort of burnt out a little, I definitely had some stuff I was struggling with: my confidence, my marriage, my body. On the outside, you would say everything is awesome, she’s busy, she has her own business, she’s happy, she has great husband, but I was struggling with stress and anxiety that a lot of us don’t know how to manage,” Eskin says. It was at this point a friend introduced her to Conscious Transformation and its four-part series, each with a different focus: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual mastery. The sum total encourages change from within — a shift in perspective, if you will.
Elyse Howard, a mother of two boys, had been focused on keeping herself healthy through physical therapy and working out. She started working with Eskin first for PT but recently decided to try out the meditation practice.
“I felt a little nervous. I was thinking, ‘this is not me. I am not a meditator.’ But I really liked it,” Howard explains. She started on the physical mastery six-week program that focuses on “how you are moving, what you are eating. It’s not ‘woo woo,’ it’s easy to understand.”
In a nutshell, it’s focusing on how you feel after eating and the choices you make — and why you make them; to be more mindful and aware; visualizing how you want to feel when skiing trees or on a hard run and how to get to that goal.
One of the best parts for Howard was that she would do the daily 20-minute meditation with her kids as a way to wind down at the end the day. Her 10-year-old son looked forward to the time and even used the breathing during some schoolwork.
Kalie Palmer, another meditating mama who works with Eskin, recently began practicing and now starts her day with meditation. “Prior, I might wake up late or tired or just blazing through the morning, really reacting. Whereas doing it in the morning helps focus on being aware, of yourself and what you’re feeling, your emotions, your thoughts, and how your body is physically feeling. Here’s where you are, where do you want to be, what choices do you make? Do you make choices that are in line with who or how you want to be? What’s your optimal state or goal?” she asks.
It helps her set a positive tone and intention, which makes her feel empowered and, ultimately, grateful and aware of all she has… to know that she has the ability to choose her path.
“I feel much more positive, more in control. I feel so much happier starting my day this way. I feel more positive to my kids and with my husband. I feel like I can be a more positive influence at work. It’s been huge, life changing,” Palmer adds.
Sixteen years ago, Shell Haley made her first foray into meditation. It took a few years, and this mindfulness practice has changed her life, as well. After a pregnancy that required bed rest and ultimately led to one stillborn baby and one live baby, she worked with a yogi in breathing exercises and meditation — but she wasn’t convinced yet. It was a few years later when she took a seminar by Jon Kabat-Zinn and felt the power of yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
“I meditate in the morning because it brings me back to my center,” Haley says. Meditation, she explains, allows her to choose instead of react to life. “If I see myself start to react, I breathe in and out and go automatically to my intention, so I am in integrity instead of my life being run by random thoughts. It keeps me at my center, keeps me out of my ego, driving my life.”
Haley explains that yoga nidra meditation actually builds up the brain’s pre-frontal cortex so the meditator will be less reactive, more proactive and make deliberate choices, all of which should lead to a happier, and calmer, life.
Michelle Lake had her first “aha” meditation moment more than two decades ago. It started with a blazing headache: She laid down, breathed deeply through her nose and mouth and then her body started to tingle and vibrate. Ever since, she’s awoken pre-dawn to meditate, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes she loses herself for an hour.
“I lie there. Inhale, deeply through my nose, breathe out through my mouth and visualize that I am connected to my higher self, bring my attention to my light that is going into my crown chakra, I have it go down my spine,” Lake explains. “Then I breathe down my spine, I visualize the light going down my spine, into Mother Earth, I visualize Mother Earth’s energy coming through my spine, then break it up into a snake where it crosses at my chakra points. I get a good energy buzz going.”
While Lake quietly meditates solo daily, she also started a program where she meditates with her friends and, really, anyone who wants to participate, on Thursday nights — the second Thursday of each month Daniel Pierce shares singing bowls meditation, which transforms the practice.
“It’s a powerful experience. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever meditated or you’re the ultimate meditator. It’s a time when you come, Daniel plays the bowls, it helps quiet the mind. Sound is healing.”
The mind is a powerful tool and meditation helps to master all it can give. “Everything starts to flow, your life becomes better than you could ever envision it. You become the possibility. You are peaceful and relaxed,” Haley summarizes with passion.
» By Heather Hower »Photography by Dominique Taylor