Hi, my name is Jim Eaton and I am a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. You might be wondering why I am writing a post for The Paleo Drummer...frankly, so am I!
A while back my friend/classmate/colleague, Kendall Kendrick, host of the podcast Born Primal, asked me who she should have as guests on her podcast. My first thought was "The Paleo Drummer." At the time, I was casually following Steve on Facebook (along with about 1,000 other Paleo/Primal/Nutrition/Fitness pages), and so was Kendall. A few days later, Kendall contacted me and said she had an interview set up, and the topic would be meditation. I was a bit shocked, which made me realize that perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention to this Paleo Drummer guy, since meditation wasn’t something I expected them to talk about!
In combing through Steve’s previous blog posts, though, sure enough meditation was a common thread, which got me excited about the interview Kendall would be conducting. And as you probably already know, that led to a 30-Day Meditation Challenge.
Shortly after the episode premiered, Steve asked if anybody would be interested in writing about their experience sitting every day for the month of July. I responded and that brings us to here...
I’ll start by saying that I haven’t always meditated, and I haven’t always been Paleo. Prior to making those two changes, my life felt a lot more chaotic. I struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a kid, and used alcohol and weed to self-medicate starting as a teen and spanning into my mid-30’s. There were also countless therapy sessions and prescription medications, none of which seemed to help. At the time, it never even dawned on me that my Standard American Diet – with mainstays such as Spaghetti-O’s, Chunky Soups, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs – had any effect on how I felt, or what I thought. Yet the more processed carbs and sugar I ate, the worse things got for me, mentally, physically and emotionally.
Then a few years ago, my formerly-vegan daughter came to my rescue (she really is my hero). She called and proclaimed "Dad, I eat meat again, I feel great, and I have a book you need to read!" It was Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint, and all of it just clicked with me.
That was my turning point from a life of unhappiness and unhealthiness, to the life I’m living now, which is to say physically, mentally and emotionally free(r).
So how does meditation fit in and why did Steve’s 30-Day Challenge speak to me?
As my diet improved and I began to feel better, I realized I had decades’ worth of obsessive thought patterns and manic behaviors that I still needed to change. Since therapy wasn't helping, I decided to go in a new direction. On a whim I signed up for a "Yoga Nidra" class (aka iRest), not really having any idea what it would entail. It turned out that the class is a series of group exercises and guided meditations that help a person become grounded in their body and "welcome and let go" of all thoughts, feelings and sensations. In other words, detachment to whatever is happening, and alignment with desires and a person’s True Nature. I also got involved in a more traditional meditation group, sitting and focusing on breath. As much as both groups helped and energized me, I could not seem to commit to a daily meditation practice on my own.
Enter Steve’s 30-Day Challenge. I am not a runner per se, but I will enter a race from time to time to focus my training. Steve’s Challenge was my Meditation 5K. From a purely academic viewpoint, the way the Challenge was laid out (sit and stare at a wall for 15 minutes every day in the month of July), I failed, maybe hitting 18 out of 31 days. That’s 58%. (Please don't tell my mom or I'll be grounded for the next semester!) Even at that rate, though, I noticed an improvement in my mood, energy levels and quality of sleep. "Sitting" is not easy and I'm not sure it got any easier for me throughout the month. Any success I had was a reminder to become more aware of what I was thinking, feeling and doing.
I’ve learned that meditation is not banishing all the negative thoughts and feelings. Instead it’s becoming aware of them and realizing it is OK for negative thoughts and feelings to exist, and then letting them go. They are not who we are! The Challenge also helped me realize that I DO meditate everyday, just not in a so-called traditional manner. For instance, when I take the time to truly enjoy the food I am blessed enough to have in abundance, that’s meditation. Or when I watch the pure joy my dog displays chasing a stick. Or when I look deep into my girlfriend's eyes and say "You are Magnificent," and then she does the same for me, and we both really mean it. Or sometimes it’s simply stopping what I’m doing at any given moment, taking several deep breaths, looking around at this amazing planet and realizing "I'm alive! How fucking awesome is that!?!"
Like diet, meditation is an ongoing experiment for me. Find a good starting point (like Paleo and Yoga Nidra), try new things (organ meats and chanting), keep what works, set aside what doesn't, move on and try more new things. I am a big believer in "Progress, Not Perfection," not to mention that we are all individuals. I do believe a clean diet and meditation can greatly improve a person’s quality of life, but what that looks like is up to each person. What works for me may or may not work for you, and vice versa.
Maybe the best we can do is to keep sharing our successes in forums like these, and continue to learn as we go.
Jim Eaton, NTP
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