What Happens When You Meditate…and Why It Matters
with Jim Gilley, Level 1 iRest Yoga Teacher
Meditation is a hot topic these days, but what does it really mean, and how does it help?
We put those questions to Jim Gilley, an iRest Yoga teacher and longtime student of meditation who recently presented a workshop at Cancer Support Community.
How would you define meditation?
Meditation is about increasing and strengthening one’s awareness by engaging in practices that calm and focus the mind. There are many different ways to meditate, but that awareness aspect is what they all have in common.
What are some things people can expect from the awareness that comes from regular meditation?
Awareness can lead to a greater ability to accept the conditions of what is going on in our lives in each moment. A lot of times people come to meditation thinking they’re going to change their lives or obtain something they didn’t have before. While this certainly can be true, that change must start with an acceptance of where we are right now. Instead of changing the things you were trying to change when you started meditation, you might learn to accept it as it is, and that in itself can be transformational.
Another outcome of meditation is the ability to be aware of your thoughts and sensations without getting carried away by them. This can create resiliency to get through life’s obstacles and challenges with less suffering and emotional or psychological upheaval.
A third outcome is what we call inner resources. Inner resources allow us to calm ourselves down rather than relying on outside resources like other people, substances or activities. In iRest Yoga, for example, we start by imagining a concrete image or memory that makes you feel safe and at ease. You make think of it as your “Happy Place.” In the practice, we progress into being able to tap directly into those feelings of safety, ease, and wellbeing as needed, and may come to find those sensations arising to the foreground of our awareness throughout our day. The inner resources then become like anchors that we can always rely on when life knocks us out of a feeling of wellbeing.
How would you describe iRest Yoga?
iRest is a form of Yoga Nidra that has been made accessible for our modern lives. Yoga Nidra has origins in ancient Eastern spiritual teachings, and it can be roughly translated as the “Yoga of Sleep.” Dr. Richard Miller combined traditional Yoga Nidra with Western psychology and neuroscience to develop iRest. It is trauma-sensitive, secular, and proven to work both by academic studies in hospital environments and by the hundreds of thousands of students who have taken iRest classes in yoga centers, workplaces, and with therapists.
Are there any studies on the benefits of iRest?
Yes. iRest.org has a list of research results for Yoga Nidra and iRest. The U.S. Army Surgeon General lists Yoga Nidra (based on research with iRest) as a Tier 1 approach for addressing pain management in Military Care. Other trials have shown iRest to be effective for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, PTSD and sleep problems.
Jim Gilley is a Level 1 iRest Teacher. He began meditation, comparative religious studies and yoga in the late 1990’s. He graduated with a BA in Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara and has an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. Jim is currently in training with the Integrative Restoration Institute.