Take a Deep Breath…Meditation and Mindfulness
When there are so many outside factors affecting our well-being, it can be very beneficial to take a moment and focus on what’s happening inside you. In this episode, we invite Briana Struemph to help us understand what meditation is, how we can benefit from practicing and lead us through a simple breathing exercise.
Jack Giardino: Hello, everybody. And welcome back to another episode of “Your Life Simplified.” My name is Jack Giardino, and I’ll be the host for this episode. On today’s topic of discussion, we’re going to be covering all things meditation. I know for me personally, it seems like this world is, for a lack of better terms, a lot of craziness going on, whether it’s the additional stressors of COVID-19 or perhaps working from home and dealing with children at the same time or whatever it may be going on in your life, there just kind of seems to be some of that additional stress for me personally. If you know me personally, I’m a ball of energy and it may seem like, Hey, this guy, there’s no way he partakes in meditation. But one thing that I’ve found super-beneficial over these last several months in my life is implementing some of the things we’re going to discuss today within my daily schedule.
So what I kind of wanted to do today in this episode was bring an individual that has that knowledge and education and background within the meditation space to hopefully share some insight into how you can implement some of the things we discuss about within your daily lifestyle. So without further ado, our guest today is Briana Struemph. She’s a wealth advisor in our Overland Park office, but outside of that, she’s also a registered and certified yoga teacher, which incorporates meditation in some of that space as well, too. So Briana, welcome to the show.
Briana Struemph: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Jack: We’re excited to have you. I know the meditation space may be a little new to some individuals—it’s certainly new for myself. I’m just learning about a lot of this from you. Over the, I would say, what, past 12 months or so, would you just kind of give, you know, a high-level background on your meditation journey and credentials to our listeners?
Briana: Sure. So when I first came into my meditation journey, I had a hard time really grasping how to do it. And I had a lot of judgment for myself about how to do it right. So one of the things I want everyone to know is that there’s not really a right way to do meditation. It really is about finding a way to calm the mind and the body, and there’s so many ways to do that. And we’ll talk about some of those today, different ways that each person can find for themselves to be able to meditate and get into a state of calm and relaxation. And that’s really what the goal is. It’s not about clearing the mind. It’s not about having a blank slate and sitting on a mountaintop with your hands, you know, fingers pinched and eyes closed, having some enlightened experience. It’s really just about calming the body and mind, and coming into the present moment.
Jack: No, I think that’s wonderful. And you know, I’ll kind of throw myself under the bus here. When I originally thought of meditation, I pictured myself sitting criss-cross applesauce in a room that had dim lighting, pinching my index fingers and thumbs together, and just sitting there in complete silence. I know we’ll talk about the different kinds and how different ideas of how to implement meditation to your daily lifestyle, but for me personally, kind of to your point, it’s just a time for me to kind of collect and sit and collect my thoughts and clear my mind. I like to do it kind of when I’m closing out my day, I’ll just take a step back or maybe journal some thoughts down, and then just kind of sit there and think about through the day and do some square breathing techniques that you’ve taught me as well, too. But when we think of meditation, I think that’s, you know, a wonderful explanation of it. What are some of those different kinds of meditation and specifically maybe speak to the ones that you like the most or have practiced and helped other individuals practice?
Briana: Sure, yeah. So everybody is going to resonate with a different way to get into that head space. So for some people, it can be exercise. So running is a moving meditation. Yoga is a moving meditation. So those are examples of movement meditation. You can also use breath, like you were saying, the four-part or square breath, that is a type of meditation, using breathwork or pranayama in order to get into that calm, meditative state, that can be a very powerful tool as well. So using breath, mindfulness meditation, you can focus on a specific idea or thought focus for that day; something that you want to embody, that’s mindfulness meditation.
You can also use a mantra, which is a word or a phrase, and sometimes it’s speaking one phrase breathing in and then speaking a different phrase exhaling. And that can be really powerful, too. And that is a really good one, because it can help you not have thoughts racing through your mind as you’re breathing and as you’re meditating, because you are focusing on a certain word or phrase each time you’re breathing. So those are a few that are my favorite ways to meditate, but everybody’s going to connect with something different. So it’s really important to give a couple of different ways of meditating a try and see what works for you and what helps you get into that state of calm.
Jack: And so that was going to be my next question, was, you know, how does an individual go about experiencing these different types of meditation and ultimately identifying which correct meditation is right for them?
Briana: So there’s a few different ways to go about it. I think for me, I really came to understand meditation better through my yoga practice. Through becoming a certified yoga teacher, we practice meditation a lot, as you can imagine, 200-hour certification. Lots of those 200 hours were meditating and not actually doing the movement of yoga practice. So that is one way, is to explore it through movement, explore it through an avenue that is connected to meditation like yoga. If you’re not interested in movement meditation in the form of yoga, there’s also a lot of apps out there that can be really great tools for people who want to meditate. There’s the calm app I use. What’s it called?
Jack: I don’t want to jump in and answer for you, but I use the Oak app. I think you might have shown me that one, or it was a part of one of our peer group kind of discussions that we have at work. But I personally enjoy the Oak app. I am a fan going back to how I usually implement meditation into my personal day to day. I’m a big fan of guided meditation where you have an individual talking through whether it’s breathing cycles or again, I don’t know all the technological terms of meditation, but that’s kind of my preferred avenue of implementing meditation myself, sitting in a quiet room, not hearing anything or saying anything. I’m not good at that. And if you know me, I’m usually kind of a ball of energy and it’s hard for me to do that. So I like the guided meditation.
Briana: Yeah. The Insight Timer app is the one that I use a lot, and it’s got completely free content. And you can kind of ‘Like’ and save the ones you like the best so that you can go back to them. That one has a lot of different ways to meditate, guided meditations, like you were saying, it has music you can meditate to, it has the breathwork, it has visualization, which can be a really great way to go deep into that state of calm, kind of having a visual of going into a forest or into, you know, the seashore and just having that calm experience and be really nice.
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Jack: You know, we’ve talked about kind of some of the different types of meditation, and if our listeners aren’t quite sold on maybe pursuing one of these apps or one of these different types of meditations, you know, I think that once we cover the different benefits of meditation, they certainly will. So would you mind just kind of covering from a high level or go deep into the weeds, the different benefits of meditation and why it’s so important?
Briana: Sure, yeah. So our nervous system there’s, well, there’s a lot more to it, and I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t explain it in depth, but essentially when we talk about meditation and the benefits there specifically, meditation helps us move from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. So we go from the fight or flight response, which is sympathetic nervous system, to a rest and digest response, which is parasympathetic nervous system.
So it literally, it can help you calm down your nervous system to get to that space of rest and calm. And obviously when that happens, there can be a ton of benefits: reducing stress, calming anxiety, overall just emotional health, because we are more able to tap into the truth within us, because we are quieting our mind enough to really listen to what’s happening inside of ourselves. And that’s something that can be hard to do in the world nowadays. So creating space to just listen to yourself is really important, too. It also can reduce memory loss related with aging. It can generate kindness and compassion with others and also improve sleep. There’s so many benefits. I mean, I could list a hundred benefits if I sat here and thought about them all, but it’s a really powerful tool that’s easy to do, and it’s free. And all it takes is just finding some time and breathing.
Jack: I may be giving too many personal anecdotes here, but one thing that I’ve kind of found within my own meditation experiences, if I’m having trouble sleeping, I’ll turn on my Oak app. I’ll go through a 10-, 15-, 20-minute guided meditation. And it always seems to really help put me to sleep. So I don’t know if you have anything backing that up, but, you know, I do think that I would agree with all of those benefits.
Briana: Yeah, certainly. So kind of like I was saying with that parasympathetic nervous system where we can get into that with meditation, when you’re having trouble sleeping, a lot of times your mind is running, right, and thinking about all of the things and your heart may be beating a little faster, you’re possibly still in that sympathetic state. And when you can slow down, meditate, get into the parasympathetic state, that’s the rest and digest state. So you’re really creating space for your body to calm down and your heart rate to slow down and get into a space where you’re ready to sleep.
Jack: Well, it all makes sense now. So I know we’ve kind of talked about how I’ve implemented meditation into my daily routine. But how do you go about implementing meditation within your daily routine? Is it even daily? Is it weekly? Do you attend classes? I know you said you use an app at times, but what’s your preferred avenue to make sure you are implementing meditation into your life?
Briana: Sure. Well, I’ll be the first to admit I do not have a daily practice and I wish I did. And that’s a goal of mine, actually. You know, as a mother of a young child, I don’t always have time to do that every day. And I want everyone to know that’s also okay. It doesn’t need to be a daily practice. It can just be as often as you can, or when you really feel like you need it. I do incorporate it when I teach yoga. I always have a breathwork and meditation element at the beginning of every class. So I get to teach it and also practice it when I teach yoga. I also I would say probably five days a week, I do the app where I find some of my favorite guided meditations. And the great thing about the app is that you can follow certain people so that you, you know, you get used to their voices and they’re very calming and it becomes kind of like a touchstone that you can go back to and kind of sink into that gentle and relaxed state a little more quickly.
So I always go to my favorite go-to people that I like listening to that guide me through a meditation on the app. Even if it’s just a five-minute thing I’m doing over the lunch hour, it can just totally change my state of mind and help me take on the rest of the day.
Jack: I’ve even found that, you know, we go back up to the different types of meditation, movement meditation for me, you know, every day at lunch after I eat, I try to go walk around the block. It’s like 10 minutes, five minutes, right. But those small increments of implementing these different things into my daily routine has truly benefited my own head space, I would say, right. Makes my mind more clear, makes my thoughts more clear. So definitely have seen the benefits myself of implementing these into my daily life.
Briana: Yeah, certainly. I think that one of the things to consider when thinking about how this meditation process works is you’re choosing yourself, right? So you are choosing to take time out of your day for yourself or self-care, which I know is a big buzzword nowadays, but it’s the simplest, quickest way to do self-care. And like you were saying, walking around the block after lunch, being out in nature is a huge, huge benefit. It helps so much with meditation. I highly recommend that. Even one of my favorite things to do, which may not be for everyone, but I like walking barefoot outside and having like a walking meditation, really feeling connected to the Earth, because a lot of times I think we go throughout our day not feeling very connected to the Earth we’re all living on. So that can be a really grounding meditation to actually feel the earth beneath our feet and walk slowly and just take in the nature around us. That’s one of my other favorite ways to meditate.
Jack: I love that. I think that’s a great idea and not to go back to our previous discussion early in the podcast, but we had discussed the yoga certification that you’ve completed. Would you maybe dive into that a little bit deeper and what all did that incorporate as far as a meditation curriculum, so to speak?
Briana: Sure. So the yoga certification was a 200-hour process, and it was not just moving and doing yoga poses the whole time. The vast majority of it was actually learning yoga philosophy, the history of yoga, where it came from. And interestingly enough, the history of yoga did not start out with movement. It started out with breathwork and meditation. So when you talk about yoga and where it came from, the roots of yoga are meditation. So before we were doing the fancy poses you see all over Instagram, yogis were sitting in meditation. That was the main thing of yoga. So that’s why, you know, I embrace meditation so much because it is the root of the practice that I’ve come to love so much.
Jack: So we’ve discussed a lot of information in this podcast. We’ve talked about the different types of meditation, the different benefits of meditation, different apps and ways to pursue going about meditation. Let’s take a second here and just take a step back. If you were talking to me as a first-time individual, even approaching this conversation, I’ve never heard of meditation before. How would you recommend I get started?
Briana: I’d probably ask if you would be willing to just give it a shot and let me guide you.
Jack: Okay, here we go.
Briana: Would you like to do some breathwork?
Jack: We certainly can.
Briana: Okay. So first of all, find yourself in a comfortable seat, whatever that is, sitting up tall, lengthening the spine, close down the eyes if that feels comfortable for you. Exhale completely to prepare and then inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, pause, exhale, 1, 2, 3, 4, pause, inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, pause, exhale, 1, 2, 3, 4, pause. So that’s an example of balanced breath using counting and breath to just calm down the mind. And we only did that for a couple of cycles, but hopefully you can kind of feel your body already calming and getting into that meditative state. And if you continue to do that for several minutes, not judging any thoughts that come in, just allowing them to come and go, you can really get into a calmer state.
Jack: I certainly felt it myself. We have Kyle, our engineer in here as well, too. It looks like he’s feeling the benefits of it. I’m sure if our listeners tagged along through that quick kind of dive into what meditation may feel like, I’m sure they’re feeling it as well, too. So Bree, thank you for coming on today’s show. I truly enjoyed the conversation. For our listeners, Briana, you are in the Kansas City area. I believe you may have yoga classes. Do you want to plug any of that to our listeners?
Briana: Yeah, definitely. So currently I teach at True Love Yoga in midtown Kansas City at 36th and Broadway. And I teach a couple of classes a week, one in person, one virtual. So you can join me from anywhere, actually. And I do have meditation at the beginning of each class, and my classes are all levels. So if you’re interested in yoga as well, feel free to join. And I promise it’s not too scary, no crazy poses, and you’ll definitely feel the benefits of that movement meditation as well.
Jack: I can attest that things don’t get too crazy. I have gone to several of Bree’s classes that she’s had here at our headquarters office and even I can handle it. So I’d highly encourage all of our listeners, you know, start your journey of meditation, of yoga. It’s been super-beneficial in my own personal life. And thank you all for tuning in to today’s episode of “Your Life Simplified.” If you have any comments, questions or topic ideas, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to share. And ‘Like’ this episode with your friends or any individuals that may find this episode beneficial. Thanks for listening.
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