by Nick Verina
Right now, some of you may be thinking meditation shmeditation! What a load of bull! That’s exactly what I thought, until I found out what it really was…and it started working.
As an actor, I had been dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety living in New York City and going from audition to audition. The day-to-day grind was wearing me out, and after trying tons of things to help — working out, sleeping more, hobbies, jogging, even drinking — I decided to give meditation a shot. I met with an amazing instructor whose remedy was simple: breathing. Yep, just breathing.
That’s what meditation is really, just breathing in and out. Clearing your mind of all those random thoughts, those worries, and those anxieties that give way to more anxiety.
My instructor taught me that by just lying down, closing my eyes, and concentrating on my breath (in through my nose and out through my mouth), I can slow my mind and body down and rid myself of the never ending stream of thoughts. Every time a thought would pop into my head like: “I forgot to make that call today” or “I need to send that e-mail,” I would stop, acknowledge the thought I had, and go back to concentrating on my breathing. That’s it. Simply acknowledging those thoughts that are constantly popping into our heads and letting them drift away by going back to our breath. Just thinking about the air going in through our nose and out through our mouth.
Okay, you may be thinking “I don’t have time for that crap!” or “Please, breathing!? That sounds ridiculous.” Trust me, it makes a difference. Even if you only dedicate ten minutes a day to meditation, you'll notice a difference in your life. A difference in how you react in certain situations, a difference in how you receive news, whether it be good or bad, and a difference in your relationships.
There’s actually science to back this up. I recently read an article on Bloomberg News about Harvard scientists that are finding proof of the benefits of meditation. John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is heading up a five-year study on the benefits of meditation. He says:
“There is a true biological effect. The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”
An earlier study, also conducted by Denninger, shows how meditation or “mind-body techniques” can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function. This is just one example folks…there are HUNDREDS!
As soon as I started meditating, I began to notice how many people — including famous athletes and celebrities — use these techniques regularly. Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood, Naomi Watts, Barry Zito, Howard Stern, and Oprah Winfrey are just a few examples.
The week after beginning my journey, I ran into a congressman from my hometown, Tim Ryan, backstage at a Broadway show. Here’s the even crazier part: he was pushing a bill in D.C to implement meditation practices in medical schools, teacher-training programs, and veteran treatment centers. Here's a link to the CBS News story on Congressman Ryan’s meditation crusade.
Not only has meditation become a huge part of my acting career, it has also helped me as a training consultant. Many of the clients that we work with have one question, “How can I handle stage fright when giving a presentation at work?” One of the most important answers we give? Breathing. Breathing is one of the techniques we teach when our clients ask about controlling their nerves — it will increase their calm and, as a result, their professionalism in the workplace. And what's the basis of meditation? Yep, breathing. I know, I’m repeating myself. But I can’t stress it enough, breathing works.
Did I mention Robert Berkowitz (CEO, Legal Seafoods), Ramani Ayer (former CEO of The Hartford Financial Services), Nancy Slomowitz (CEO, Executive Management Associates), Rick Goings (CEO, Tupperware), and Russell Simmons (Def Jam Founder) also meditate?
So even though you may be thinking, “meditate, shmeditate,” the science is clear and so are the results. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself and see what you think. You have nothing to lose…except your stress!