Why I Maintain a Formal Daily Meditation Practice, No Matter What

Article 4 mins Meditation & Mindfulness
Accepting everything as is, was a pathway to acceptance and peace within myself.
Why I Maintain a Formal Daily Meditation Practice, No Matter What

As a physical therapist, Dr. Helen Setyan has seen firsthand the mind's impact on the body. In her complementary work as a mindfulness practitioner, she enjoys discussing the mind-body connection, behavioral strategies to improve daily comfort and ease, bringing awareness into the body, and methods of anchoring ourselves to the present moment.

Here, she talks about finding personal freedom, her greatest teacher, and how three minutes of meditation is better than none at all.

Q: How did you find your meditation style, and why does it work so well for you?

A: I found Vipassana/insight meditation to be the most effective. I came across a book on my travels through India, then attended my first 10-day silent retreat. After years of exploring different methods, I found a pathway to personal freedom through the simple act of watching and paying attention to my body and sensations. Accepting everything as is, was a pathway to acceptance and peace within myself.

It works because it allows me to use myself as a resource. I don't have to look for anything outside myself besides my posture and attention. It feels as though I am the canvas and the medium to what I create on that cushion every time I sit.

Q: What's your top tip for a beginning meditator?

A: Be yourself! You don't have to lock yourself down or follow a specific shape or form. The only form one needs is discipline to show up. Allow yourself to be in any posture, thought, movement, or agitation when you begin until you find your way to stillness. The discipline is sticking to it all. Kick and scream your way into finding the right path for you.

Q: What does your daily meditation practice look like?

A: My daily formal meditation is always early in the morning. I perform a couple of stretches to prepare my body to sit comfortably. I use a nice big cushion to support my posture and my back, and I make sure I don't have any distractions for the allotted time. The amount of time I spend depends on my schedule, but I will still formally sit even if I only have three minutes.

During the day, I like to go on walks, and I use my walking as a form of meditation to get into my body and breath, even if it's just for one minute of my walk. The important part of my meditation practice is to perform something daily. It might not always be my preferred amount of time, but maintaining consistency is the priority.

Q: Who's had the most significant impact on your work?

A: Marianne Williamson became a role model for me in my early years of meditation practice. Her influence has allowed me to see the integration of all that is at play in our lives. Her writings and workshops have allowed me to find my voice and power in a way that is gentle but still impactful in my interpersonal relationships at home and work.

Q: What are the greatest benefits you've received from meditating?

A: Managing my emotions and the discomforts that life often presents. This has allowed me to develop more strength and confidence, and patience with myself and others. Meditating consistently also has improved my clarity and focus in my work. Being clear on my mission allows me to be more productive and efficient, which has allowed me to have a more improved work/life balance. The third most significant benefit is my improved sleep and overall wellbeing. 

As you learn to build a practice, try this course, Introduction to Mindfulness by meditation teacher Curtis Smith

Header photo: Yanjf/istock/Getty Images Plus

About the author

Helen Setyan

Helen Setyan

Dr. Helen Setyan didn’t know it at the time, but she first discovered meditation right before sleep one night when she was 13 years old. “I played with just focusing my attention on the lights I continued to see when I first closed my eyes,” she remembers. “Fascinated by the ways in which the colors were changing, I kept my attention there. I remember being in the most quiet, pleasing, and restful state.” She later rediscovered meditation while praying in church, but it wasn’t until she began attending meditation services at a Buddhist temple in 2011 that her formal meditation practice began. That led her on a long journey through India and Nepal, where she began to narrow in on her meditation style. Now a board-certified physical therapist, Yoga Alliance–certified yoga instructor, and trained mindfulness facilitator through UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, Dr. Setyan is dedicated to the practice and integration of the mind-body systems approach to addressing pain, wellness, prevention, and recovery of functional limitations for general orthopedic neurologic, chronic pain, and performance arts injuries. Her specialties include pain science, trauma, mindfulness facilitation, movement science, and manual interventions including craniosacral therapy and myofascial release.
View Profile