Meditation was the catalyst that led to a total transformation in Ellie Burrows’ life, helping her overcome a health scare and leading her to found MNDFL, New York’s first drop-in meditation studio. But one of the most important things she learned during her meditation journey was that you can’t just meditate here and there for however long you want: you need to have a specific structure around your practice. When Burrows sat down with WellBe, she shared the principles that underlie this structure: what she calls the four C’s.
Beginning a meditation practice can be daunting. A lot of people feel like they don’t even know where to start, or they’ll begin a practice but not notice any changes and feel like they must be doing it “wrong.” According to Burrows, the key to implementing a meditation practice and reaping the benefits lies in the four C’s, which are:
Commitment to practice
Consistency with which you practice
Let’s break down what each of these means:
Commitment. In order for meditation to “work” for you, you need to be willing to stick with it. You also need to be willing to prioritize it over other things, and make time and space for it in your life. You can’t do any of this without a solid commitment to your practice.
Consistency. “If you really want to see the benefits of practicing meditation,” says Burrows, “you have to practice for a consistent amount of time.” She defines this as setting aside a specific amount of time in your day, every day, to practice. That might start off at five minutes a day, then build to ten minutes, then 20. But, says Burrows, even if it never gets to 20, “just that consistency of setting aside time and practicing, you’ll begin to see benefits from your practice.”
Cumulative Benefits: Once you make the commitment to meditate consistently, the cumulative benefits will start to add up. You’ll find that these benefits build on one another — maybe the meditation helps you sleep better, which leads to you beginning your day in a calmer and more restful state; or maybe your new ability to quell your own anxiety makes those around you feel more at ease, which creates a cycle of peacefulness. Either way, the first two C’s are essential to reap these cumulative benefits.
Choice: She explains that when you practice, your mind goes down a rabbithole of thoughts, and it’s your job to gently and without judgment dismiss those thoughts and return to your breath. This very cycle — noticing that your mind has wandered, and bringing it back — builds an awareness between you and your consciousness, says Burrows. This awareness, in turn, seeps into different aspects of your life.
When something happens that triggers an angry or upset response, like an irritating email or your spouse forgetting to do a household chore, “your body is feeling the chemical reaction as if a tiger were attacking you.” Meditation, and the increased awareness that it builds, allows you to understand that you’re not, in fact, being attacked by a tiger. You can see that your mind is going all over the place, and this recognition gives you the power to make a choice about how to respond, rather than entering into a state of fight-or-flight where you just react or lash out.
“I can feel my choice, that I can be more open-hearted in this situation,” says Burrows. “I can show myself more compassion, the human in front of me more compassion, and maybe choose a kinder way forward.”
Watch our full interview with Burrows to hear about the benefits of group meditation, why we live in a post-tech world, and the health scare that led her to found MNDFL.