The Consequences
Not Listening to Your Body

by Kelvin Chin
Meditation Teacher

Many people want to “feel better,” “not feel stressed,” “have more energy,” “live happier lives.” Yet the expectation is “now.” And “without changing my life, at least not very much!”

Well, let’s take a look at this through the lens of learning “Turning Within” Meditation. 

When we are stressed out, anxious or subject to bouts of depression, that indicates that we are out of balance. Our neurophysiology and likely our brain chemistry are also not at optimum levels or even within “normal ranges.”

When we introduce “Turning Within” Meditation into our daily routine, what happens?

The body starts turning on the “parasympathetic” nervous system, i.e., the “Opposite of the Fight or Flight Response,” regularly — ideally twice a day. 

This is a radical change from our being in a stressed, tired, hyperactive “Fight or Flight” mode.  So our bodies jump at the chance to restore balance from within. 

How does that manifest?

Often by falling asleep during or after meditation, and even sometimes feeling more fatigued after meditating during the day. 

Why is that? Because you thought meditation was supposed to help you have more energy, right?

Well, it’s actually completely logical and understandable. Because when your body (and mind/emotions) are so out of balance, to restore balance takes time. It also takes adjusting. Recalibrating. And that often involves a variety of experiences that the body, emotions and mind may go through, especially in that initial transition period right after you learn to meditate. 

(Don’t worry. It doesn’t last forever.)

Why does it take time to recalibrate? 

Because this is a significant change from what we previously were living with. You see, we had gotten used to functioning with stress and anxiety. Sure, it’s not healthy, we know that! Over the long term, it can even lead to serious illnesses. But we got used to it. 

And then, let’s say we introduce meditation into the mix. With that overload of stress and the related fatigue now starting to leave our bodies — through repeated exposure to meditating and the turning on of the parasympathetic — we may sometimes naturally experience feeling extra tired during or after our meditation, as our system gradually adjusts to being healthier. 

This is normal. And it is critical to understand. Otherwise you will often resist it, which will slow your return to health. Or worse, you might stop meditating, based on a false assessment of why you’re feeling so tired. 

Eventually your body will adjust. And then afterwards the releasing will still continue, but typically in a more even manner, with fewer extremes. 

Maybe an analogy would help. 

Let’s say you think you can get by on 4 hours of sleep a night, and so you drink lots of coffee and do that for a few years. If you then stop drinking coffee and give up trying to get by on very little sleep, and you instead decide to “normalize,” and stop your caffeine crutch, at first you will feel exhausted and need lots more sleep. And it might even take a few months to get into a new, healthier rhythm. Make sense?

So if you have anxiety or general stress, and you begin meditating, it is imperative that you understand this process of regaining your health. It’s not just merely “snapping your fingers,” with your physiology changing overnight “on a dime.” We are organic beings. Our mind and body chemistry changes gradually. 

What should you do? Nap or sleep when you’re tired, allow the fatigue to pass by resting more. 

If you don’t listen to your body and rest more when “it tells you to,” then you will continue to carry that stress and perhaps even accumulate more of it. The exact opposite of what brought you to me. 

I hope that helps you get past this common hump that some of my clients initially experience. And that this will fast forward you well on your way to a more balanced life, free from stress.