…by tuning out and focusing inward.
Meditation is one of the most effective tools we can use for stress reduction and improved brain functioning. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to be a practicing Sikh or Buddhist monk to use this ancient ritual. Dr. Benson wrote “the Relaxation Response” in 1975, in which he discusses the use of meditation as a valuable method to improve health. As we know, meditation practice has been in existence for thousands of years, and is now also widely used in the mental health profession. There have been numerous studies to date that prove the effectiveness of meditation practice in improving physical health and mental well-being. Brain scans show the difference in neural activity amongst those who meditate and those who don’t, with some astonishing findings. An article in Time, discusses the findings of a study published in Psychological Science journal that concludes meditation practice enhances many aspects of brain functioning, notably concentration.
In meditation, we practice focusing our attention by staying in the present moment with full open awareness. When we meditate, we learn to let go of worrisome thoughts by observing them as passing byproducts of the brain instead of becoming overly attached to them and reacting. We gently guide our attention to our breath or another still point within our bodies or in our immediate environment. We practice releasing the thoughts our mind endlessly produces every moment of every day. We learn that we don’t have to follow our thoughts and that we can even choose to disagree with them. After all, not all thoughts are facts and we can drive ourselves crazy trying to find a solution to every problem that enters our mind. We need daily moments of peaceful awareness and healthy detachment from the chaotic activity of our daily lives.
Meditation practice is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1. Create your own personal sanctuary. Find a quiet place where you can close the door, put up a do not disturb sign. Make sure the space is comfortable and relaxing. That means no distractions and no clutter to clean up. Add your own personal soothing sounds, scents, and decor and you have an instant retreat you can escape to at the end of any crazy day.
2. Designate a spot within your sanctuary to either sit or lie down. If you’re using a bedroom then feel free to use the bed. If not, you can use a pillow or a comfortable chair that supports your back and allows your feet to touch the floor. In meditation you want to keep your spine and head straight, but relaxed. If you’re sitting, uncross your arms and legs and sit with your back straight and hands gently resting on your knees. Experiment with different postures to find the one that’s the most comfortable for you. If you’re sitting on a meditation pillow, you can model after the position of the Buddha statue in the picture above. You can also stick your legs out in front of you or kneel down with your sternum on the pillow, like you’re riding horseback. What’s important is that your in a position that best fits your personal preference and that allows for you to relax your muscles with each out breath.
3. Now close your eyes and start your meditation practice by taking three deep cleansing breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe in feel the cool air making its way through your nasal passages; as your breathe out feel the warm air slowly releasing the built up tension in each and every muscle. Feel your abdomen rise and fall with each in and out breath. Picture an inflating and deflating balloon or the way a baby sleeps. You can stay focused by slowly counting out each breath…in then out, 1, in then out, 2, in then out 3. Repeat three times.
Stay in the moment as long as you desire. When you’re ready slowly start stretching and moving around. Open your eyes. Notice what’s around you and how you feel. Notice any subtle shifts in your body. Take in the beauty that surrounds you and feel confident that you can accomplish any task the day has in store for you.
Namaste (The spirit in me respects the spirit in you).