Take a Step to Live Mindfully with
I enjoy watching the 2003 version of Freaky Friday. Have you ever felt like the crazy mom with a hundred things to do? Do you try to keep it all together with a couple of devices that ring and beep to keep you on schedule? Or do you have that giant to-do list looming inside your head?
I love how the mom in Freaky Friday played by Jamie Lee Curtis starts her morning in the quintessential cross-legged meditation pose. She fidgets, checks her nails, yells at one of her kids, and then one of her devices goes off and curtails her meditation practice.
We all feel like that at times. Our minds run faster than we can. However, learning to still our minds brings peace, calmness, and daily direction.
Proven Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
There are many types of meditation available for you to explore. Mindfulness meditation, based on Buddha’s teachings, has become very popular. Several studies have found proven benefits of mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing.
- Better than Sleep Education– In a six-week study conducted by the Benson-Henry Institute for the Mind-Body Medicine, older adults with moderate sleep disturbances were randomly assigned a weekly two-hour meditation class or sleep hygiene education class. Both the meditation and the sleep education classes assigned homework to the participants. Major benefits were seen in the meditation group. The meditation group had improved sleep, reduced depression, and less fatigue over the sleep education classes.
- Dr. Hebert Benson says meditation shifts the body away from a stress response to a relaxation response which naturally reduces many stress-related illnesses including pain, depression, and high blood pressure.
- Reduces Stress, Depression, and Anxiety - The America Phycological Association sites a study involving researchers reviewing over 200 meditation-based studies to find mindful meditation significantly reduces stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Additional Benefits of Meditation – Some studies are finding the benefits of regular mindfulness meditation go beyond the emotional wellbeing of reduced stress, depression, and anxiety. In one study, meditation better reduced the pain and stress associated with chronic illnesses than cognitive behavior therapy or arthritis education. Other studies are showing the potential benefit of meditation on the immune system with improved inflammation markers, activation of various immune cells, and extending immune cell life.
The Basics of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness mediation allows us to let go of negative aspects of our thinking like dissatisfaction, insolence, impatience, and ill thoughts and embrace loving-kindness for ourselves and those around us.
If you have never meditated, you might benefit from trying guided meditation. There are numerous free apps available to get you started.
However, mindfulness meditation is simple and easy to begin practicing on your own. It is about taking time out to observe the world with your senses and by doing so grounding yourself in the here and now.
Follow these simple steps to begin your meditation.
- Find a comfortable position. Take a moment to pay attention to how your body feels. If you are not comfortable, it will be difficult to maintain your focus on a single thought.
- A straight back is important for the intention of meditation. You can accomplish this by sitting cross-legged on the floor, laying on your back on the floor, or sitting in a chair with both feet solidly on the floor. Whichever position you choose imagine a straight line running all the way from your coccyx up through the back of your neck and out the top of your head. If you are sitting, rest your hands lightly in your lap. If you are on the floor, rest your hands on the floor beside you with your palms faced up.
- Remember meditation is a conscious act to connect with your inner self. It is not something you give into like when you mentally check out watching TV, slump over a book, or nod off on the couch.
- Pick something to focus your attention on. You can focus on listening to the inhaling and exhaling of your breath, the birds singing outside your window, the ticking clock, or feeling where your body connects to the ground. You can even focus on your favorite place like being tucked in a warm bed, sitting on the beach watching the waves, or a gurgling mountain stream.
- Acknowledge your reality. After spending a few seconds solely paying attention to your focus, do a mental body scan. Where are you tight? Does anything hurt? What are you emotionally feeling?
- Treat your body and your emotions with compassion. If your neck is tight, without moving, focus on letting the muscles relax and soften. If your hips hurt, picture a warm rush of water moving down your spine through the painful area, down your legs, and out your toes.
- Simply observe each thought. Don’t judge or manipulate any thought that crosses your mind. The thought just is. If you feel sad, angry, or lonely, allow yourself to feel it without judging yourself or others.
- If your mind wanders, come back to the focus point of your meditation. It is hard to perfectly still your mind when you first start meditating. If you find your mind starting to roam to your to-do list, what you’re going to have for lunch, or what child you need to pick up, it's okay. Put those thoughts on a ship or a train and watch them move out of sight over the horizon.
- Return to your focus point. Listen to your breath, the birds, the clock, or feel your connection points to the ground.
- Fully appreciate the present moment. Our minds need to reboot. Just like a computer or smartphone works better by being powered down and rebooted, so do our minds. When we focus on the present moment, we perform better and enjoy it more.
Remember this is a practice for you. Learning to quiet your mind will bring peace, relaxation, and a sense of well-being. It is worth the initial struggle to learn how to do it.
Other Forms of Meditation to Explore
- Spiritual Meditation – In spiritual meditation the focus point of the meditation is a silent, spoken, or chanted prayer. This prayer is often continuously repeated with the rhythm of normal breathing.
- Chanting Meditation – Chanting meditation is also spiritual in nature with the focus on the sounds of words and the melody of those words. Western religions concentrate on contemplating the meaning of a chanted sacred word. In Eastern practices, the repeated word (often ohms) is intended to clear the mind and allow you to discover your spiritual strengths.
- Movement or Walking Meditation – Focusing solely on being present in your body is the intent of movement meditation. This is often used in Yoga or Tai Chi. As you gain experience being completely present in your body, you can meditate while taking a walk or even performing chores.
- Visualization Meditation – In visualization meditation, you focus on putting yourself in your happy place. This is a place where you feel complete peace, hope, and love. It can be a real place like the beach or a fantasy place you have created in your imagination. In Tibetan practices, they focus on visualizing the peaceful presence of deity.
- Focus Meditation – Focus meditation is the opposite of multi-tasking. You can focus meditate at any time in anyplace by concentrating solely on what you are doing. The easiest way to do this is to pay attention to the texture, smell, taste, and pleasure of what you are eating or drinking.
- Transcendental Meditation – This meditation is opposite of focus meditation or even mindfulness meditation. Instead of focusing solely on one task, you work to transcend the process of thought by focusing on a one-syllable sound. This meditation technique originated in India and is best learned from a certified teacher.
The purpose of meditation isn’t to add another thing to your do list. Meditation is a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique to help you reset, sort out your day, and let go of things. You can reduce your stress, anxiety, and depression and improve your overall health in just a few minutes of meditation a day.
Article by Miss Jae
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