Who can benefit from Meditation?
Anyone and everyone!
In the busy bustle of day to day activity (work, cook, clean, shop, pick up kids, and repeat) our minds are often working overtime going over our to-do lists and planning for the days and weeks ahead. Because the to-do lists never end, we often experience anxiety and stress over everything that needs to get done.
When we are having pain from an injury, stress can often amplify that pain.
When we are in pain or stressed, or both, it can be difficult to fall asleep or sleep through the night. As a result, fatigue further adds to the cycle.
What is Meditation and Why Do It?
Meditation is best described as thoughtless awareness… that is, quieting the mind and being aware of the present. In doing so, meditation is supposed to:
- cultivate a healthy sense of perspective,
- calm emotional turbulence and stress,
- and observe thoughts and sensations (including pain or discomfort) without becoming attached to any negative perceptions about them.
Phew! All of that is easier said than that.
There are many different types and styles of meditation, e.g. mindfulness, imagery, body scan, walking, mantra, body relaxation, etc. Often, the point is to focus the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity in order to calm the mind. It’s not about turning off your thoughts or emotions but about observing them without judgment and realizing that they are transient in the scheme of your life.
Are Mindfulness and Meditation the same thing?
Though used interchangeably, the two are separate. Mindfulness is a technique often used in meditation. It refers to being fully present in the moment and fully engaged with whatever we are currently doing.
What do I need to meditate?
Nothing! Just yourself and if you prefer, a timer.
Where can I meditate?
Anywhere! If you are trying it for the first time, or are looking to do reduce stress and pain, it is preferable you find a relatively quiet place where you can sit comfortably.
You may prefer to:
- sit in a chair with feet comfortably on the floor, your back supported against the backrest, and your hands in your lap
- or, sit cross-legged on a cushion, pillow, yoga mat, or the ground, with your hands in your lap
How do I meditate?
There are many ways as there are many different kinds of meditation. Check out an example at the end of the blog!
What if I cannot sit still or shut off my mind?
Then it’s easy to say that it’s just not for you…
However, that may be precisely why you should practice it. Like anything else in life, we don’t need to practice what comes easy to us, but what is difficult.
If your mind is always busy, if you’re always trying to concentrate at work or school amidst all of our daily distractions, if you are usually feeling stressed or overwhelmed, then sitting still and “shutting you mind off” may be all the more difficult. Through the practice of meditation, we work to calm the stress and learn to manage it, we learn to improve our concentration instead of allowing our mind to stray often in multiple directions.
Here’s a Meditation to try!
Sit in a chair with feet comfortably on the floor, your back supported against the backrest, and your hands in your lap. Set a timer for five or ten minutes and set it aside.
Imagine there is a string attached to the top of your head and pulling you into an upright posture. Feel your spine lengthen as the string pulls you upward. Close your eyes.
Take a few deep, slow breaths and exhale fully each time. Then allow your breathing to come back to a natural rhythm.
Draw your awareness to the top of your head, then to your forehead and temples. If you notice any tension, consciously allow it to relax as you exhale. Then move onto your jaw and do the same. If your teeth are clenched, relax the jaw so there are a few millimeters of separation between the top and bottom rows.
Next, draw your awareness to your neck and shoulders. If you notice any tension, consciously allow it to relax as you exhale. Imagine that as your exhale, your neck elongates, creating more distance between your chin and your collarbones.
Move your awareness down your arms, through your elbows, then forearms, wrists, and finally towards your fingertips. Notice if there is any warmth, cold, or tingling. None of the tension or sensations you may come across are good or bad, they are simply there and your only job is to become aware of them, and then move on.
Move your awareness through chest, then your abdomen. Notice how much they move with each inhalation and exhalation.
Move your awareness through the length of your spine. Feel your sit-bones onto your seat.
Continue checking in this way into your thighs, knees, lower legs, ankles, and finally feet. Feel the contact of your feet with the floor.
If your thoughts stray at any point, that is perfectly okay and expected. Simply continue from where you left off. Thoughts will come and go, the point is notice when they do, realize they are transient, and then let them go.
After you have slowly checked in with all of your body and have relaxed some of the tension you may have encountered, concentrate on your breath.
You may choose to concentrate on the rise and fall of your abdomen, or perhaps on the cool air entering your nostrils as you breathe in and then the warm air as you breathe out. At the end of each inhalation count “1” and at the end of each exhalation count “2”. Count to 10 and repeat in this way until the timer goes off.