Meditation is a familiar term to many. Though most people have heard of the benefits of meditation, the practice in and of itself often comes across as daunting. Many people want to reduce stress and relieve anxiety, but the thought of sitting still and clearing one’s mind seems to generate apprehension and hesitation.
People are mostly interested in meditation due to its proven effectiveness in stress relief, but there are many other benefits such as increased focus, improved memory, reduced fatigue and better body awareness. The tools of mediation and mindfulness can help individuals build a healthier and more rewarding lifestyle.
Though mediation may appear challenging, incorporating mindfulness and slowing integrating meditation into one’s lifestyle is not as difficult as it may seem. One simple method is breathing. Most people are not using the full capacity of their lungs when they breathe, taking two to three seconds with each cycle of breath. Ideally, the most efficient and oxygenating breath should be five to ten seconds. Though the notion of deep breathing may seem abstract or even tedious at first, the benefits of mindfully breathing are countless and include a reduction in stress and blood pressure, a strengthening of abdominal and intestinal muscles and improved blood flow and circulation. You can begin your practice of meditation and mindfulness by gradually deepening your breath, inhaling and exhaling fully and observing any physical and mental changes.
Another method is meditating while walking. This can be done in many ways. You can walk in a circle outside, walk around Lake Waban or even walk on a treadmill. If you find it hard to sit still for an extended period of time, adding a physical activity to meditation can often help quiet and focus the mind. The mind may wander at first, but gradually try to focus the mind on the experience of walking. You can first perform a body scan, noticing the sensations in the feet, the shift of weight from the heel to the ball of the foot. Then, you can shift the attention to the motions in the ankle, the knee, the hips and so on until you reach the neck and the head. You can also notice your emotions or feelings. The aim is to become aware of not only your body but also your mind, almost from a third person perspective. This can become a powerful tool as it allows the practitioner to step out of his or her emotions, even in moments that may seem overwhelming, to calm down and assess the situation.
Lastly, there is sitting meditation. This might be the most challenging for many but the principles are the same. You can always utilize the skills discussed earlier by beginning with the breath, then noticing the body and finally the mind, closing off the senses and drawing the attention inward. This experience of introversion yields tremendous benefits and even five to ten minutes of practice a day can result in transformational results.
If you are interested in mindfulness meditation, check out Buddhist Chaplain John Bailes’s weekly mindfulness class, beginning on Feb. 22th. Check your email or the Active Minds facebook page for more details. As always, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and comments.