There is a great deal of mystique and perhaps misconception around meditation. While its benefits are touted regularly, there remains a barrier for many of us who are curious and donâ€™t know where to start, or are intrigued but may have some concerns. So then what is meditation and why would you want to incorporate it into your daily life?
We live hurried lives filled with noise and distractions. Many of us tend to go through our day with little real thought around our actions, as if we are on autopilot. When the alarm rings, wake up, shower, eat, get the kids ready, grab some coffee, go to work, eat, come home, help the kids with homework, eat, watch TV, go to bed. Repeat. Through all this, our mind races to what we are doing next or jumps to whatever stimuli (phone, email, thoughts, other people, etc.) present themselves. After a while, there is little sense of time; days, weeks, and sometimes months go by before you can take a break and step out of this cycle and just breathe.
Whatâ€™s meditation? Itâ€™s when all the whirling stops. Itâ€™s that moment when you just breathe, when you are fully aware and fully present in the moment. That state of peace and serenity when you are not just your job, your family, your responsibilities, your friends, your home, your community…You are just you.
Meditation has been shown to have the following benefits in those with a regular practice:
- Stress reduction
- Pain management
- Improved sleep
- Increased concentration
- Emotional stability
It is important to note that stress impacts our overall health and immunity. Many conditions, such as ulcers, heart disease, and diabetes, are also impacted by our stress levels; so reducing stress has far-reaching physical, mental, and emotional benefits.
Ready to try meditation?Â Here are some simple first steps.
A walking meditation incorporates a stroll on the beach, a hike through the hills, or a walk in the park with a state of meditation. This is a great way to begin training the mind and building focus.
- Plan a 15 to 30-minute walk in nature.
- As you begin your walk, set an intention that you will concentrate on the moment and allow yourself this time to be present.
- While walking, take in the sights, sounds, and smells as they are. Just breathe, walk, and observe without thinking about your day, or what you will do next.
- Each time your mind kicks in to judge (Oh that surfer just wasted a perfect wave!), analyze (Hmmmâ€¦ I wonder what kind of plant that is.Â I would love this in my garden.), or tune out (I need to make sure I buy some dog food on the way home):
1. Notice it â€“ Oh there it goes again!
2. On your next exhale, allow yourself to let it go.
- Thank yourself for taking the time to be at peace!
Remember to not be upset at yourself for having â€œthought interruptionsâ€.Â This is a practice, so think of it as training. Youâ€™ll get more and more focused as you practice more. Each time you let go of a thought interruption, know that it will be there when you are done with your practice.Â Let it go and calmly resume your meditation. Treat yourself with kindness and patience as you build mental strength.
Another type of mindfulness practice is sound meditation.Â Just like the walking meditation where you allow yourself to become absorbed in your surroundings, you allow yourself to let go and experience sound. Think of the last time you heard a very moving song as you watched a movie or danced, where you are not thinking and just experiencing.
Pick a spot where you feel safe and comfortable. Some ideas may be a bench in a park or a blanket on the sand. You may also choose to sit or lay down at home with a CD of chanting, prayer, or sounds of nature, something you feel comfortable with that is soothing and quieting.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Set an intention to be fully present for the next few minutes.
- As you breathe, keep your mind focused on the sound of the waves rolling, birds chirping, chanting, church choir recording, or whatever your surrounding sound is. Breathe slow and relax into the sounds.
- As with the walking meditation, notice when your mind wanders. As you notice, let the thought go with your next exhale and redirect your attention to your sound meditation.
- When you are ready, take a deep breath in and out. Move your fingers and toes to slowly wake your body and senses back up. Slowly open your eyes.
- Acknowledge yourself for taking time to contribute to your health!
Living in San Diego, we are blessed with numerous resources for creating and building a meditation practice. Reach out to your local yoga studios, churches, or temples to find a group that resonates most with you.Â If you are looking for a way to get started, The Chopra Center (located in Carlsbad) offers a free â€œIntroduction to Meditationâ€ class taught by their meditation teachers every Friday from 2:00 â€“ 3:00 PM.Â The Little Yoga Studio (located in downtown San Diego) offers a â€œGuided Meditationâ€ class every Saturday morning at 10:30 AM.Â Please visit their website for up-to-date schedules and rates.
Bahareh is a certified Health Coach based in Encinitas, California. She empowers others to live healthier, happier lives by eating well, reducing stress, and finding balance.Â www.mindbodyalliance.com