Friday, January 8, 2010

Feel Om-azing... Touch the Stillness of Meditation


In order to flow with the introspective energy of the winter season, I would like to share the gift of meditation with all of you. Some of our participants and project followers may already have a direct knowing of the sweet surrender that meditation facilitates. For others of you, meditation may seem completely foreign, or mired in religious dogma. I want to clear up any misconceptions by reassuring those who have these concerns that meditation is completely approachable for anyone. Additionally, although some religions incorporate meditation into their spiritual practices, meditation in and of itself is not a religious act. What is meditation then?

Meditation is like making a direct call to your sacred self. It is a way for you to dance below the surface and come into contact with your deeper knowing. It helps you experience the wonder of being the calm eye in the storm... finding peace and refuge tucked between the busy moments in life. It is a way to release stress and decompress... a path to calm and grounding.

Besides all the numerous internal rewards, there are many health advantages gleaned from engaging in a regular meditation practice. Some noteworthy benefits of meditation are:
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Stress reduction
  • Improves exercise tolerance in cardiovascular patients
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Relieves muscle tension and headaches
  • Improves mood by increasing serotonin production
  • Helps in chronic disease and pain management
  • Is beneficial for post-operative healing
  • Has a soothing effect on PMS, lessening symptoms
  • Invigorates the immune system
  • Helps provide a sense of emotional stability and calm
As you can see, meditation is a practice that can enhance your life and state of well-being on multiple levels.

How do you meditate?
  • Find a place where you can have some peace and quiet. Not a lot of time is required. Even 10 minutes alone to yourself where you do not have to worry about being disturbed by intrusions can have a potent effect.
  • Settle into a comfortable position. For some of you, this will mean sitting cross-legged, or in a comfortable chair with a supportive back. Others may prefer to lie down. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself comfortable, including providing yourself with blankets for warmth, or pillows for cushioning and body support.
  • If you are seated, sit with your spine erect. Think of creating space in between your vertebrae, as if someone is pulling a string up from the top of your head. Think lengthening. If lying, quickly scan your body and notice if there are any adjustments you need to make in order for your body to feel balanced and supported.
  • Close your eyes, let your tongue rest gently against the roof of your mouth, relax your lips so they are slightly parted and begin to focus on your breathing.
  • Don't worry about trying to control your breath. Simply observe its movement. Notice the way it flows in and out of your body. Follow your in breath all the way down to your belly and then trace its movement all the way out of your nostrils on the exhale. Find your rhythm and settle into deep, relaxing nose breathing.
  • When thoughts come up, let them surface and then float on by like a leaf in a stream. Sometimes interesting thoughts can emerge, or you will find your mind getting busy as you run through a mental to-do list. Practice non-attachment. Rest easy. The mind chatter will silence the more you allow those thoughts to just 'be'.
  • Sometimes using a mantra, or word that has personal meaning to you that you silently repeat to yourself over and over again can help you focus. You could choose a common mantra such as, "om". Even a simple word or phrase like, "love" or "I am peace" can help you focus and find a sense of calm. When intruding thoughts arrive, they can be surrendered to the rhythm of the mantra you have chosen to use. This is particularly beneficial for beginners.
  • Spend as much time in meditation as you like. There are no rules or set times you must remain engaged in this practice. Tune in and flow with what feels right for you.
I can't stay still! It drives me nuts! Maybe meditation isn't for me.

Many feel this way when taking up meditation. Often this leads to abandonment of the practice before the reward of this quiet time is ever received. I encourage you to give it a few tries before you decide that meditation isn't for you. Keep it simple and start from an approachable place. Maybe this means that you begin by practicing meditation for 2 minutes and gradually increase your time until you arrive at a place that feels supportive.

If you really find it a struggle to sit or lie still, you may want to consider walking meditation. This is when you go on a walk and match your gait to the rhythm of your breath. You can also use mantra with walking meditation. Use the movement as an opportunity to develop body awareness. Feel your muscles working. Notice the way your foot makes contact with the ground as you take a step. Pay attention to your environment. Notice the smells in the air. Tune into the sounds around you. Notice the shapes, colors and textures of the natural environment surrounding you. Sense the way the breeze kisses your face. This is meditation in motion and is equally beneficial as traditional approaches to meditation.

Explore the world of meditation during these winter months. Allow yourself to have this experience in a variety of ways and discover which method speaks to you. You may decide that this is a practice you would like to carry with you throughout life. Namaste~

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