Meditating & Relaxing
Don’t let the thought of meditating the ‘right’ way stress you out more than you may be already. You can attend meditation groups, or classes led by trained instructors.
I regularly teach my clients relaxation and meditation techniques and hold classes both online and here at Oak Lodge.
I teach what I refer to as ‘casual’ meditation drawing on many different practices and techniques so that the individual student may choose what they find works best for them.
Once you have mastered the basic techniques you can also practice meditation easily on your own.
Meditation can be a powerful self-help tool in many situations:
- as a means to relax and de-stress
- as a means to energise the body and mind and re-charge the batteries
- as a way to focus the mind and concentrate better
- a way to manage chronic pain
- as an effective remedy for insomnia
- as a complimentary therapy for hypertension and lowering high blood pressure
- as an aid to promote healing
You can make meditation as formal or informal as you like, however it suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people find it helpful to build meditation into their daily routine. They may start and end each day with a period of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time. I usually recommend about 20 minutes per session.
Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose:
This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function of the body, which can be very relaxing when done in the right way. I recommend breathing deeply and easily down into the abdomen, rather than just high up in the chest. The tummy should move in and out without any exaggeration or discomfort.
Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing. However if you find you prefer breathing through your nose exclusively, or your mouth, then do that – whatever is most comfortable for you.
One of the most common meditation techniques is known as ‘counting the breaths.’ You can count ‘one’ for an in breath, and ‘two’ as you exhale; or count one complete cycle of breathing in and out as one breath. This technique is combining a focus on breathing with what might be thought of as a type of mantra.
When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body’s various sensations, you may notice areas of pain, tension, warmth or relaxation.
Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body, especially those parts of the body you recognise as being tense. This may also be used to lessen or manage pain or discomfort.
There are many different styles and types of meditation. They all involve focusing the mind on something as a means of slowing thought processes and thinking more and more about less and less. This is because it is actually impossible to think of nothing, or clear the mind completely as some people think.
Some meditations involve repeating mantras to oneself.
Repeat a Mantra
A mantra is usually a word or sound to focus on while meditating.
A common traditional mantra is the word ‘Om.’ Chants or phrases may also be used, such as ‘Om mani padme hum.’
A popular mantra with my students is a variation of the Om mantra. We call this the ‘Omar’ mantra because a long Ohm… is said to oneself on the in breath, followed by Aaah on the out breath.
You can also create your own mantra. One way is to focus on the reason you are meditating. You might wish to be more tolerant, sympathetic or compassionate, for instance, and so you might meditate on the words ‘Tolerance,’ ‘Sympathy,’ ‘Compassion.’
When I coach people on ways to avoid building up to a panic attack I will have them repeat the phrase “Relax Now” several times in time with their breathing.
We all know walking is a great time to unwind and reflect. Combining a walk with meditating is a time effective and healthy way to relax. Walking can also encourage contemplative daydreaming or ‘trance’ states. You can use this technique anywhere you are walking, such as in the countryside, a peaceful wood for example, by the sea or even on a city street as long as you stays alert to potential hazards like traffic and other pedestrians!
When you use this method, slow down the pace of walking so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Do not focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, paying attention to the actions and sensations of lifting, moving and placing; as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
The Practice of Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation derived from a 2,500 year old Buddhist practice. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.
Mindfulness is non-judgemental and inviting of whatever arises in awareness. It is cultivated by paying attention on purpose to whatever arises in the present moment, either inside or outside of oneself.
A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord. That you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, as if from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.
A last word here on practising meditation. people meditate for many different reasons, not only to relax and focus the mind. Relaxation is always a natural by-product of meditation so it can be useful to decide before you meditate what other reasons you might have.
You might choose to give your meditation a direction and purpose other than relaxation alone. You might, for example, consider something you would like more of such as love and compassion, or tolerance and patience.
Over time and with practise meditation can bring about long-term changes in mood and levels of health, happiness and well-being.