INTRODUCTION TO MEDITATION
What is meditation? It is a practice to slow down your thinking and to bring your awareness to the present moment by finding a comfortable position, such as sitting in a chair with both feet on the ground, palms facing up on your knees and closing your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath–in and out- and as thoughts occur, notice them and then let them go. Meditation is a mindfulness practice.
In an interview in the Washington Post, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar gave an introduction on how meditation affects the brain. She explained that four regions of the brain associated with healthy brain function become more substantial, while one of the areas associated with undesirable behavior actually shrinks.
This is the area in the brain we use for cognitive ability and memory are found as well as emotional regulators associated with self-awareness and empathy. The cortical thickness of the hippocampus grows in volume through meditation, gray-matter density increases and all of these important functions are nurtured.
The larger and stronger the posterior cingulate, the less the mind wanders and the more realistic the sense of self can be. Meditation helps the mind stay in the present moment and strengthens its ability to observe sensations and emotions without identifying with them. Meditation increases the density of the posterior cingulate.
The amygdala produces feelings of anxiety, fear and stress. The smaller it is, the less we will go into the “fight or flight” mode. Meditation decreases the size of the amygdala. T
Here are some of my favorite meditations. You can speak the words to yourself, record them to play back or invite someone to say the words for you. Your choice.
Posture. Keep your back straight. Neck and head should be aligned with the spinal column. They should be straight, but not stiff
Keep your eyes focused a yard or two in front of you.
If you can, maintain a half-smile, which helps your facial muscles to relax.
Close your eyes.
Begin to follow your breath and relax all of your muscles.
Concentrate on keeping your spine straight and on following your breath.
Let go of everything.
Place your left hand, palm side up, in your right palm.
Let all the muscles in your hands, fingers, arms and legs relax.
Let go of everything.
Be like the water plants which flow with the current, while beneath the surface of the water, the riverbed remains motionless.
Hold onto nothing, but your breath and your half smile.
Do not try to stop your thoughts, just notice them and then let them go.
Continue to focus upon your breath.
Imagine yourself as a pebble which has been thrown into the water. The pebble sinks through the water effortlessly.
Detached from everything, it falls by the shortest distance possible, finally reaching the bottom, the point of perfect rest.
You are like the pebble which has let itself fall into the river, letting go of everything.
At the center of your being is your breath. You don’t need to know the length of time it takes before reaching the point of complete rest on the bed of fine sand beneath the water.
When you feel yourself resting like a pebble that has reached the riverbed, that is the point when you feel your own rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.
Remember this feeling and practice it for 5 minutes to an hour a day.
Mindful breathing when anxious or worried…
Start by noticing the rhythm of the breath in your body. Don’t force it, or try to change it. Close your eyes, if you wish.
Now, notice where the feeling or anxiety or worry resides in your body. Perhaps it’s in your upper body somewhere or your abdomen. Carry on breathing, a little more deeply, if possible, and see if you can allow this feeling to be there.
Then take or hand or two to that place in your body. Gently allow your palms to rest there. Keep breathing gently and feel the warmth of your hands in that place.
Allow the warmth of your hands to comfort this part of your body, accepting yourself fully in this moment.
Take as long as you need in this position before taking an few deep breaths to end the practice.
Using Nature as Your Guide
Find a special place to walk and consider the following:
Slow your steps. Enjoy each one.
Pay attention to how you place each step.
Notice where you are placing your foot.
Pay attention to your senses. Tune into your body.
What does your face feel like? What do you hear? What do you smell?
Think small. What do you see that you wouldn’t normally notice?
Focus your entire attention on something in nature that is small. Notice the tiny details. How does your body feel when you do that?
Change your point of view. Scan the area. Use all the senses to experience where you are.
Study the specific area around you. What is Nature’s story?
Linger. Pick your spot. Get comfortable. Resist the urge to move until you are ready to leave.
Thank Nature for sharing her space with you.