Operation Meditation

Meditation for Stress Relief

In the wake of my blue funk (so sorry if my last Vegimental about it didn’t show up in your inbox, here’s a link to view it online), I’ve rededicated myself to meditation and invited anyone who’s interested to join me. There are several of us on board and keeping tabs on our progress on the MsMindbody Facebook page.

I wish I had only glowing successes to report, but the truth is my meditation practice has been a little hit or miss thus far. While most days I do manage to find at least five minutes to sit and tune in to the sound of my breath–mostly sitting up in bed just before I go to sleep–a couple of days I completely forgot about it. Oops. But that’s one of the most important lessons meditation has to teach: when you get off track, you just start again.

The technique I’ve been using is counting my exhales and starting over when I get to 10. I like it because it gives me something concrete to do without making me feel like I have to be hyper-vigilant every single second as there’s nothing to do during the inhales except inhale.

When I’ve managed to give myself over to sitting still, I’ve noticed that meditating feels a lot like snorkeling. When you put your face down in the water and give over to breathing through a funny little tube, you sacrifice a little freedom (to breathe however you want without paying much attention) for access to a whole new world. Like snorkeling, meditating can be disconcerting at first—am I doing it right? Is something happening? But the more you do it, the less it feels like you’re in an alien environment and the more comfortable you get looking underneath the surface of your everyday, non-stop, chitter chatter thoughts.

If you’re still struggling to find time to meditate, here are my two best rules of thumb:

  • Choose a time and stick to it. First thing in the morning is probably the best choice if you can make it work. At this point in my life, first thing in the morning is dedicated either to sleep (since I’m not getting that much at night yet) or to wrangling two kids who are too young to understand “I’ll be with you in a few minutes.” I chose right before bed, because evenings are the quietest times for me. And I found that, when I managed to do it, it helped me zonk off into such a sweet, deep sleep much more quickly. It also helped me when during the day I would think, “I should meditate!”—I knew I had a designated time later. The problem is that sometimes I simply forgot. Which leads me to pointer number two:
  • When that doesn’t work, take it where you can get it. The only thing you truly need to meditate is to set an intention to mediate (as opposed to zoning out with your thoughts). When you find yourself with some time to spare—on the bus, in the doctor’s office, waiting for the pasta water to boil—seize the opportunity and meditate. You’ll get at least some practice logged during the course of the day so that if you miss your scheduled formal practice time, it’s not a total wash. And if you find more than one pocket of time during the day, bully for you!

Meditation Technique to Try This Week: The Human Tape Recorder
Here’s a great way to work meditation in to even the most crazed day: it’s a listening meditation that requires you to think like a tape recorder, and you can do it pretty much anywhere.

As humans, we tend to listen to something by zeroing in on whatever we want to hear and turning down our awareness of any background noise. But tape recorders don’t discriminate between noises; they record whatever travels through the microphone.

In this exercise, you want to use your brain like a tape recorder and concentrate on hearing everything there is to hear without allowing your attention to get drawn to one particular sound. Even though it requires concentration, it gives your mind a rest. And where the mind goes, the body follows (and vice versa).

Instructions:

  • Sit or stand up tall.
  • Turn your attention to focus on what you can hear. You’ll likely notice that one noise jumps out at you, and it’s probably the loudest or most annoying.
  • Now see what else you can hear at the same time. Try to divide your attention equally between every noise that enters your ears. It can be hard to do at first, but it does become easier with practice. It’s also fairly mind-blowing to discover how many things you normally tune out.
  • Notice when a particular sound has drawn your full attention, or when you’ve drifted off into a daydream, and resume dividing your focus between everything you can hear.
  • You decide how long to keep it up. But before you immerse yourself back in your normal thoughts, however, note how you feel differently than you did when you started. It may be a subtle or profound difference—either way is perfect.

Modifications:

  • You can do this with eyes open or closed. Although eyes open may be less noticeable to people around you (which comes in handy when you’re meditating in a public place), it’s generally easier to concentrate with your eyes closed.
  • Be careful not to veer into blatant eavesdropping. Although it may be tempting, and you will likely overhear snippets of highly entertaining conversation, the point of this exercise isn’t to invade others’ privacy. It’s to cultivate your own peace of mind. So when you hear some juicy revelation, note it and move on.
  • Be sure to try this technique the next time you are out in nature–imagine the beautiful sounds you’ll be able to hear in the great outdoors!

SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES!
If (when??) you meditate this week, come post on the MsMinbody Facebook wall and tell us where you were, what you did and how it made you feel when you were done. I’ll be choosing one person at random to win a copy of the new Putumayo YOGA CD, which will be officially released on September 14.

GET AT AN AMAZING PRICE ON SIGNED COPIES OF “THE CHILL GUIDE”!
Prone to fits of road rage, insomnia or crankiness—or know someone who is? Get fast, easy, and all-natural solutions to a range of real-world problems with my book The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity.

I took advantage of a rare opportunity to buy a bunch of my books at a steep discount, and I’m passing the savings along to you. Buy one book for $10 (plus Priority Mail postage), or two or more books for $8 each (plus Priority Mail flat rate postage).

I’ve heard from readers that they keep The Chill Guide on their desk at work or on their nightstand at home and reach for it whenever they have a situation that’s leaving them stymied and stressed. No one else is going to reduce your stress for you—you’ve got to do it for yourself! And this book shows you how. And having your very own signed copy will only add extra oomph to its healing powers.

It also makes a great gift for your friends and loved ones who need a little help in the relaxation department—it’s cheap, helpful, inspirational, and cute.

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Take care and keep breathing,
Kate

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