Words of Support and Encouragement Week of November 16, 2009


the_legend_behind_shivas_third_eye_dg66Although I have posted these meditation techniques in the past, I always think a quick reminder is helpful!  Especially because as we continue on further into the holiday season, we may feel a bit more stress and anxiety.  Meditation is a wonderful tool, helping us access our inner peace and quiet.  Look for an article in the next week about coping with anxiety and various challenging situations at Thanksgiving, and if you are in the Syracuse area be sure to try our Wednesday evening Mindfulness Meditation sessions: http://www.cnyhealingarts.com/2009/11/10/mindfulness-meditation-classes-syracuse/

Meditation can be extremely relaxing and beneficial for everyone.  However, sometimes it is a challenge to get started and feel comfortable with the idea of sitting quietly for an extended period of time.  We are so accustomed to constantly running and moving onto the next project that it is a wonderful opportunity to slowdown, catch our breath, and appreciate where we are in life.  I have compiled some meditation techniques that I have tried, and hopefully some of them will be beneficial to you.  Keep in mind it is good to have a few different ones you enjoy.  Sometimes you may be more receptive to focusing on a thought rather than a spot on your body, or vice versa.
The Candle
If you are having difficulty focusing on your breathing or a particular thought, it may help to dim the lights of the room, remove all noisy distractions, and focus on the flame from a candle.  When you are doing this it is important to just let your eyes relax, and make sure you are comfortable.  Try not to focus on whatever thoughts are racing through your head, simply watch the flame.  If your mind does wander, guide it back to watching the flame, and slow your breathing.
The Third Eye
Often in yoga we will focus on the Third Eye, the space in between your eyebrows.  This is known as the gateway to your spirituality and high consciousness.  To begin meditating on your Third Eye, get in a comfortable position, and remove any distractions from the area.  When you are settled, close your eyes and slow your breathing so it is nice and steady.  Then, move your focus to the space in between your eyebrows.  Observe the sensation, and focus on trying to have your mind seated, right there, at your Third Eye. It helps to visualize the area and observe any feeling or physical sensation you may have.
The Breath
There are many meditation practices that help you to focus using the breath; here are a few that I have tried:

  1. Basic The basic process of meditation with the breath is to just follow your natural flow of breathing, observe the pattern, and the sensation.  With this it is not necessary to slow your breathing down or focus on a particular thought while you are breathing, rather just listen to and feel the breathing itself will be enough.
  2. Counting If your mind is wondering more often than you would like during the basic breathing technique, it can help to count the duration of your breath.  With this technique you would inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 5 counts.  This keeps your mind focused on counting, and decreases the wondering from though to thought that is sometimes a challenge to control.  One benefit of this meditation is that it can even be done at your work desk.  Just focusing for about 10-15 breaths can quiet your mind and body, without anyone else knowing what you are doing!
  3. Visualization One of my favorite meditations incorporates the breath, as well as audio and mental visualization.  For this meditation it is best to lie down and play a cd or mp3 of the ocean.  Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and slow your breath.  During this meditation you can either align your breath with the cyclic sounds of the waves, or you can just breathe on you own.  Either way, as you inhale, imagine the ocean’s waves beginning at your toes, and rolling up over your stomach, and stopping at your chest.  As you exhale then imagine the waters receding back into the ocean along with your stress and worries.  Continue the wave visualization with each breath, and try to actually feel the water coming up onto your body and then retreating back into the ocean.  This meditation can also easily be done without a cd or mp3, just by hearing the ocean in your mind.

The Stomach
If the Third Eye is too arbitrary for you, it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your stomach while you breathe.  This may help because you can feel the cyclic changes by placing your hands on your stomach and feeling them fill and empty with each breath.
Mantras and Daily Affirmations
Mantras and Daily Affirmations are very beneficial.  This is when you take a word or a sentence and repeat it over and over again.  Here is one to try by Louise Hay (http://www.louisehay.com/index.php) a wonderful author and motivational speaker who changed her life by these daily affirmations:
My life is full of little miracles popping up out of the blue.
Please remember that meditation does not come easily.  It is a journey, and takes practice, practice, and more practice!  I suggest you try a few of the above-mentioned techniques, or better yet, all of them!  You may find that one day you find that The Candle technique is working, and the next day, it may be The Stomach.  The needs of your mind and body are constantly changing, so it is important to be flexible and work with what you are given that day.  In the beginning try to set aside just a few minutes for meditation and gradually increase the time as you feel comfortable.
Good Luck!
Lisa Stack