Last week I wrote about the importance of incorporating relaxation into your daily routine. I mentioned meditation as one practice that can bring relaxation and renewal into ones’ life, and I thought I’d spend a bit more time on meditation in this post.
Meditation is very helpful to my clients that struggle with a variety of concerns ranging from anxiety, to basic life dissatisfaction, to struggles with relationships. I see meditation as both a life practice, and as a tool to increase therapy’s effectiveness by improving one’s awareness. For example, meditation is useful when one is trying to identify a feeling and locate it in their body, or when one is trying to keep themselves from pushing feelings down and away. It allows people to give their feelings compassionate attention so they can feel better. It also helps them become aware of how they’re feeling throughout the day outside of meditation time.
The biggest obstacle to meditation I’ve seen is a common belief that meditation requires special skills. People are always telling me they’ve tried meditation but can’t do it right. They, like so many others, have a misconception that meditation is only successful when one can silence their mind and rest in emptiness. I envy people who can do that, but if that were the only way to be successful at meditation I would have quit a long time ago. My mind is very active and I find it very difficult to tame. I know, however, that the practice of meditation builds my awareness, and that’s a process. My mind wanders a great deal but I know that the more I practice, the more present I am to my life.
So, here are a few steps to get you started if you’d like to try simple, mindfulness meditation
- Sit comfortably, with your back straight and your eyes closed or slightly open and looking down. If you can sit on the floor with a meditation cushion that’s great, but it’s ok to sit in a chair if you need the back support.
- Notice your breath entering and leaving through your nose. If you’re congested you can breathe through your mouth but breathing through the nose will feel less forced.
- Try to hold your focus on your breath. Your mind will likely wander, but when it does, just notice that and bring your attention back to your breath.
- If you notice discomfort, place your attention on the part of your body that is uncomfortable and keep breathing. If you feel emotions rising and falling, just notice them. Attend to any uncomfortable feeling until it passes if you can.
- Continue for at least 10-15 minutes and try to go longer with each session.
- Don’t give up if your mind wanders a lot. Even with a lot of wandering you’ll begin to notice your thoughts and feelings throughout the day more readily over time.