Technology and busy lifestyles keep us on the go. Accessibility through cell phones, the internet and PDAs has exaggerated multitasking. Often a person can be found walking down the street setting up meetings by phone or sending a text message while standing in line for a cup of coffee (or worse, while driving). Everyone constantly is doing and focusing on more than one task at a time. When overwhelming stress, fatigue or even something as frightening as cancer enters one’s life, it can lead us to question how to slow down and focus on the moment in front of us and who we are instead of what we are doing. So just how do we take a step back from the chaos of our daily lives?
One way to slow down is to practice mindfulness mediation. Mindfulness meditation, which has its roots in Buddhism, is the practice of being in the moment. In his bestselling book Wherever You Go, There You Are, internationally known meditation expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., describes mindfulness meditation as “an appreciation for the present moment and an intimate relationship with it … the direct opposite of taking life for granted.”
Through research during the 1980s, Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found mindfulness meditation was helpful in managing the symptoms of chronic pain. One of their studies, which studied the effects of mindfulness mediation on 90 chronic pain patients, found a significant reduction in present-moment pain, anxiety and depression. Since then, work has been done to help people in all facets of life use mindfulness as a way to manage the stress of daily life and from illness.
Regardless of your motivation, mindfulness mediation allows for much needed personal time that can help you focus on the here and now. While mediation is simple it is not always easy. Here are a few steps to get started:
· Find a quiet space for the meditation. Turn off your cell and house phones. Ask your family or housemates to give you some time for yourself without interruptions.
· Get into a comfortable position, either sitting on the floor with your back supported or in a comfortable chair.
· Take gentle, deep, cleansing breaths that originate in the belly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
· Focus on the natural rhythm, sound and movements of your breathing.
· Allow your mind to focus on the moment and not on your grocery list, tomorrow’s agenda or upcoming appointments.
Most people are not accustomed to sitting quietly in the moment. Instead of admonishing yourself or thinking that you cannot practice mindfulness meditation, simply and gently bring your mind back to the present. Sometimes it can be helpful to repeat a mantra, a word or phrase, over and over. Meditation takes practice, and for many people, more specific guidance can be beneficial. Taking a class or reading a book on it is a good way to be introduced to the practice. There are also a number of tapes and CDs that can be picked up from local libraries to guide you through a meditation. (See below for specific book suggestions.)
One of the most important keys to practicing any type of meditation is finding something that works for you. For some people, taking a 15 minute walk and noticing the surroundings is a way to relax and appreciate the moment. Working in the garden and paying attention to the way the earth feels between your fingers can be another vehicle. Ultimately, it is not what you do, but that you find something to provide you with a sense of balance and calm, as well as an opportunity simply to breathe. Give it a try. The results can be empowering.
Note: Every Monday at our Beachwood location a mediation hour is offered at 2:00pm. Join us for meditation in our Westlake location on Mondays, November 11th, & 25th and December 9th and 23rd from 5:30-6:16pm.
Helpful Meditation Books
The Beginner’s Guide to Meditation by Joan Borysenko
Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Meditation for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil
Heal Your Body by Louise Hay
Meditations to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay