Blue's UnBashful Blog

Blue's UnBashful Blog

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MEDITATION...Why you should and How you can!

How meditation is even more Important.....
Top 10 reasons to meditate

There are many articles giving evidence on why mediation is important and all of the benefits it has to offer.  The above links are 2 of those articles. 

     Meditation is typically done sitting with a straight back with legs crossed. Your hips should be higher than your legs.  It can also be done on a chair or against a wall (if your back needs support).   It can be done anytime and anywhere.  A park, at work, a friend's house....anywhere!  The goal is to quiet your mind, even if you are surrounded by noise and distractions. 

     I have a small area set up with cushions to sit on and a blanket in front for support.  "My place" is also where I practice my yoga.  The cushions are set up at the top of the mat.   My meditation area includes a few other things but that is not necessary. For example, before I begin I read an excerpt from a book , I really enjoy Meditations of John Muir by Chris Highland,  then I start the timer and begin my practice.  When the time is up, I close with a short saying or some wise words from a variety of sources, currently I use Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior card set.  The card set includes "53 Principles for Living Life with Fearlessness and Gentleness".  I also enjoy the various card sets from Wayne Dwyer and Loiuse Hay.  The front of the card has an intention and the back of the card elaborates on that intention with words of wisdom.   Sometimes I light a candle or some incense before beginning. 
     Meditation can be done for any amount of time.  I have a kitchen timer and I have a dedicated place in my house, with rituals as I explained above; but, those things are not needed. As far as length of time,  I have meditated for as long as 30 mins.  I started out with just 5 minutes, then after a few weeks, 10 minutes, and so forth.   Using a timer timer for the desired time is helpful so that you are not checking your watch, interrupting your meditation.  Most phones have timers!   The goal is to be present and feel your breath, your body, your "world" and to not be thinking about what you did or what you should do. However, these things will pop into your head from time to time or you will hear something that distracts you and that is ok and normal.  When this happens, acknowledge it and continue into your meditation.
There are a few different types of meditation:

1.       Mantra Meditation.  This type involves saying a mantra over and over, sometimes with the help of a Mala Bead (kinda of like a rosary but just beads, usually 108).   In this type of mediation you repeat a short mantra over and over.  It’s usually something that you want to feel, do, be, etc....and you say it in the present tense.  For example, “ I am strong, I feel great”, “I am where I need to be, everything is working out as it should”.  It should be something short so that you can remember it.  I often use these mantras while racing or when negative thoughts arise.  “ I feel strong, I feel great” I will repeat on a run when I’m starting to feel sluggish or when negative thoughts start to come in .   But it can also be said during a mediation, using mala beads, or just sitting for a period of time. I'll expand on the power of mantras in another post.

2.       Mindfulness mediation includes sitting for a period of time and being present.  It’s basically sitting and focusing on breath, feeling the breathe as it comes in and goes out.  During this time you focus on the here and now.  Feel the breathe come in through your nose down your trachea and out and acknowledge other sensations in your body, like your stomach rising and falling, your body touching the ground, etc.

3.       Walking mediation involves the above but paying attention to your movements, your feet touching the ground, the birds chirping, the crispness of the air and so forth.
The point of mediation is to be present, to not think of past and future, what to do, what not to do and all of those other things that pop in our mind daily.  Remember when a thought like that arises, acknowledge it and get back on track.

 4.      Active meditation (like walking meditation but more intense) is something I discovered while taking a spinning class at a specific studio with teachers who "got this".   We would spin to the beat of our music the entire time, focusing on the rhythmic beat from the music and also focusing on our breath.  We were so present to the beat and our bodies and breath that it was like a meditation. I have found this active mediation personally in swimming, trail running (running in the woods- with NO headphones), YOGA, and SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding).  When I am doing these actions, I am living in the moment, focusing on each step as a run,  the nature sounds around me, I am "paying attention" to the here and now.  I'm kind of forced to be present so that I don't trip over a rut or run into a tree.  It is the same with yoga.  In yoga we are moving into poses but we practice to focus on our breath, breathing is the basis of yoga, not thinking what we had for lunch or "do you these yoga pants mack my butt look good".  Again, the same is true (for me) with swimming and SUP.  Others would also mountain biking, hiking, volleyball, etc.  There are many studies, info, articles out there that acknowledge this "Active Meditation".  There many organizations for PTSD treatment that utilize these active meditation activities/ sports as part of the healing process.  Surfing is a popular sport for mindfulness and there is a veteran organization that takes veterans to Hawaii to surf to help recover from PTSD.   Here is an excerpt from an article regarding healing PTSD via surfing. 
“The physical exertion and intense focus required to surf often produces flow states, which flood the brain with neurochemicals like anandamide and serotonin, the same substances found in antidepressants. In addition, it’s believed that when people are submerged in water, their bodies alter the balance of epinephrine and dopamine to the levels achieved during meditation.” from the article
"Why Surfing Soothes PTSD" (click here for link to article ) .  This applies to anything that requires that "physical exertion and intense focus".  
Try doing a vigorous physical activity without headphones and that requires your present attention.  It feels amazing afterwards. 

    As a child from very early on I learned to "day-dream" to avoid uncomfortable situations, during classes, in the car for long trips, etc. and this "UN-present" practice continued through adulthood.   My mind was trained to "wander off" and to not be present. I didn't grasp the concept of being present until I started spinning with teachers that focused on the beat of the music ( I didn't know what it was then but I liked it)  I then began practicing yoga and taking private lessons.  (All around 2010, I believe)  It wasn't until I started working one on one with a yoga teacher, Jen, that I began to truly understand being present, mindfulness, and breathing through yoga poses rather than escaping off to "day-dream" land or thinking whatever thoughts that popped into my head like "when can I get out of this pose".  I had an amazing yoga teacher that really helped open my mind to this "mindfulness" stuff.    I practiced with her for several years and learned so much. 

Meditation is the opposite of daydreaming, it’s being fully present.  It doesn’t matter where you do it or for how long.  I started with just 5 minutes.  You can start with 3 minutes and build from there.  Start small, practice, and notice the positive changes that start occurring! 

There are so many great books on yoga and meditation, and the importance of being present.   Here are a few excellent beginner books:

The Power of Now- Eckhart Tolle
Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen 
The Yimas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
How Yoga Works by Gesne Michael Roach
The Peaceful Warrior Series (3 books) all by Dan Millman---- AMAZING!

PLEASE feel free to email me questions.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu 


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