Meditation is one of the many facets, practices, and applications of mindfulness. Meditation itself is a means to exercise your present moment awareness. Just as we workout to strengthen and condition our physical body, meditation is the exercise to strengthen our mind and improve our ability to be more consciously aware in the moment. Therefore, it takes time, willingness, and dedication, and in time, you will start to notice its; effects and likely achieve insight from this.
Likewise, when practiced consistently, the effects of meditation are reported to have an impact on various aspects of daily functioning. For example, this can involve improvements in matters such as cognition, attention, focus, a reduction in perceived levels of stress, an ability to induce one's own relaxation response, to being more present in daily tasks and interactions, and the ability to work with pain (physical, emotional) and most importantly, increased levels of compassion for ourselves and others. There is loads of information on meditation's personal and scientific applications, which I encourage you to dive into!
However, meditation is generally an exercise that involves working with learning to induce your own ability to relax, focus and become more consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, your breath, and your body at the moment in which all of these are occurring. The practice is typically performed individually, in a still, comfortable seated position, and with eyes close; however, this doesn't always have to be the case. Meditation can involve extended periods of time or can be brief. However, 20 minutes is what contemporary meditation research has identified as the time frame in which actual brain changes can occur. I recommend starting with smaller intervals of time and working your way up!
There are also many different styles and meditation techniques. Some can be guided while others are self-directed. Some involve specific actions, themes, a mantra (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation). In contrast, others may focus on specific actions such as breathing or basic observation of aspects of the body, input, and sensations derived from the five senses and aware of this without judgment or major analysis.
Some meditations can be transcendental in nature (invoking themes related to the spiritual or unseen realms). In contrast, others can be more embodied (seated in the physical world, our bodies, and the connection between our bodies and brains.) Likewise, some form of meditation may involve deep spiritual or psychological themes, while others focus on just observing the here and now and the present moment. Some meditations can also involve movements like walking, dancing, or other forms of physical activity. There are also "meditations in action," which involve the cultivation of positive qualities such as kindness, generosity, love, and wisdom, which can be utilized personally or for a collective purpose.
In all actuality, you can make anything a meditation as long as you exercise your ability to be consciously aware of what you are doing in that specific moment and noticing your thoughts, feelings, sensations, breath, and body as you are doing it.
Guided meditation can also be very helpful if you are starting our desiring to simply be held in a meditative space with the help of an instructor. There are a variety of lovely guided meditations out there. As always, I encouraged you to explore such resources and find what works best for you. I do recommend balancing guided meditations with your own personal practice just so you can be able to call upon the power of practice, even when a guide isn't readily available and you can strengthen your awareness on your own.
I have provided several guided meditations on this site as well and am looking forward to creating more. As you will notice, many of my meditations deal with specific themes of struggle or pain. Over time as a therapist and from working with my own struggles, I have come to realize that these themes seem to be very prevalent in society today and universal. Most commonly, such themes have to do with fear, loss/grief, depression, a need for positivity, being able to let go of what doesn't serve us, low self-regard, an inability to relax, and a general need for more love and compassion towards the self and to others. I will continue to provide mediations on these matters as it is what I am called to do. However, I am looking forward to providing other forms of meditations and tools in time which will assist further in the process of developing a greater level of awareness as means to achieving healthier and happier ways of being.
For now, let me introduce mindfulness-based meditation. In working with clients or other individuals new to meditation, I often recommend working with a mindfulness-based meditation practice first as a means to establish a strong foundation for observational abilities. In such a practice, folks are asked to simply observe what is going on within, and while often using an anchor point (such a the breath or another point of focus) to keep them focused should they get distracted or feel any type of tension or resistance.
This involves being aware of the breath, the "thinking mind" and the content of the thoughts, certain feelings that arise, certain felt sensations through the five senses, what is going on in the body, or anything else observed from a place of curiosity. This is also done through a lens of self-compassion and non-judgment of the experiences, simply observing and working with the concept of non-identification (you are not necessarily your thoughts or your feelings, they just happen.) These are all important skills, especially as we can very easily live our days running on autopilot, or getting distracted, or simply not being fully aware of what is going with us at the moment.
Of important note, some people might experience or believe they will experience difficulties with meditation. This could be due to common misconceptions about what meditation is or how it is "supposed to be" practice or due to more notable difficulties with attention and focus, physical limitations, or in some cases, trauma sensitivities. Therefore, I want to let you know that there really is no wrong or right way to meditate. Hopefully, you will discover that a meditation practice can be flexible and practiced in a way where you particularly feel comfortable, at ease, and safe.
In establishing a meditation practice of your own, I encourage you to simply approach it with the spirit of curiosity and a "beginner's mind," give yourself some time, stay committed, and remember it is a "practice," and be kind and gentle to yourself the process. Some days in meditation practice may be great, while others are likely to be more challenging, which is completely normal. In sticking with this, your zone of tolerance balanced with your zone of resilience, your practice will start to take shape, make more sense to you, and even become your best tool for insight, growth, hope, peace, and a stronger sense of conscious awareness. When we are more aware, we can become more awake and empowered in our lives and relations and combine this with a deeper sense of connection and compassion.
As we become more skilled at observing with present moment awareness, we become more consciously aware and learn to be more responsive, rather than reactive to our experiences.
In the therapeutic context and working with anxiety or depression, this can be tremendously helpful once the skill starts to take hold. One might observe that they have a tendency towards automatic negative thinking patterns or that they get easily emotionally stimulated in certain instances.
Another layer of this is witnessing our thinking patterns and labeling our emotions, giving them a name, a shape, an understanding of our habitual ways of being and reacting. so we can choose healthier approaches
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