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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blank Space, otherwise know as Meditation

Today I wanted to write a little bit about meditation. My goal is to help you understand that meditation doesn't have to be about completely blanking out your thoughts. I certainly used to think that way and therefore rejected the entire idea of relaxation & meditation. Let me tell you that I was never interested in quieting my mind. I'm a talker and if I am not chatting away my brain won't stop clattering either.

I was that kid in kindergarden that could not take a nap. I was wired. I would lay on my little woven nap and wonder why we had to sit and be quiet. The teacher probably wanted to hit me over the head and put me out. I even remember a high school gym class where we had to listen to a recording and follow the prompts. It was one of the longest 45 minutes of my life.  I have had a hard time being quiet, relaxing, and slowing down. Does this sound familiar? If you know me you probably know that I like to buzz around. I like to have something going on. I keep lists for the simple fact that I like to know I have something to do and then cross off the items - its gratifying. Isn't it? Always heading somewhere. Always planning out the next step. Or is it?

Well, a few years ago I was extremely stressed out and it was making me really sick. I was having intense digestion issues, back and neck pain and I couldn't sleep no matter how tired I was. Well I decided to consult my "team" of health professionals - Acupuncturist, Kinesthetic Doctor, Massage Therapists, Energy workers, Personal Trainer, Holistic Nutritionist, etc. As you can see I do not have an MD in my "team" but that is because I have never found a allopathic doctor that really seemed to understand the importance of taking a 360 approach to health. An MD who had the time and interest in helping me get healthy (recommendations please!). The verdict from these health professionals was that I needed to relax.

During this time I was getting a lot of advice and learning to take better care of myself. I was reading up on how diet & lifestyle play a huge roll in your health. I was forced to slow down so I started revisiting the idea of relaxation & meditation. I started to get back into Yoga. I took a class on the medicinal effects of Yoga. Learning that yoga has many aspects besides the asanas - the poses you see at the gym. Yoga means union and it is the union of our consciousness with the universe. Learning that Yoga was more than movements was fascinating.

Yoga is also about learning to breath. How many of us hold our breath for one reason or another? If you are doing it now - take a deep belly breath through your nose and then exhale at the same length as your inhale. Breathing in and of it self is healing and relaxing. Did you feel a change when you took a breath?

So if you are not too keen on quieting your mind. That's okay try breathing and just focusing on the breath. Close your eyes. You can do this anytime. At a meeting, at a stop light, while you are bathing, while you are eating, or if you are speaking to someone that rubs you the wrong way.

Look at meditation as a gateway to relaxation. Close your eyes and release your to do lists. Focus on breathing and think only of the breath. If your mind moves to thoughts of plans for another day or that you are hungry just return to the act of breathing. Do not judge yourself. Just be.

There are so many forms of meditation. Try any of them. This post does not even touch upon all the options you have; walking meditation, mantras, eating meditation, bowing, sitting, prayer, chanting, etc.

Here are a few places around the Minneapolis area that you can get started with a meditative practice:


Or just google meditation and you will find loads of fabulous YouTube videos, books, cd's, and other valuable mindfulness tools.

What forms of meditation have you tried? What works for you? Let me know.


Julie said...

Excellent article Mary! When I was in college I read a book by Jon Kabatt-Zinn, "Wherever You Go, There You Are." It had some great ideas for meditation. I lent it to someone that needed it more than I, and now I need to get myself another copy. I felt that just reading about meditation and relaxation really helped me focus and relax. Thanks for the insights!

MulberryMary said...

Julie I am so glad that you liked the post. I find that the more I talk about meditation the more likely I am to practice it myself. I even schedule it so that I have relaxation in my daily life. There are so many wonderful benefits.

Thanks for the comment!