Today’s guest blogger is Marco Sterling, who has provided a comprehensive guide to meditation. When we are caught up in the turmoil of a loved one’s addiction, it’s often hard to embrace the simplicity and empowerment that meditation can bring; yet, meditation is the cornerstone of our own self care, serenity and recovery. Thank you, Marco, for sharing this invaluable information including a variety of links.
A seemingly endless cycle of internal ranting, worrying, and despair often accompanies the parents of addicts in their daily lives, compounding their difficulties, and jeopardizing both health and peace of mind. Restoring balance and peace of mind can be achieved by stepping back from the daily internal struggle of “what if…,” “how come she won’t…,” “why didn’t I…”. The cycle seems uncontrollable, the troubles seem to have no answers, and the questions seem to never cease.
However, the endless cycle of uncontrollable worrying, anxiety, and stress is, in fact, the only thing we have some control over. We can choose to stop the cycle, with the understanding that it is unhealthy – we may have no control over the troubles we are worrying about, but we can take control of our worrying. If hitting the ‘off’ button seems too tough, you can learn to hit the ‘mute’ button for 20 minutes of healthy silence.
In this article, several top scientific studies confirming meditation as a successful strategy for restoring peace of mind are explored. Mindfulness and visualization in meditation are also explored, inspirational tips are provided, and some great video resources are offered to give you a loving and relaxing break from worry, stress, and anxiety.
- Part 1: What is Meditation?
- What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
- What are the Different Types of Meditation?
- Breath Meditation
- Concentrative/Visualization Meditation
- Receptive/Mindful Meditation
- Reflective Meditation
- Generative Meditation
- Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
- Beginner’s Breath Meditation
- Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
- Easy Walking Meditation
Part 1: What is Meditation?
Both an ancient and popular modern practice, meditation is a means of increasing mental concentration and physical relaxation. Although often associated with Eastern and New Age religions, in fact, almost all religions share a strong respect and appreciation for meditating on holy Scriptures as a means of increasing peace and enlightenment. While religion is not a necessary component of meditation, your personal system of beliefs may easily be incorporated into your meditations.
What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
Practicing meditation brings relief from worry and stress, promoting a calmer outlook on life. Stanford University neuroscientists report that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation reduces brain activity related to fear and anxiety. Harvard’s Sara Lazar further confirms that mindfulness meditation physically reduces the number of neurons in this same worry-triggering area of the brain.
According to the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Health Education, the benefits of meditation are many, including:
- Decreased stress
- Decreased depression
- Decreased anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer cravings for alcohol and tobacco
- Increased creativity
- Increased spontaneity
- Higher levels of energy
- Increased exercise tolerance
- Increased job satisfaction
- Better concentration
- Better relationships with others
What are The Different Types of Meditation?
The following meditations were written and produced by the University of New Hampshire for the Health Services project “Reflections: Meditative Practice for College Students“:
Breath Meditation — Focusing your mind on the rhythm of your breathing becomes a simple and natural meditation. Notice your breathing becoming deeper and slower as you settle into the peacefulness, your mind becoming calm and self-aware.
Concentrative/Visualization Meditation — Many people find it helpful to focus the mind by visualizing images or ideas. Focus on breathing to relax and then engage your imagination, for example, to promote healing energy flowing through your body. A specific image or sound (mantra) may be the focus during this meditation, further helping to quiet your mind. Mantras can be spiritual or other comforting sounds, words, or phrases, which you repeat softly and rhythmically, while you meditate.
Receptive/Mindful Meditation — During this form of meditation, your mind becomes attentive, or receptive, to sensations, smells, feelings, thoughts, images, and experiences without judging, reacting, or processing the experience. This helps train the mind to become calm and clear while learning to achieve a non-reactive state of mind.
Reflective Meditation — This method of meditation is used for gaining deeper enlightenment by reflecting deeply upon an interesting question, compelling idea, fascinating characteristic, sacred scripture, classic quote, or another inspiring concept.
Generative Meditation — Focusing on a specific quality, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, patience, etc., this form of meditation is used to consciously cultivate, or generate, that quality within you. Continuing into your daily walk of life, generative meditation encourages you to further nurture this quality while thinking, speaking, and acting, as though this quality is already fully alive in you.
Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
In the beginning, meditation may be more easily learned while lying down or sitting somewhere peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate, so be compassionate and patient with yourself while you discover your own way. Give yourself time to practice clearing your mind, learning how to relax, and discovering how to just “be”.
Beginner’s Breath Meditation
Learning to focus on your breathing will teach you the oldest and easiest form of meditation.
- Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable.
- Gently close your eyes, close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose.
- Breathe in deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
- Open your mouth slightly and breathe out peacefully, exhaling until you’ve emptied your lungs.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling this way, focusing on your breath. If counting your breaths helps you focus on them, this is fine. The idea is to use this focus to clear the clutter from your head, becoming mindful of only your breathing. Continue for two or three minutes in the beginning and work up to longer periods.
Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
A common mindful breathing meditation technique involves reciting a relaxing “script,” for example, “Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I smile.” Using visualization, or focusing on an object, can also be helpful during mindful breathing meditation. For example, look at the blue sky after sitting down comfortably, and breathe in, saying, “Breathing in, I see the blue sky.” Then, while breathing out, recite, “Breathing out, I smile at the blue sky.” Now your breathing becomes one with the blue sky, the source of your air as well as your mindfulness.
Continue mindful breathing meditation, visualizing yourself relaxing into the experience. Become mindful of your physical state of peace and inner calm.
Easy Walking Meditation
Walking meditation takes the concept of mindfulness with you while you walk. While being aware of every breath you are taking, add to that an awareness of every step. Now you are becoming one with the air you are breathing as well as the contact between you and the earth. Focus on the sensation of each foot as it connects with the ground. Keep your gaze forward and try not to let your attention wander, but return your focus always to your inhaling, exhaling, left foot, right foot, as you experience this peaceful, calming relationship with earth and sky.
(“Meditation” by Moyan Brenn, Flickr)
Learning to Appreciate Your Center
One of the greater benefits of meditation is learning to detach yourself from external forces over which you never had any control. Learning to focus your mind on what actually “is” will allow you to release your mind’s focus on what “is not.” The negative habit of focusing on, or worrying about, troubles you have no control over will become replaced with a new, positive habit of clearing the worries from your mind.
Your new and ever-deepening awareness of yourself and your surroundings can promote a sense of balance, a centeredness which becomes a new foundation from which you will develop new relationships. With regular practice, meditation will help you maintain your center when life’s situations try to throw you off-balance.
And, in those times when you find yourself pulled off-balance by overpowering events and situations, meditation will help return you home, to your quiet, calming peace of mind.
I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience is similar to others and in going through it I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help as many people as possible who are going through the same struggle. I currently serve as the Chief Editor for www.PaloRecovery.com and I hope that you will visit and find value in the topics I write about.