Meditation: Slow Down, Focus, and Heal
As much as we, as parents, grandparents and other care-giving roles, would like to do for our children, they have a hard time dealing with the demands of their lives too. Their anxiety is even harder than ours to articulate, and may be expressed as disruptive or defiant behavior. I believe meditation taught at a young age can help a child learn to self-regulate their emotional outbursts.
Since children usually are not able to focus well enough on their own, I suggest leading them through a guided meditation with one of the simpler techniques. Doing this together is not only a great way to model behavior you wish your son or daughter to emulate, it creates a wonderful bonding moment with them as well.
The Mayo Clinic recommends meditation for multiple health benefits, including:
- building skills to manage stress
- increasing self-awareness
- reducing negative emotions
learn more at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070
The demands of modern life can make anyone's head spin. I'm a single mom and work retail, trust me, I know the roller coaster this world can put us through. Sometimes, I feel as though I'm the only sane person I know! Stress can make even the strongest of us feel as if we're about to crumble.
So how do we manage to go on?
Having a solid support system can help us get through anything. There's nothing like an all out BS session with your BFF to vent your worries. Or, going to the mentor you've always trusted for some solid advice to get you through some difficulty. Or, being able to turn to that special person who's shoulder is always available to cry on can be an enormous comfort. But, what if those people aren't there? What if they're too busy or have too many problems themselves and don't have the time to comfort you? What if they are the problem? For whatever reason, there are times when we have to learn to cope and disengage from our stress on our own
In my life, I've found a few meditation techniques that have helped me center myself and remain strong, whether it's a minor irritation or a major trauma. This practice is a mental and physical discipline, helping you to regain control of your body--heart rate, blood pressure--and ease your mind--anxiety, fear, anger.
Bellow are several examples of simple meditation techniques that can be done by even amateurs. However, if you are unused to this type of discipline, practice the first meditation until you're comfortable with it before trying the others.
"Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there--buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day."
The practice of Reiki is a form of healing meditation. My mother recently took a class and performs it on herself, daily, helping her to focus, relax and heal her body and soul. Reiki's beliefs (as well as other spiritual systems) are that the body is made up of different sections, called Chakras. Each one has a color and aspect associated with it. It may help you to choose a color with coordinating candle, aspect and specific body part to focus on while meditating. Or you can systematically cover the body from head to toe, focusing on the colors and aspects as you go.
Above your head, or "Crown": Violet--connection with God, the Infinite, Peace, Wisdom
Forehead, or "Third Eye": Indigo--Balance, Intuition, Devotion
Throat: Blue--Verbalization, Expression through Spoken Word
Heart: Green--Release of suppressed Emotion, Love, Soul/Heart connection
Solar Plexus, Upper Abdomen: Yellow--Personal Power, Goals, Digestion
Lower Abdomen, or "Sacral": Orange--Creative Forces, Direction toward Devotion Loins, or "Base": Red--Grounded Forces, Work on Physical Plane
How to Begin
Some of these meditations can be performed anywhere: a crowded train on your morning commute, your office at work, the restroom of a restaurant, or your bedroom. The shorter techniques are great for a quick refocusing on the go.
To obtain the maximum benefit of meditation, however, you should choose a more ideal setting.
- A dark, quiet, comfortable room with a cushion, comfy chair, or yoga mat to sit on.
- You can play calm, soothing music if you like, but nothing too upbeat or distracting. If you prefer (and can manage!), you may wish to sit in complete silence.
- Light incense, burn oil or dab some on your pulse points in a scent that will enhance cognitive aspect you wish to achieve.
- Light a candle in front of you. Have as many lit as you choose throughout the room, but one should be placed at eye level on which you will focus your attention. Choose a color supporting the aspect you wish to promote, and feel free to say a prayer to your deity as you light it. I usually choose a white candle as, it represents spiritual purity.
- Sit in the Lotus position: legs crossed in front of you (criss-cross-applesauce, we called it in school), back straight but not rigid, shoulders slightly rolled, neck relaxed and open, head level with chin slightly downward, hands on your knees with palms facing up unless otherwise indicated.
- If the Lotus position is not comfortable, you may place your legs however you choose on the floor, bed, or even in a chair. Your upper-body should remain the same.
For all other meditations, begin with the first, Just Breathe, to get you focused.
How do you feel about Meditation?
Meditation #1: Just Breathe
A simple enough meditation, it can be done anywhere when you need a quick alignment of your inner balance. It works in those high-strung moments when you feel as though you're about to burst into tears, or put your fist through a wall, but know it's better to control your emotions. I often do this before a meeting (social or business) to ease anxiety or on a five-minute break in the backroom of my store when my coworkers or the customers are just a little too much for me at the moment. I also employ this strategy for both myself and my son when he is having a tantrum. It allows us both to calm our emotions and solve the problem without fighting.
It is essential to master this technique as a first step to other meditation or yoga practices.
- Sit in the Lotus position, or other comfortable position with your back straight, and close your eyes.
- Your mind should block out all else and focus on your breathing. In, out, in, out, in, out.
- You may wish you visualize a balloon inflating and deflating with your breath. Or the tide washing over a beach, pulling into the sea when you inhale and crashing onto the shore with your exhale.
- Inhale for a count of 1, 2, 3.
- Exhale 4, 5, 6, 7
- You can add a chant to keep the rhythm of your breathing, which works great with children, too: (breath in) "Count 1, 2, 3..." (breath out) "I'm as calm as can be."
- Repeat 10 times or until you feel calm.
You should feel lighter, maybe even a bit dizzy, when you're done. Take a moment to collect yourself, breathing normally and perhaps drinking some water or having a healthy snack before returning to regular activity.
Note: It is important to exhale a count longer than you inhale in order to release excess carbon dioxide and "bad" energy from your body and spirit.
I do this pose as a guided meditation with my son when I need him to be still and calm. He is too young to balance on one foot, and that would just become a game to him, causing further distraction. Instead, I have him stand with both feet flat on the floor, next to each other, with his arms stretched out as the "branches." This method is great during his nighttime routine. After his bath, I put lotion on his sensitive skin while he stands in the tree pose. I go through the chant, massaging the lotion into each part of him, describing him as the tree. This helps him focus on controlling his body (Mommy can't put lotion on squirmy parts!) and calms him for bedtime.
Meditation #2: I am a Tree
This is the standard "tree pose" in yoga. It is designed to center oneself and regain balance to restore inner peace. Use it with the breathing method described above.
- Stand with your feet together, back straight.
- Point one knee out to the side, perpendicular to your body, placing your foot against the inner thigh of your standing leg. Your legs should look like a closed number 4.
- Elbows should be pointed outward, with your palms pressed together at chest level, fingers pointed upward, in a "praying" posture.
- If you are skilled in yoga or other balancing exercises, hold pose for several minutes at a time. If not, hold for a count of 30 and switch legs, holding for another 30.
- Repeat, if desired.
For more focus, do a chant. You may speak it like a poem or story, but repetition is important to enhance the power of a pose, so choose one phrase that includes the essence of the idea you wish you embody. Using the image of a tree can help you maintain your balance as well as draw energy into your being. I focus on each body part, imbuing the strength and serenity of a tree into each part. An example of my chant:
"I am a tree, tall and strong and calm.
My head reaches the sky, standing high above the chaos of the world.
I am tall and strong and calm.
My arms are branches, with leaves collecting the power of the sun, so that all things can breathe.
I am strong, I am calm.
My body is the trunk, supporting itself with power and energy and beauty, standing tall against the wind and rain and storms.
I am strong and beautiful and calm.
My feet are roots driven deep into the soil, drawing life from the very earth.
I am tall, I am strong. I am beautiful, I am calm."
For Extra Spiritual Cleansing
Before you begin the Let It All Go meditation, you may wish to aid in the release of your negative energy. Choose a candle color based on the aspect you wish to promote. When you light it, call on the deity or spiritual being you identify with to guide you. There are two ways to do this:
- You can, before you light it, etch the thoughts you wish to discard on the side of the candle in simple, clear words. Examples: "anger with husband," or "grief over grandma," or "resentment at sister." While meditating, focus on those feelings. As the candle melts, the words will dissolve and it will help release those negative feelings from your soul.
- OR you can write out your worries on a small piece of paper. Carefully, holding the paper over the candle (use metal tongs to avoid scorching your fingers), allow the flame to burn the negative feelings away. Seeing your pains turn to ashes will help you then focus on releasing them from the inside as you proceed to the meditation.
*Please make sure you take all safety precautions and prevent yourself or anything around you from getting burned!
Meditation #3: Let It All Go
Sometimes, the worst part of dealing with a stressful situation is getting over it. A terrible break-up, loss of a job or loved one, an accident can all fill you with resentment, guilt, anger, pain and other negative emotions that weight you down. This yoga technique will help you when recovering from a traumatic event, big or small. You may choose to add this into your daily nighttime routine to ease away the difficulties of your day and get a good night's sleep with a clear mind. Here, you will learn to isolate the bad energy inside you, release it to the universe and focus on creating peace within yourself.
- Start in the basic Lotus position.
- Fold your left hand into a fist, with the first and middle fingers crosses, pointing downward. This hand will ground you, keeping you anchored to the earth without being swept away by your distress. You may wish to "hold a happy thought" in your fist.
- Raise your right arm, elbow should be bend, slightly parallel with your knee. Point the first finger of your right hand up to the sky.
- While breathing deeply, swirl your right hand first finger in circular motions. Imagining all the negative energy flowing from your heart, your gut, your mind, your soul into that finger. Release the unwanted emotions into the universe to disperse away from you.
- Continue until you feel calm, relaxed and can focus on positive thoughts.
Take A Moment...
Meditation has multiple benefits. It will help you to heal, both physically and spiritually. For me, it is like taking a vacation from the chaos of daily life. Whether it's an hour's worth of contemplation or 5 minutes to regroup, taking the time to focus on yourself and promote positive energy will help reduce your stress levels. Ease into it with these simple techniques and you will be surprised at the peace and tranquility you can achieve.