Post No.: 0180
Post No.: 0088 hopefully clarified what mindfulness is about and what it isn’t about. The following are a few different types of meditations you can try.
To make it easier, you might want to buddy up with someone and take turns in softly and slowly reading the following instructional parts to each other until you understand them by heart. If you’re new to this then you might want to start by pacing each session to last for 3-5 minutes, then gradually build in more minutes in following sessions according to how you feel. Enjoy…
Mindful breathing meditation – sit down with a straight back but in a comfortable position, shoulders relaxed, hands and feet in comfortable and relaxed positions. With a slight smile on your face and with your eyes closed, concentrate your awareness on your breath as you meditate.
Let go of the day, of any pressures to be anywhere else – there’s nowhere else you need to be and nothing else to do. Compartmentalise this portion of time to dedicate to this meditation and to your mental well-being. Breathe naturally but notice every breath you take – welcome each inhale as if a good friend and let go of each exhale as if saying goodbye. With every breath, feel yourself feeling more and more relaxed and sinking ever more snugly into your seat.
A trick for slowing down your heart rate or to keep it down is to make each exhale last a moment longer than each inhale. So if you – not only during this meditation exercise but at any time or place – breath slowly and deeply and take longer to breath out than to breathe in then it’ll calm you down whenever you find yourself in a heightened state of stress (e.g. try breathing in for 3 seconds, holding the breath for 4, then breathing out for 5 seconds, per breath).
If you want, notice the sounds in your environment without getting caught up with what might be going on – just listen to these noises come and go.
This breathing meditation replicates what we do when we go ‘phew’ (basically a long exhale) and relax immediately after a tense or stressful moment is over – we naturally tend to breathe more deeply, fully and slowly when we concentrate on our breath, which relaxes us. (In target sports, a common technique that is taught is to pull the trigger during the natural respiratory pause at the end of an exhale.) Qigong breathing techniques emulate mindful breathing and the cultivation of calmness and composure too. Slow and deep breathing is also a way to ‘centre’ oneself and to focus on something that is in the present and something that is within one’s control i.e. one’s breath – taking a few slow and deep breaths is therefore a great technique to use whenever you feel stressed before an exam or competition or whenever you feel like you’re going to boil over with frustration or anger at something or someone. Take a few slow and deep breaths to compose yourself before you do or say anything rash.
Your breath can be your anchor to return to if you ever wander off into thoughts of worrying, repeatedly revisiting plans you’ve already decided upon, repeatedly remembering unhelpful memories, fantasising, being judgemental or anything other than what’s happening in reality and in the present. But you can focus on anything really – including your heart rate, emotions, bodily sensations or the temperature – as long as it’s happening in the present and you do so without getting caught up in trying to read into them.
Offer yourself some appreciation for doing this meditation practice after each session. Notice if you feel more energised or relaxed, and take this feeling with you as you continue with your day or go to sleep.
Body scan meditation – this is similar to the mindful breathing meditation above but instead of concentrating on your breath, you concentrate on scanning your bodily sensations as you focus on each body part intentionally. You can perform this meditation lying down rather than sitting down if you want.
Body-part-by-body-part, slowly mentally scan your body from your toes up to your head, or in the opposite direction, feeling the sensations of each body part and your internal state via all your senses, as you go from part to part in a logical sequence one at a time, pausing on and relaxing each body part as you focus on it.
Alternatively, imagine tensing then relaxing one single muscle (group) at a time (e.g. left forearm, left upper arm, left shoulder…). If you feel no sensation from a body part or muscle then just notice that. Finish with an overall body scan, sweeping from toe to head, and head to toe. If you find yourself drifting off to sleep during this meditation then that’s fine.
Although not intended as a mindfulness meditation, some early scientific research has shown that you could even try mentally going through the physical motions of physical exercise (e.g. deeply imagining your body going through the action of burpees). This can surprisingly offer some physical benefits compared to doing nothing if you’re unable to actually do that exercise (e.g. because you’re currently injured or frail). An explanation for how it works might possibly be that it can still somewhat stimulate nerve firing and timing? Or it’s kind of like watching someone else perform an action and receiving some learning experience by imagining ourselves doing it too via empathy? Of course, the physical benefits won’t be anywhere near as great as actually doing that physical exercise if you can do it, but it’s better than nothing if you can’t.
Tai chi or other forms of qigong, or Shavasana or other types of asanas in hatha yoga, essentially include a form of body scan meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation – this is about extending unconditional warmth and care towards yourself, then warmth, care and gratitude towards those around you, then gradually towards all beings everywhere.
With your eyes closed throughout, think of a person (someone close to you or whom makes you feel happy) who also loves you very much too. He/she can be someone from your past or in your present. Imagine him/her standing by your side, sending you his/her love, wishing you comfort and contentment, happiness and health. Feel the warmth and kindness coming to you from this person.
After a few moments, imagine another person who cherishes you deeply (again from the past or present) standing by your other side, wishing you comfort and contentment, happiness and health.
After another few moments, imagine everybody whom you love and who loves you surrounding you on all sides. Imagine them all wishing you comfort and contentment, happiness and health once more.
When it feels right, bring your full attention back to the first person and send the love you feel back to this person and repeat a few times, “May you live with comfort, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.”
Do the same for the second person and for anyone else you want. Do the same for an acquaintance you don’t know very well and feel neutral towards; then another such acquaintance if desired. Finally do the same for all beings, including people you do not like, because everybody is essentially like you – everyone simply wants to be happy. Breathe deeply then notice your state of mind and how you feel after this meditation. Then reopen your eyes when ready.
This exercise makes you feel more connected to others, makes you subsequently treat others better in your real daily life, which in turn likely makes them treat you better in return, which creates a virtuous furry circle of happiness and more satisfying social interactions around you and in the community. It also reduces self-focus, which in turn decreases the focus on your own insecurities, which lowers the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Paying attention to those worse off than you and wishing them well can put your own worries into proper perspective too.
Holding kind and warm thoughts and wishes towards other people for several minutes per day, and noticing how this makes you feel, improves your happiness because it makes you more aware of the good around you, as well as trains you to actually be kinder to others. Kind people are generally more satisfied with their relationships and lives because of the psychological bi-directionality of happiness and kindness i.e. happy people tend to become kinder, and kinder people tend to become happier too.
Woof. Furrywisepuppy hopes you now feel amazing and ready for anything!