Summer can usher in a lot of commitments and meditation is a helpful way to set the tone for the coming months so we enjoy life rather than deal with stress. For the past four decades, I have been helping people to live better lives by teaching them techniques to help them handle stress through correct breathing. Many view meditation as a structured Eastern practice with rules for how it is done. This is true for people who practice within that belief system.
But what about the rest of us: the businessperson, parent, mate, friend, family member, who doesn't follow that philosophy but still wishes to create the awareness that meditation offers and reduce stress in their lives? How can they sizzle away stress as the seasons change?
Meditation is about being mindful of your spirit enough to focus inward for the serenity and guidance you need. It's having a moment to hear yourself think. We have the answers within us, and with a steady routine, we can harness a personal power that will remove much of the emotion that stress can cause. The only steadfast rule is slow breathing. Proper breathing is an advantage to handling life and health matters, and is especially helpful for dealing with overall stress. I have outlined a simple method of breathing to get you started so that anyone, at any age, can enjoy meditating.
- Make an appointment with yourself to go to a space you have designated where you will not be disturbed. Make those you live with aware that you are meditating.
- Wear clothing that is loose and comfortable, and choose a time of day/night that is conducive to you being able to observe the silence within. Play some soft instrumental music to help set the mood.
- Start by taking some slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, just as slowly.
- Sit quietly and allow yourself to sense your surroundings. Don't worry about noise or distraction; that will change when you begin a regular routine.
- Follow the inhalation and exhalation of your breathing, using the timing of your breathing or your heartbeat as a marker to mindfulness.
Meditation time can range from 10 minutes to hours. Choose what you feel comfortable with. Once you adopt this practice in your life, you will be embracing a more peaceful existence. More things go right when we meditate than wrong!
In our frantic, fast-paced lives, it can be difficult to completely switch gears and let go of our competitive natures, even when we're trying to slow down and find balance. Touting itself as an "ideal training method for this generation's short attention span," Buddhist Boot Camp is a new title instructing readers on the basics of Buddhism and meditation using a no-nonsense approach.
If you're looking for a mesmerizing moving meditation, try a practice of walking through a labyrinth. Many churches, gardens and other outdoor spaces feature labyrinths that are available for public use. It's said that the combination of left and right-brain activity required of navigating a labyrinth can help with problem-solving and can even spur unexpected epiphanies.
Journey meditation can transport your mind, using visualization, to a more quiet and serene state. To try this type of meditation, simply imagine yourself in a beautiful place completely separated from your everyday life; somewhere you feel safe. Try starting for five to 10 minutes, visualizing a garden, tropical island or peaceful mountaintop to slow down the mind and remind yourself of the world's beauty.
Laughter, and even the mere anticipation of impending laughter, can reduce damaging stress hormones -- and it can also boost levels of healthy hormones. Laughter meditation, then, can be a particularly effective way to relieve stress. The powerful act of mindful laughter anchors us in the present and brings us to a place of joy. Try starting out with a five to 20 minute laughter meditation by imagining humorous situations and letting yourself laugh fully and deeply, ending with a brief silence.
There are several different ways to benefit from the energy of the fire element in your meditative practice. One common method is to focus on the flame of a candle that you've placed three to six feet in front of you. After you've gazed at the flame for several minutes, close your eyes and imagine it: Send anything that threatens your balance and peace into the flame, and feel yourself becoming more light and pure. You can also try simply visualizing a fire and throwing your worries -- and bits and pieces of emotional baggage, no matter how big or small -- into the fire, asking for forgiveness as you go.
We've all heard the old riddle, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" But you may not have realized that this and other philosophical questions can form the basis for a meditative practice called Koan Meditation. It's a Buddhist technique in the zen tradition that involves asking a question that cannot be answer through reason alone as a way to see the true nature of the Buddha. Click here for a list of potential questions to explore in your practice.
Crystals can be used as part of a meditative practice to help target specific emotions and reach particular spiritual goals. Calming blue stones, for instance, can help clear the mind and body, while purple or clear stones aid in achieving elevated states of consciousness (calcite, for instance, symbolizes enlightenment). If you have a particular goal for your practice, try getting there by holding or wearing crystals with the healing properties that can guide you.
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