Meditation. Entrepreneurs, athletes, celebrities, yogis and everyday people praise its benefits. Added to that list are organizations like the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which touts the mind/body practice of meditation for “increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness and enhancing overall health and well-being.”
Though meditation isn’t a replacement for medical care, studies suggest it’s beneficial for managing myriad side effects of cancer (everything from chronic pain to) sleep problems. Research has concluded a mere five minutes of daily meditation can be impactful. What holds many back from getting started, though, is choosing a mode of meditation. Here’s a primer for moving past confusion and into a state of Zen.
Qigong, Transcendental Meditation, tai chi, yoga: each mode of meditation is unique. What’s right for one person, though, might not be a fit for another. The NCCIH wisely suggests focusing on the four elements various meditation methods have in common: “A quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, etc.); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).” Pull these components together in a way that speaks to your personality and you’re ready to get underway.
Meditation needn’t take place in a formal setting. Daily practice can commence before getting out of bed, during a workout and even during commutes.
Whereas lying down may lead some to fall asleep (not necessarily a bad thing) during meditation, it could help others stay in the moment. Many opt for meditating during activities with repetitive movement, such as swimming, in order to use rhythm to enhance their experience.
Key to meditation is quieting the racing mind, silencing worries and “to-do” lists. Listening to the inhalation and exhalation of one’s own breath can accomplish this. Other ways to get centered are using a word, like “Om,” or pinpointing and fixing your gaze on visuals like the horizon or a photograph.
Can’t shut all those thoughts down? Don’t sweat it. The whole point of meditation is to relax, so drop self-judgment and applaud the effort made. Know that, over time, reaching a sense of peace will be accomplished.
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