When we think of meditation, the first thing that might pop into our mind is absolute silence, or even an attempt to wipe our minds clean of thoughts that may be stressing us out. For many of us, this may be hard to fathom, or even near impossible. However, there are many ways to connect to meditation and mindfulness that seem more approachable and applicable to our lives, and they may be of benefit in the future if you find meditation something with which you connect.
Let’s pause. Take a deep breath in through your nose for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. How do you feel? Let’s continue.
You may connect with mindfulness as an age-old practice of calm and reflection stemming from deeply historical roots, or you may connect with it as a way to infuse calm within an otherwise stressful day. Whatever it may be, meditation is a practice that is proven to hold tangible benefits if you find that this practice is for you. Not only can meditation be calming, it can also slow your heart rate, help with pain management, lower stress levels, and more!
Meditation has also been found to be highly beneficial within an educational setting. Not only are mindfulness and meditation practices that are helpful with stress/anxiety reduction, students who practice mindfulness have been found to have increased attention/focus, as well as greater levels of compassion for themselves and others.
Stepping back from the benefits that meditation might have, you might be thinking, “Well, what does this have to do with me? How do I even get started with this?” Speaking from personal experience, I found the idea of sitting in silence and ruminating in my mind rather difficult, because sitting still is not my strength. However, through conversations I have had both with teachers and practitioners of meditation/mindfulness, as well as those who are just starting their mindfulness journeys, I’ve come to find that meditation and mindfulness can come in different forms for different folks, and the key is finding what works best for you. You don’t have to sit and wipe your mind clean for 20 minutes in order to derive benefit from mindfulness if that isn’t the shape that mindfulness takes for you.
One tactic that is simple and easy to embed in everyday life that I rather connect to is intentional breath. Let’s pause. Do you remember how at the beginning I asked you to breathe in for four, hold for four, and out for four? That is called square breathing, a common intentional breathing technique that can bring you a sense of calm. You were just participating in intentional breathing!
During long seated meditations, intentional breathing is an element you’ll hear a lot about, but I find that even taking a few intentional breaths can focus me in a way that not much else can. With just a few breaths, I can breathe in the strength that I want to take with me through the rest of my day, and breathe out any negativity to go forth with my day in a positive spirit.
Whether you love the idea of mindfulness or think it may not be for you, please know that meditation and mindfulness are only beneficial if you can approach it in a way you are comfortable with. If you would like any articles with information about mindfulness/meditation, resources that may help you begin to cultivate a mindfulness practice that you connect with, or would like to speak more about this topic, please feel free to send me a message through the Microsoft Teams channel. Deep breath in and deep breath out — have a great rest of your day!