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Meditation: Everything You Need to Know

Meditation. Silence. Mantras. Breathwork. Belly breathing.

What do they have to do with, well, anything? Meditation is a tool to get you centered and back in touch with your body, to clear your mind, or to meditate on a scripture or prayer. It’s all of this and you don’t have to sit still. How do I know this? Because I have pretty much done every variety of meditation out there since the age of 5- including tai chi a moving meditation.

Many people ask me these types of questions: How do I start to meditate? Is there a right way to do it? I cannot meditate because thoughts or lists or pictures come up. I get distracted. I cannot sit still that long. It hurts my back to be in a half-lotus position even with a wedge and a pillow. Wow.

How can something that’s supposed to be relaxing elicit so many stressful issues?

I get it and you can meditate in any position (you can even lay down if you need to or sit in your chair), you can even move and what if I told you it’s okay to have thoughts? Really more than okay—you are supposed to have thoughts!!!!! Because that’s how you can tell that your body is unwinding and releasing stress! What?!

Okay, so let’s back up a bit and talk about the basics of meditation and why I think having a tool like this can really make a difference in life.

Creating ritual within your hectic day is essential to reduce stress, illness and improve on family dynamics as well as your sleep. It’s easy, free and best of all there are so many to choose from whether you are religious, spiritual or neither—we can find a way for you to relax with your own breath. Wooh! Isn’t that awesome? And in as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day, you can have marked improvements in how you feel, tension level in your physical structure and more. A lot more.

Let’s begin with your breath.

We breathe all day every day and most of us do so without much thought unless we are exerting ourselves during exercise and even then, it’s a fairly natural progression and not hard to do.

When we talk about quieting our minds during meditation, the same holds true. We begin to breathe and notice how deeply or shallowly we are breathing and then put our attention on filling up the belly holding for a moment and releasing the air slowly and completely. It’s not fast or slow in the beginning but just at your own pace.

Then as you begin to settle and feel your body relax, I recommend laying a hand on your belly. That way you can feel the expansion of your belly and know you're using full “belly” breathing.

If you haven’t experienced this before just start here and spend a few minutes a day being conscious of your breath and allowing full belly or diaphragmic breathing to occur. This supports the muscles, oxygenating your cells and removing waste more efficiently.

Next, you can decide if you want to have silence or music with the time you spend with your meditation.

Neither is better than the other and if you are new to meditation, guided meditation is recommended and here is one of my favorites.

Do you think you would like to walk and meditate or move like qi gong? It’s okay to explore and figure out what works best for you.

Also, I feel like depending on my reason for meditating, for example, doing a forgiveness meditation-I might choose to do mindfulness with a guided meditation. If I have just finished yoga I would probably choose to lay down and do breath work-slow, full breaths feeling my body relax from head to toe.

Mantras.

Well, there are a lot of them and much like breathing, their only job is to allow you to focus on something long enough to move away from the thoughts of the day and bring your attention inward.

As you speak or think your mantra, your consciousness or mind gets quieter and quieter. You can learn to meditate with a mantra given to you by a teacher or create your own.

Again, there are great resources online for this too. If you are religious, you might read a religious text and pray silently afterward and focus on the words of the passage.

Again, there is no wrong way to meditate.

The process is there to guide you to a less stressful state of mind to allow the body to rest, heal and recover from stresses in life.

Many people may also find that in the process of meditation that they fall asleep. I can tell you after over 30 years of meditation and prayer…I still fall asleep. Often. I repeat. Often. Why?

Because this is what my body needs—a deeper rest. So, if you fall asleep during meditation, you may wake up feeling more rested than just sleeping during a nap. This is because the brain changes during the act of meditation and allows for different restorative processes to occur.

So, What's the Research?

Research indicates the reduction in blood pressure, reduction of anxiety, anger and increase levels of coping mechanisms in young people who were struggling with hypertension. This is just one of many studies over the years to show the benefits of meditation. This study was done with students practicing transcendental meditation which is the same technique I have used for years and is now popular by many celebrities like Oprah and many more stars and CEOs.

Meditation & TCM

It is recommended that meditation is done daily to help cope with stress but also begin to break up the old stresses that the body holds onto as well.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we call this stagnation or stuck energy. This is when your body first starts to feel “unbalanced” there are specific areas where, when you are out of balance, you feel more stuck and this is the body's request for balance.

Much like acupuncture, meditation helps to restore the balance of energy which moves blood and releases endorphins (happy chemicals we get from exercise, chocolate and being in love). So, as you practice meditation these areas begin to move more regularly and you have better mind/body connection, intuition and a calmer normal.

Qi

We will begin with the big question-what is Qi or energy?

Qi is the vital energy that each being has on our earth; plants, animals all have qi. So, the nature of qi is to move and allow the blood in our bodies to follow that energy.

When we get upset or angry our emotions affect our qi’s ability to move and we begin to feel stuck or angry or sad. We don’t feel right and we especially notice we are short-tempered or irritable.

It is easily seen in children, they start to act out, move excessively and create patterns to try and right themselves. It’s like the body wants to balance itself but the driver doesn’t have the tools yet to direct the flow of that energy. This is compounded by us being tired, hungry or not feeling in control.

So our bodies begin to feel tight, cannot take a deep breath or feel like it’s losing control.

Breathwork and meditation with movement can help support the qi to its natural flow. Allowing us to return to a smoother state of mind and physical release of stuck qi.

In  TCM, we believe as other natural healing modalities do, that the lack of movement eventually gives rise to dis-ease and pain.

This stuck energy that we feel will over time if not treated will cause your body to cry out for help. You may have specific patterns of illness or areas where you hold tension.  

Ready to try meditation with me? Join me next Friday the 17th 10 AM EST for a free lesson in Qi Gong meditation. Until then!

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