Blogging · Meditation types · nonfiction

Mindfulness Meditation

Today I will be talking about Mindfulness Meditation, what it is and how to do it. This is a first in a series where I will write about ten types of meditation, explain a bit what they are and how to apply them to your life. My post on the different types can be found here.

Mindfulness meditation is a method of paying attention to your present moment experiences with curiosity, openness, and willingness to be in that specific time without judgment. It incorporates breathing sensations and teaches how to turn one’s attention back to the experience when distractions arise. This method of meditation teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. 

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To get started, all you need is a comfortable place to sit, three to five minutes of free time, and a judgment-free mindset. Remember, meditation is a practice, so it’s never perfect. You are ready to begin now just as you are!

A timer (preferably with a soft, gentle alarm) can help you focus on meditation and forget about time—and eliminate any excuses you have for stopping and doing something else. A timer isn’t necessary but it does help keep track of how long you meditate as I have found you can lose track of the time easily. Some people meditate for longer sessions, but even a few minutes every day can make a difference.

Personally, I do this type of meditation quite often, especially at night when I am trying to sleep and my mind is racing full tilt! It helps calm my mind and my body so I can fall asleep. So, how to do it…….

If you are not lying in bed trying to fall asleep, or it’s in the middle of the day, you can find a comfortable place to sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff. It’s also helpful to wear comfortable, loose clothing so you’re not distracted. But being that this practice can be done anywhere for any amount of time, a dress code is not required.

Okay, now that you’re comfortable, concentrate on your breathing. Become aware of your breath, feel your belly rise and fall as the air enters your nostrils and leaves your nostrils. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them. Simply note them, remain calm, and use your breathing as an anchor. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by; watch them float by as they shift and change. Repeat this as often as you need to while you are meditating.

If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts—whether, with worry, fear, anxiety, or hope—observe where your mind went, without judgment, and just return to your breathing. Don’t be hard on yourself if this happens; the practice of returning to your breath and refocusing on the present is the practice of mindfulness.

As you practice mindfulness meditation, it helps to find ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, especially on those days when life is too busy to carve out a minute alone.  Everyday activities and tasks provide plenty of opportunities for mindfulness practice.

A few examples:

  • Brushing your teeth: Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, and your arm moving up and down.
  • Doing dishes: Savor the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, and the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink.
  • Doing laundry: Pay attention to the smell of the clean clothes and the feel of the fabric. Add a focus element and count your breaths as you fold laundry.
  • Driving: Turn off the radio—or put on something soothing, like classical music. Imagine your spine growing tall, find the half-way point between relaxing your hands and gripping the wheel too tightly. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to where you and your car are in space.
  • Exercising: Instead of watching television while on the treadmill, try focusing on your breathing and where your feet are as you move.
  • Getting kids ready for bed: Get down to the same level as your kids, look in their eyes, listen more than you talk, and savor any snuggles. When you relax, they will too. 

Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health. I can attest to this part. Mostly with my mental health.

  • It can help reduce stress
  • Lower heart rate
  • Help your body resist illness
  • Gives you better sleep

It’s important to remember that even a few minutes each day can be beneficial. Just a few minutes of being present can reap significant benefits. Even if you don’t do it every day, it’s a practice you can keep coming back to when you need it.

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Blogging · nonfiction · strength

The Strength of Music

This past week has been darker than most. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. It also goes out to the people of Russia who don’t want this war any more than the people of Ukraine do.

With all this pain in the world, it was hard for me to come up with an uplifting subject for my weekly post here. Then I thought, music! Music is so strong. It resonates with everyone. Music can be soothing, healing, calming or it can be passionate, thrilling, and forceful.

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

Music is also very personal. It has many genres, so there is something for everyone. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like music, do you? They might like one type of music over another but what ties us all together in this world is music.

Some of the benefits of listening to music:

  • Help you rest better
  • Lift your mood
  • reduce stress
  • Improve your overall health

Did you know there are professional Music Therapists? Yes, it’s true! These are people who are trained to help you find ways to use music for your mental health. This type of therapist learns how to use music-making and listening to help people understand and process their emotions.

But you don’t necessarily need a therapist. You can also use music on your own to improve your mental well-being. I think a lot of us do this already.

Photo by FPVmat A on Unsplash

The best music for stress reduction is the kind that works for you. Find something with an upbeat rhythm, something like 60 beats per minute is recommended. Many people also find that Celtic, Native American, and Indian string or flute music tends to have a calming effect.

Again, it’s personal. Find what works for you! I think this is the best kind of research, try different genres, something you haven’t heard before, or something you thought you wouldn’t like. You might surprise yourself with what you find.

Create a mood playlist. If you’re feeling down, anxious, or upset, find a track that expresses how you feel. Feel those emotions and let the lyrics resonate with you. Then, gradually shift your listening choices so that the music takes you into a happier or calmer place. This is a popular technique used by music therapists.

Who hasn’t been hurt or angered and then listened to music that supports that feeling? I know I have. Just don’t let yourself linger in that dark mood. Slowly start introducing more uplifting and calming music to your rotation. Soon you feel better and happier and can look at a situation with fewer strong feelings clouding your judgment.

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Just remember, music can be a powerful tool in your mental health toolbox but it’s not a replacement for a trained therapist if you have a deeper need. Never be ashamed to need mental health!

Have you used music to heal yourself?