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Mindful Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Mindful meditation is often misunderstood. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation “originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.”

Psychology Today defines mindful meditation as, “Unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment.”

It helps us live in the here and now. When we live in the present, acceptance follows. By concentrating on body, breath and thought, we can slow the mind enough to live in and appreciate the present.

Healing Benefits of Meditation

Meditation can help alleviate stress by producing a state of relaxation and tranquility. It can evict the jumble of thoughts that live rent-free in your mind. A calm mind promotes clear thinking to help you handle stressful situations. Living in the present allows you to experience gratitude and happiness — the polar opposite of stress.

How to Get Started with Meditation

Forget the contorted positions and the mantras. Mindful.org offers a simple series of five mindful exercises that focus on breathing and concentration:

  1. Mindful breathing. Breathe in and out, focusing only on your breath.
  2. Follow your breath. Breathe in and out. This time, concentrate on the path of your breath. Where does it go when you breathe in and out? Focus on how it enters and exits your lungs, through your esophagus and your mouth and nose.
  3. Concentrate on your body. As you breathe in and out, become aware of your body and how it feels while you’re breathing.
  4. Release tension. Perform this exercise wherever you are when you experience tension. Try it while commuting to work when you’re at a standstill in an Interstate parking lot. Breathe in and out with the intention of releasing stress; just don’t take your eyes off the road.
  5. Walking. Tennessee is full of beautiful parks, lakes, mountains and hiking trails; it’s effortless to focus on the beauty. Take a walk at the crack of dawn before the day’s responsibilities take over your mind. Focus on your breathing and the beauty of the sunrise.

But I Just Don’t Have the Time!

I hear you. As a Type-A personality myself, I find it difficult to slow down. It can feel as if you’re wasting time when there’s so much to accomplish in our to-do list-driven world. That doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. Consider these options:

  • Soak for 20-40 minutes in a warm bath with Epsom salt, baking soda and essential oils (lemon eucalyptus in the morning or lavender at night). You’ll rid your body of toxins, absorb healing magnesium and quiet your mind at the same time — a perfect trifecta.
  • I dare you to focus on your worries while sitting in a massage chair with your eyes closed during a mani-pedi. The home version of a massage chair is a massage mat. After 10-15 minutes, your body will be blissfully limp and your mind fog will have lifted.
  • Call me crazy, but I find chopping vegetables to be a relaxing experience. I focus on the chopping technique and the colors, texture and fragrance of the food. When you work with knives, it’s a good idea to be engaged fully in the present and to concentrate on the task.
  • Mindful meditation is, hands down, the best way to cope with a middle seat (or any seat in coach) on the airplane! In fact, it’s how I began my own mindful meditation journey.

Have you tried meditation? What was your experience like? Let us know by commenting below.

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