For stress busting – Use Meditation

by Chuck
image from Pixabay

Meditation is a great tool for dealing with stress, especially as it incorporates paying attention to your breathing (like square breathing – they go great together!)

Meditation is often misunderstood. Most people that have asked me about it think that it is somehow supposed to “make your mind quiet.” Or, that after getting good at it, it will make you dispassionate about life.

Neither thing is true.

Most meditation – at its base level – is about trying to ground yourself into your life – usually by doing something like counting your breath, or heartbeats. You don’t try and stop your thoughts, you try and not ENGAGE with them.

Most people have a near constant “chatter” going on in their heads: “I’ve got to do this at work… I’ve got to get this (chore) done at home… Why won’t “X” talk to me? When is “X’s” soccer game? In project “Y” if I used this color (or thread, or fabric, or paper) instead of that color…” Etc.

And that “chatter” can lead to – or heighten – stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia.

By not engaging with it – by recognizing that it’s there, but letting it go on its way – even if it circles around again (and again, and again) – you eventually stop the “conversation” in your head, which leads you to being able to be “in the moment.”

The thoughts are there – they always will be – but they become like leaves being blown about in a soft wind. You recognize them, but you don’t feel the need to pick them up one-by-one and count them.

I meditate most nights – I like nights over any other time of day as it helps me wind down before sleep – and I usually wake up feeling grounded and calm – rather than growling at the morning. Note: I am NOT a morning person 😉 :).

Being calm is the basis for living-in-the-moment, which is the root of creativity. If you’re about to start a new project, first work to build some energy, with, say, a sun salutation or three, then calm yourself with a one minute meditation, then do a few “drills” to get immersed into your work, and then have at it.

For me, before I do a drawing, or painting, I’ll get the juices flowing, meditate for a minute – or five, do a few dexterity moves, and then doodle a little to loosen my hand(s). And my work is the better for it.

Yours can be too.

The easiest method of meditation that I’ve found over the years is to do a simple breath/heartbeat meditation.

Find a spot you can be comfortable in. It can be lying down, sitting in a chair, or sitting on the floor (on a pillow). Lay your hands in your lap, take a slow deep breath, roll your shoulders back and down, exhale and then relax them in that position. Keep your spine active (if you’re sitting engage your core and don’t lean back into the seat back. Also, try not to slump.)

Take a normal breath in, then exhale. As you exhale count a number in your head. Count from one to nine. When you get to nine, start over. When a thought intrudes (and they will) notice that you’re not counting anymore – you’re thinking ABOUT your thought. Let it go without beating yourself up about it. Get back to counting. Keep it up for some desired time. Repeat.

I recommend 3 minutes to start. Once you’re done, go about your day.

Repeat the next day (or even later that day if you want to).

After a couple of weeks – IF it’s feeling good to you, add a few minutes. Maybe sit for 5 minutes now.

Ultimately, you want to be able to sit (or lay down – WITHOUT falling asleep) for 20 minutes. If you can sit longer, that’s great! But 20 minutes seems to be a good “gateway” time for most people.

As you get better at meditating you can also try and match your breath to your heartbeat. Inhale on one beat, hold for another beat, exhale on the third beat. You’ll find you can get just a little deeper into the meditation than with just using the breath alone.

If you find that you just CAN’T seem to get the hang of it, don’t fret. Meditation (like this) isn’t for everyone. You can also get the same benefits of meditation from coloring in a coloring book, or drawing, or doing beadwork, or hand sewing, things like that. The action isn’t nearly as important as the outcome.

The outcome is the PROCESS of not letting your inner “monkey voice” take over and stress you out. The process is that you FOCUS so intently on something that your thoughts slide around in your head without finding a place to land and yell at you.

The process – like anything else that is (or should be) important in your life should be enjoyable. If it’s drudge work you won’t do it, or you won’t do it for long.

So, find something you enjoy, that completely occupies your attention, to keep the “noise” in your head from making you a “crazy person.” 😀

Good luck!

If you have any questions, please ask!

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