In the past six months during my own personal craniosacral therapy sessions, it came up that I should be meditating for multiple reasons. I meditated years ago when I was in graduate school and found myself under a lot of stress. Meditation helped me through that period of my life to feel calmer and maintain a good grade point average. Since then I would dabble in meditation here and there but nothing very consistently. In September, a friend of mine suggested trying out Headspace (www.headspace.com). Headspace offers a free 10 day trial of guided mindful meditation. After the 10 days you can choose to purchase a package that works best for you for continued guidance. It was about the 8th day of the trial meditation that I noticed small yet big differences in my life.
There are many different styles of meditation, but since I have been practicing mindfulness meditation that is what I will talk about here. Mindfulness is actually difficult to define. A lot of definitions use words like “present moment”, “observation”, and “non-judgment”. Jon Kabat-Zin states, “mindfulness means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, to the unfolding experience moment to moment.” So basically sitting quietly and paying attention to your thoughts as they come and go. An important part of mindfulness that is not talked about in most definitions is the action behind the mindfulness. For example, a sniper can be considered mindful but his action is not necessarily mindful. Therefore mindfulness in action is observing what occurs without evaluating, judging, or participating.
So how do you get started? It’s actually pretty simple. Find a quiet comfortable seat where you will not be easily distracted, take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and start to pay attention to your breath. Usually I count my breath in and out, and if my mind wanders, I observe that it is somewhere else and I bring myself back to my breath counts. I also like to set a timer for 5-20 minutes depending. It is recommended that beginners start with 5-10 minutes then slowly increase. If I am using headspace, I just follow along to what Andy says. The best part, this can be done anywhere that is quiet and non-distracting, even your office.
Sounds too easy right? Actually, it was very hard for me. I found myself not counting and mind wondering A LOT of the time. Some days I needed to lay down instead of sit while practicing. I think that is why I have enjoyed headspace so much; it gave me a guide and my mind something to do. Over time my ability to get distracted has decreased and now I don’t always need Headspace in order to practice. But here is the amazing part: it has been about two months since I have incorporated daily meditation and my life has made some huge changes.
Overall I feel happier and calmer and on days that I don’t stop to meditate I do not feel as grounded. I have also found my self more observant of my emotions rather then just reacting to them. For example, if I get angry for some reason, I am able to stop myself and take a few breaths before I speak and respond to my anger. I have more focus in my craniosacral sessions and I am more compassionate towards myself.
All of the benefits from a daily mindfulness meditation practice have paid off and I know this is just the beginning. I would challenge each of you to either check out Headspace or start a practice on your own. Taking just 5 minutes a day will change how you are moving through life and interacting with yourself and those around you. Below is a list of resources if you would like more information on mindfulness meditation. Or contact me! I’d love to help you start your journey in living a more calm and centered life. Just check out the "contact" page on www.synergycraniosacral.com
- Buddha’s brain: the practice neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom by Rick Hanson Ph.D
- Mindfulness for beginners: reclaiming the present moment and your life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Mindfulness: and eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams
- The miracle of mindfulness: an introduction to the practice of meditation by Thich Naht Hanh
- Great website for local (Salt Lake City) resources and groups: http://mindfulnessutah.com/~mindful/community-resources/