I will admit, I have been through more in my (relatively young) life so far than I would ever have been able to predict. After losing our first and only child in 2015, my and my husband’s life changed forever. I could not go back to “the way things were” because that person was forever changed. My life will now remain divided between the time before and after the birth and death of our daughter. In the roller coaster of emotion I have experienced since, my personal focus turned to finding a sense of inner peace while also trying to focus on the things that still brought me joy.
I have found that mindfulness meditation, moving meditation and Yin Yoga, have truly helped me find a sense of peace and “groundedness”, even on my worst days. There are days that I want to curl up and cry – scream even, but I know that I can find solace on my mat, in the quiet dark of our bedroom, listening to my breath as it enters and then leaves my body. I focus on inhaling the good, peaceful and beautiful and exhaling the sadness, distress, fear and anxiety.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Scientific studies have shown many proven benefits of practicing meditation. These benefits include the reduction of blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. Meditation has also been proven to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia. A 2013 review of three studies even suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging! Multiple studies on lung and breast cancer patients have shown meditation may help to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, depression and fatigue while enhancing mood, quality of life and self-esteem of the study participants(1).
I used to think that meditation meant sitting quietly, listening to music that may or may not include whale sounds and flowing water while trying to empty my mind and think only about my breathing or nothing at all (yeah… RIGHT). This misconception is what kept me from trying to make meditation a normal part of my lifestyle. It was not until I was introduced to guided mindfulness meditation and Yin Yoga, that I was able to integrate meditation into my life on a regular basis. By dictionary definition, Meditation means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training (2,3,4,5,6). I have included one example of a mindfulness guided meditation below that you can use for yourself or even have someone read to you.
Guided Meditation #1 from Managing Stress to Improve Learning (7)
- Close your eyes. Notice your breathing. Is it fast? Is it slow?
- Put your hand on your stomach. Notice how your stomach goes in when you breathe in, and out when you breathe out.
- Take a long, deep breath in through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth, fully and completely. Breathe like this a couple more times.
- Now imagine your body. Notice parts that are hurt, or are tight or tense. Notice parts that feel comfortable and loose.
- Use your breath. When you find a part of your body that is tight or hurts, send your breath there. Breathe out. Your breath can make that part of your body relaxed, loose; soft.
- Feel your head……your face……your shoulders…….your back……your arms…..your hands. Notice your stomach…..your legs…..your knees……your feet.
- Notice the sounds in the room. The people moving, the building. Not thinking, just noticing and listening. Breathe slowly and easily, in and out.
- Feel the chair under you where your body touches it. Feel your muscles relax as you breathe. Keep watching your breathing in and out, easy and peaceful.
- When you are ready, take a long, slow, deep breath in. Then breathe out completely and gently open your eyes.
You can also check out these guided mindfulness meditations on Youtube that you can listen to anytime:
- Breathing Meditation | UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFSc7Ck0Ao0
- Body Scan – Guided Mindfulness Meditation (45 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W31vHDjyng
- University of Derby Mindfulness Mountain Meditation (15 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMCIR-e9D5Q
- A few different Meditations can be found here: http://mindfulnessandgrief.com/meditations-for-grief/
- Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4 – Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review, by Ruth A. Baer, available at http://www.wisebrain.org/papers/MindfulnessPsyTx.pdf
- Kabat-Zinn, J (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York: Bantam Dell. ISBN 978-0-345-53972-4.
- Creswell J.D. (2016). “Mindfulness Interventions”. Annual Review of Psychology. 68.
- Posner M. (Feb 2011). “Mental training as a tool in the neuroscientific study of brain and cognitive plasticity”. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 5 (17).
- Pagnini, F.; Phillips, D. (2015). “Being mindful about mindfulness”. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2 (4): 288–289. doi:10.1016/s2215-0366(15)00041-3.
- Guided Meditation Lesson Plan
Created by Lisa Gimbel, The Welcome Project, Somerville, MA nelrc.org/managingstress