Deep Breaths and Shallow Thoughts

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In other words: Meditation 101

I used to be horrible at meditation. If I couldn’t stop my mind from running down 45,000 different tracks when I was tired and going to bed how on earth was I supposed to calm my mind enough to focus (or not, depending on  how you look at it) during the day when I’m running at double that?

The answer? Start slow!

Simple and Quick

I participated in one of Kimberly Wilson’s teleclasses a while back and she began the call with a simple meditation. Oh, great, I’m thinking, I am so out of my element. Then she led us through it and I was amazed: even I, Miss Type-A high-speed brain could manage this.

And here’s how it worked. Sit with your legs crossed, hands on knees, and with each deep inhale think the work “let.” At each exhale, long and slow, breathe out the word “go.” Let. Go. Rinse and repeat for a couple of minutes.

That’s all there was to it and it really did relax me, and allowed me to focus on the teleclass instead of all the other things I could have been doing for that hour.

Something else I learned–though weather it was on the call,  from a yoga podcast or if I read it somewhere I cannot remember–was the theory of hand placement when meditating. You’ve probably seen images of yogis meditating with palms up, thumbs and middle fingers touching? Right. Supposedly palms up denotes being open to enlightenment, information or whatever whereas palms down is a go-away gesture. And go-away isn’t a bad thing, by the way, it can be very helpful if what you’re after is decompression or internal balance.

There are all sorts of reasons to meditate, after all.

The 3-Part Breath

Another technique that can be done quickly, anywhere or anytime, is the 3-part or yogic breath.  It’s an instant centering mechanism and can quickly diffuse internal emotion to help with tense situations or decision making moments. It’s like instant clarity.

First let’s do a teensy bit of anatomy. You need to be able to identify 3 parts of your torso: you chest (ribcage area) is pretty simple, your belly (another easy one) and your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits just under your ribcage and above your belly. If you’ve ever had singing lessons or played a wind instrument you probably know good and well where the diaphragm is.

The 3-part breath is accomplished by breathing into these areas in turn over a slow count of 4, holding and then releasing them in reverse order. So you begin your breath in the belly, letting it expand, moving into the middle of your torso as it fills and, finally, letting the chest fill as it raises and your shoulders open up. When you exhale, release the air from  your chest, first, then your diaphragm, followed by your stomach. Repeating this 2 or 3 times is a great stress reliever in traffic or any other charged situation.

While doing this the other day I realized it has a lot in common with isolations used in belly dancing (undulations and rolls, specifically) so you can consider it a mini workout, too!

Finding a Guide

When you want to go deeper into meditation but still feel uncertain about your ability to shut out all the distractions, guided meditations are the way to go. Usually combined with some soft background music, the guide will gently walk you through relaxing and quieting your mind. This frequently involves visualizations (staircases, green glades, waterfalls and other imagery). Don’t worry, though, a good guide will give you all the info you need to get the right picture in you mind.

I’ve had some incredible experience with this sort of mediation including some very emotional moments (doing this in private is highly recommended).

Since you have someone else’s voice to concentrate on, these sessions can be longer–anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour–with the likelihood of you being distracted greatly diminished. These are also the meditations that like to focus on a specific goal: detoxing, inner peace, releasing negative energies–even weight loss or smoking cessation ( the usual cautions apply as with any drastic lifestyle changes: take it slow, give yourself time and stick with it through any wobbles).

While you can find a lot of free mediation resources online (there are several podcasts available through iTunes, for instance) I had the synchronistic joy of meeting someone last week who deals with binaural meditation–a combination of specific rhythms and tones along with Andy‘s voice leading you to absolute relaxation. I hadn’t heard of this sort of meditation before, but after trying out the 20 minute sample meditation he offers (through Binaural Journeys) I’m definitely keen to know more. I was so relaxed–it’s like getting a massage but without having a stranger feel you up!

Meditation offers a lot of benefits: relaxation, clarity of thought, an aid in lifestyle changes, spiritual enlightenment. You can do a quick meditation to set an intention for your day or use it to wind down at the end of a busy one. It can also be useful in healing, which we’ll talk more about in the next post.

Have you ever tried to meditate? What was your experience with it?

5 thoughts on “Deep Breaths and Shallow Thoughts

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the Journey of Relaxation!

    I created it for a person who has very similar trouble “emptying my mind,” specifically, me!

    If anyone has questions about the meditations or the technology, please feel free to email me – or get me on Twitter @acdolph.

    Enjoy the journey!


  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve had a lot on my plate lately and for the second time in my life I have had the pleasure of a full blown panic attack. I woke up at 5:00 am this morning in full blown panic unable to breathe. My husband had a huge part in bringing me down out of my panic, but your tips are greatly appreciated. I tried the ones you described and I did find an instant calm in them, so thank you. I will try Andy’s later. It’s funny how things are put in your path just when you need them the most.

  3. I personally have not tried meditation but after reading this article I think I’m going to have to give it a shot!

    Dropping by from SITS! Have a great FB Day!

    1. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about meditation is that it’s not about quieting your mind so much as it’s about not letting the thoughts get in the way of the relaxation. Best wishes if you do give it a shot!

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