Mindfulness: Breaking Down Meditation

Meditation can be an intimidating practice for some. The idea of sitting still and “doing nothing” seems like the polar opposite of our busy lives. However, there are many ways to approach mediation and mindful practices that are intrinsically entertaining. This article will break down the understanding of meditation and provide tools to begin a practice at home.

Meditation is the practice of focusing and holding mindful attention in order to train the mind in non- judgmental awareness, aiming to reduce thought chatter. So what does that mean? Well, some might recognize thought chatter as the background noise in your mind; maybe thinking of past or future events while you experience or express thoughts and feelings. This reduction of thought chatter can help us to remain centered and present in our daily lives. Secondly, due to the levels of difficulty, while attempting to quiet thought chatter, non-judgmental awareness is just a mindset of self-kindness as you go through your meditation or mindful exercise. As only an experienced practitioner of meditation will find a quiet mind, approaching this practice with self-kindness will be key to your experience. During a meditative practice, the following components can help you to hold attention and focus. A beginner will eventually realize the mind has wandered from the present moment. When this occurs, gently guide attention back to the below areas of focus. This push and pull of the mind chatter will eventually lead to strengthening your mindful skills within and outside of mediation.

Components of Meditation

Movement and the Senses: There are many forms of mindful movement such as Yoga (many beginner practices available throughout Operation Health@Home) , Tai Chi, Qigong as well as the active practices of the Flow State. These forms of mindful movement are brilliant ways to begin your journey into a mindful meditation. However, within seated or still meditation, mudras or slow repetitive hand motions during the meditation are powerful tools to maintain focus and attention. Also within seated or still practice, some people resonate with a focus of engaging with the senses, a tool that is amplified within other parts of this breakdown. For example;

Sight: Focusing on a calming vision within the mind or physically.

Sound: Truly listening to an inner soft hum as you exhale or listening to soft bells or calming music during practice
Touch: Concentration on a specific body part, like the big toe or face (Reflective of this section and see Breath and Body Rhythms)

Taste/Smell: Utilizing one specific calming scent during practice or brushing teeth before beginning practice and focusing on the long-lasting flavor.

Breath and Body Rhythms: As we breathe consistently throughout our lives, a focus of the breath can be a solid foundation of your meditation. Utilizing this internal rhythm as the core of your meditation accomplishes two goals:

Your body and mind will have a familiar action to tune into itself. This will begin to ground or center you during your meditation, allowing you to transition deeper into a mindful state.

Your body and mind will begin to create a stronger association of calm and serenity to your breath. As if to train your body to associate relaxation with focused breathing. Dedicating yourself to this part of practice will help your mind build a grounding doorway into the mindful state. Possibly allowing the next time you meditate to be a little easier. This association to the breath may additionally lead to increased benefits when using the focused breath as a coping skill outside of mediation.

Within the same component, a focus of movement within the body as you breathe can fill the front of the mind. It can be achieved by placing hands on the chest and belly during meditative practice. This focus of movement can heighten and expand the recognition of other rhythms such as heartbeat and additional muscle movement. Mindful body practices and techniques encourage a stronger mind-body connection which may then lead to improved overall health benefits. When we can become more mindful of how our body feels, reacts, and connects with our mind, we will have a sharpened sense of our reactions to stress. When we recognize stress, we have the capacity to use coping skills to activate the relaxation response.

Mantra: A mantra is a short phrase with deep meaning that can be repeated during a mediation. Using a mantra narrows the focus of your mind even further by decreasing the background chatter as you recite the phrase internally or externally. A mantra can be as simple as reciting “Inhale” as you breathe in and “exhale” as you breathe out. You may choose to research a mantra that resonates with you or create one that reflects an intention you set for your meditation. 9 Empowering Mantras to Shift Your Mindset

Intentions: Creating an intention for your practice is like creating a goal, it helps you to stay motivated as well as focused. Intentions are ways to process a difficult experience or internally review an intrinsic desire. The secondary definition of the term is “the healing process of a wound”. Think of your meditative intention in this realm. The intention should be a positive goal you would like to work towards that can support your health goals. Examples of an intention for mediations can be: recognizing recent moments of happiness, to see the goodness around you, to be kind in your words, to be more empathic. There are many other articles about setting intension which may give you an in-depth view of this concept. Here is a recommended resource: Give Your Meditation Practice Staying Power: Set an Intention

Begin your exploration into mindful and mediation practices slowly. If you find it hard to be still, explore mindful movement and ways of grounding in the body before moving to still practice. Try writing a list of obstacles you identify as preventing a mindful meditation experience and then use the above skills to practice overcoming those obstacles one at a time. Encourage self-kindness and patience above all else and you will accomplish your health goals.

About the Author: Jennifer Kneeland, M.A, LMHC, RYT’ is the lead Expressive Art Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor for Home Base. As an avid creative artist, Jennifer strives to encourage the healing power of creativity and imagination in her clinical work. She aspires to embody the principles of expressive arts therapy to strengthen internal growth both in clinical and personal experiences.