A Few Thoughts On Meditation

MeditateIt’s about that time of year where taking a step back, a deep breath and a look around can do us all some good. I know the approaching holiday season, remaining four weeks of graduate school and future job search are leaving me with anxiety-induced heart palpitations lately. Exercise proves to be my best medicine for stress management, followed by attempts to simply sleep it off and the occasional stress-eating session (hey, we are all human, right?). But it’s times like these that require a little more than a good sweat, snooze or snack. They call for thoughtful meditation.

Active meditation is an art I have tried to pick up and subsequently put down countless times over the past few years due to it’s innate difficulty and my lack of available brainpower to focus at the time. Now more than ever, I am working to trash this excuse and really give it a go.

If you are a true amateur meditator like myself, and are looking for a few tips to possibly make your practice a little bit more productive, consider these thoughts. Even if I struggle to implement the lessons I’ve learned from beginner meditation reading, I think they are worth sharing with others who have similar intentions.

  • Focus on the sound of your exhale. When you only listen to your breath, you can no longer listen to the other thoughts overwhelming your mind. The trick will be keeping them away during your inhale—but don’t worry, if they creep back in, accept them for what they are and know that you have another breath on its way to try again.
  • Take a mental photograph of something you find truly relaxing and peaceful, and hold it there in the center of your mind for a deep, visual focal point. Gazing into this image, and focusing on and appreciating its details can help stressful thoughts drift away.
  • Find as quiet of a place as possible, even if that means sitting on a pillow on your bedroom floor. Rock some noise-cancelling headphones if you have a particularly loud roommate (no music though!), and set aside a few minutes either when you wake up in the morning or just before bed at night—or both—to settle your mind. The fewer distractions, the better.
  • Try meditating with your eyes open and then closed to see which one works best for you. Find a comfortable seated position so you are actively engaged in your practice (we all know what happens at the end of yoga class in savasana), and see where both methods take you.
  • And for those persistent, troubling thoughts that just won’t seem to float away, take some time to meditate on the fact that they exist. Acknowledge them, but also accept that they are not permanently fixed there. Know that life is constantly changing, and find solace in its gift of impermanence.

Now take the time to truly unplug, and see where your mind takes you.

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