Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Learning to Breath - A Week of Meditation

A while back, I had just gone through a rough breakup, my job was making me miserable, and the hour I had with my son during the weekdays were filled with rushing to finish homework and eating dinner.  Living as a single mom in NYC was killing me. Financially, I thought I would never get ahead, and I was doing it all alone.  I felt like I was losing my mind.

One day, I finally said "ENOUGH" and started seeking ways to heal myself... from the inside (the beginning of happy). Mentally I was a mess, so that's where I started.  I needed a break from my thoughts and those of the people around me. I needed meditation.

I started listening to Podcasts on the way to work.  Then, I started listening to them during my lunch break, as I sat outside in Madison Square Park amongst the restlessness of the concrete jungle.  Finally, I started listening to them before bed.  Yep, I was listening to meditation Podcasts three times a day, as well as anytime I needed a "break" from stresses.

It seems crazy to say, but within a week, I no longer felt out of control.  Within a couple weeks, I was able to smile and realize that I was the only person who could save me.  (Not to say that there weren't things around me causing discomfort that needed removed, but that was going to be a longer process).

I now realize that the problem wasn't that there was anything wrong with me or my mind, but I needed to stop, give my brain a break, and get back to me.  We all have everything we need right inside of us, and meditation gives us the ability to allow our minds to take back control.

A basic meditation is just breathing in and breathing out mindfully (this means paying attention and being present in your breathing).  Meditation is a practice and it gets easier the more you practice.  The beginning is all about just breathing and allowing your body and mind to calm.

Here's a week meditation practice.  Don't move on to the next day, until you feel that you have been able to do the previous day.  Feel free to try it different times during the day.

Day 1: 
Day one is all about mindfulness.  For five minutes (or as long as you can stand), sit in cross-legged position, close your eyes, and breathe -- paying attention to your inhale and exhale.

Day 2: 
We are going to continue with practice from yesterday.  For at least five minutes, breathe in and out mindfully, with your eyes closed and in a comfortable position.  Now, when thoughts come into your mind, gently dismiss them and attempt to keep your mind clear, focusing only on your breath.

Day 3:
Today, let's continue our mindful breathing practice from day one and two, but start to focus on regulating the breath so that inhaling and exhaling are equal. Close your eyes, and count to five while breathing in, then exhale for five counts. Continue this for at least five minutes.

Day 4:
Continue with the practice from day one.  While you are breathing slowly and mindfully, start to relax your body.  Release the tension from each body part by taking a breath and breathing into that area.  Once that part feels relaxed, move on to the next. (Scalp, forehead, around the eyes, jaws, mouth -letting your tongue rest gently away from the roof of your mouth, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, stomach, hip, thighs, calves, feet, toes).

Day 5: 
For ten minutes, sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed, breathing in and out at consistent intervals. Relax your mind and body. Clear thoughts as they come, and return to being mindful of your breath.

Day 6: 
Repeat yesterday, using all of the techniques you have learned this week. When breathing in, breathe into you lower abdomen/ stomach first and then chest, and release the breath first from the stomach and then chest, gently.  Continue for five minutes or longer.

Day 7: 
Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed.  Begin to breath in gently and normally, paying attention to your inhale and exhale.  Begin to even the breath.  At the top of your inhale, hold your breathe for a moment, then gently release your breath by exhaling the same count as your inhale.  Continue to breath in this manner, focusing on the breathe.  When thoughts come to your mind, gently dismiss them and return to mindful breathing.

You did it!

Here are some of my favorite podcasts and resources for mediation:

The Meditation Podcast
Meditation Oasis

Online tips:

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