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Breathing Principles Series - How Can Meditation Help?


Meditation is something that a lot of people don’t fully understand. The assumption here is often that it is solely a religious practice or that it is in some way ‘mystical’. And unfortunately, a lot of texts on the subject don’t do much to dispel this notion. Though, meditation is just one more important tool that you should add to your arsenal. And it’s much more straightforward and simpler than you probably think it is. In short, all that meditation really is, is practicing the ability to direct your thoughts and to be disciplined with your brain. Just like training a muscle, you can train your brain with practice. In this case, you’re training your ability to choose not to entertain stressful or anxious thoughts and not to descend into a fight or flight response. Studies show that people who practice meditation regularly remain calmer in stressed situations and exhibit many other signs of a particularly healthy psychology such as improved attention and awareness. Even just as a short-term tool to take a break from stressful thoughts, meditation can be very useful. To get started, you can choose your type of meditation. Here we will look at two particularly popular types: transcendental meditation and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness Meditation

The idea behind mindfulness meditation is to become a detached observer of your own thoughts. Rather than trying to force yourself not to think, you instead ‘watch your thoughts go by like clouds’ while not letting them effect you emotionally. This is useful in CBT as well as it allows you to make notes of the thoughts you have and of any that might require restructuring. At the same time, mindfulness allows you to bring yourself into the moment by focusing your own body and your own presence. You can do this by listening to your own breathing, by feeling the weight of your own body in your chair and by listening to sounds and the room around you. Try sitting down for ten minutes and simply listening to the world around you and feeling your own body. As you do this, make no attempt to control your thoughts and instead just allow them to ‘happen’. If you notice yourself engaging with them, then simply detach yourself and allow them to sink away.

Transcendental Meditation The idea behind transcendental meditation meanwhile is simply to allow yourself to stop thinking all together and to have a completely still mind. The way you will generally do this is by focusing on your breathing or on a ‘mantra’ which is a single word (or even a noise like a hum) that you will do this repeatedly. By doing this, you can focus purely on that mantra or you’re breathing and thereby allow your thoughts to fall away. If you notice that you start to lose concentration and your thoughts start creeping back in though, the trick is simply to acknowledge that your mind is wandering and then to re-center.

Some Tips and Advice Notice that in both cases, you aren’t being very strict with yourself or reprimanding yourself for letting your mind wander. This is the big mistake that many people make when they first start trying to meditate: they’re so keen to be good at it right away that they get stressed and angry every time they catch their thoughts wandering. This is entirely contrary to the objective of meditation which is to be calm and not to get stressed. When meditating, make sure that you aren’t placing too much pressure on yourself to get good right away and that you sim- ply ‘notice’ that you’ve let your mind wander and then bring your attention back to the meditation. If you struggle with this, then another strategy is to try guided meditation. This is meditation that includes instruction from a recording to talk you through each step and to help bring you into a relaxed state. We offer some free guided meditations under our member's section of the Living Tree Company Website. Join for free and check them out!

Ultimately, the objective is to gain greater control over your own thoughts and ruminations. And eventually you should become adept enough at meditation that you can use the techniques wherever you are, whenever you need them! Eventually, you’ll be able to maintain a ‘moving’ meditative state and be constantly in a state of mind that keeps you feeling calm and relaxed.


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