Meditation

Posted in General

by admin | Jul 21, 2018

Hello and welcome to this blog post on meditation. It’s yet another Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) activity that you can engage in to optimize your pain relieving experiences.

So what is meditation? Meditation is a three-and-a-half-thousand-year-old practice that brings harmony and balance to the body and mind. The earliest written records about meditation come from the Vedas tradition about 500 years B.C.1 Other forms developed from later in the Taoist culture in China and also the Buddhist traditions in India. Decades of scientific evidence support this practice showing that meditation reduces illness, pain, suffering, and improves compassion and social interaction.2

There many types of meditation all with the same goal to bring the mind into a calm state. Here are 4 to choose from:
  1. Activity- or exercise-based meditation;
  2. Breath meditation either simple breathing, box breathing or word-based breathing exercise;
  3. Sensory-modalities-type meditation;
  4. Going for a walk in nature.


Activity meditation or exercise meditation is often the best place to start for busy people with no real experience with meditation. Whether going for a walk, a run, or doing a favorite activity, chose to focus on either your breathing, your feet, or whatever your eyes want to focus upon. The key is to focus on one thing, starting with a minute, building up to three minutes, then five, and up to 10.

It’s common for your mind to wander when you do meditation and that’s to be expected. It’s very natural, and not a problem. Just return your focus whenever your mind wanders. It’s all about quieting the mind and focusing on one thing. Practice makes perfect!

The second is simple breath meditation. All you need to do is sit down comfortably on a chair, the couch, on a floor mat, or the carpet. It’s best to maintain an erect posture with the spine upright. Once comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Focus on your involuntary breath as it follows the inhalation – exhalation cycle. Start with one minute, build up to three, then five, and up to 10 minutes. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad meditation. Your mind will wander and that’s completely normal. Just bring the focus back to your breathing, that rhythmic in and out, inhaling/exhaling cycle, for the duration of the meditation practice. With practice, you will likely feel more relaxed and better about yourselves. Daily meditation in a familiar peaceful, quiet place is best. Repetition is the key. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s the most important thing.

Next is box breathing meditation. This meditation follows the cycle of breathing with a pause between the inhalation and the exhalation and between the exhalation and inhalation. To do this, sit comfortably on a chair, a couch, on a floor mat or the carpet and maintain an erect posture with the spine upright. Once comfortable, close your eyes and focus on the breathing. Once relaxed, visualize a box with four equal sides. You start with the inhalation for three seconds, visualizing the left side of the box, moving the focus from the bottom to the top. Then, pause for two to three seconds, visualize the top of the box, moving the focus from the left to the right. Then, exhale for three seconds, visualize the right side of the box, moving the focus from the top to the bottom. At the end of the cycle, pause for two to three seconds and visualize the bottom of the box, moving the focus from the right to the left. Now that’s one cycle. Repeat the cycle for one minute, then build it up to three, then five, and then 10 minutes at a time.

Once you learn this meditation box exercise, you can increase the duration of the inhalations, exhalations, and pauses. Always breathe so that you are comfortable. If you prefer, rather than closing your eyes and visualizing a box, another option is to gaze at a square or rectangle window or door frame and follow the same cycle pattern. The key is to practice the meditation every day.

Word meditation is a simple meditation exercise focusing on one word on the exhalation phase of the breath cycle. Start with sitting comfortably on a preferred surface, maintaining an erect posture with back straight. Once comfortable, close your eyes, bring the focus to breathing, in and then out, inhaling and exhaling. On the exhalation, say in a monotonous low-toned voice a word, for example, “relax.” In every exhale, repeat the word “relax.”

Repeat this cycle for one minute, and then three minutes, five minutes, and up to 10 minutes until you get used to this meditation.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a bad meditation. You may get frustrated as your mind wanders, but this is completely normal. All you need to do is to return to the focus on the word, vocalized on the exhalation.

The word “relax” may be replaced with another one like “release” or whatever word preference you have. The key is to focus, be relaxed, and practice this daily.

The next exercise is a sensory modality meditation. This meditation practice focuses on the five sensory modalities of taste, smell, touch, movement and hearing. These are very simple meditation practices that can be introduced any time of the day when you want to slow down and focus on life in the moment.

On a daily basis, I suggest that yous focus on one of your senses for the entire week. For example, when eating a meal, focus on the taste of the food, concentrating only on the taste and practice this every day for the whole week. For the next week, choose another sensory modality like touch and then focus on the texture of the food as it is chewed and swallowed. Start with a one minute session, build it up to three or about five minutes, and keep practicing every day. It’s the daily practice over weeks and months that creates the sustained change in behavior and patterns of appreciating the world around you. This simple meditation practice embodies the overall mindfulness practice, bringing simplicity, rejuvenation, and healing to your whole being.

Nature walk. This final meditation practice is one that is energizing, rebalancing and rejuvenating. It’s a simple practice of going for a walk in nature. Now, if you live in the city, find a park to walk around. If you live near the ocean or a lake, head to the water for a walk. If you live near a forest or mountain, go for a trail walk. Nature is all around you. Find a favorite location, take time to be in nature and enjoy the stroll.

Homo sapiens or the first man to walk erect on the earth have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and it’s only in the last 200 to 300 years that there has been a mass migration into the concrete jungles of the city, living in close proximity. Our bodies and minds are rebalanced with nature, and going for a walk is a simple way to relax and rejuvenate. There’s not a lot of research studies to back this up, but nature-based walking is commonsense, and a fully human experience that our ancestors have been doing since the dawn of time. People usually find that it rebalances their being. The more you can connect with nature and create time for it in your busy schedule, the more you can find a healthy outdoor environment to enjoy.

As you incorporate some of these practices for your own physical, mental and emotional health, whether living in pain or not, you will enhance your health and well-being. You can take control over your pain, one step at a time.

If you’re interested in diving into The Mindful Brain a little bit more, the resource below is comprehensive review of the literature on the subject.

Meditation is a wonderful way to start your day. I encourage you to try it and see if it adds to your well-being and aids your pain reducing strategies.

In health,

Dr. Wayne Phimister

References
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_meditation
  2. Daniel J. Siegel, MD. The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-being. 2007 W.W. Norton & Company.
  3. “Physician, heal thyself…” Bible, Luke 4:23. King James Version. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bible-phrases-sayings.html