Regular readers know I typically disdain the idea of viewing meditation primarily through the lens of stress relief, but any discussion that doesn’t include this topic is necessarily incomplete. When it comes to mitigating the pressure cooker symptoms of modern life, there is very little that compares to a contemplative practice.
There are a number of goals one might pursue through meditation: making changes in your behavior set, analyzing the many assumptions which make up your world view, or generally advancing your ability to relate to your spiritual reality. Some of these can be pretty demanding, requiring the contemplative to grapple with weighty concerns.
Using meditation as an antidote to stress is quite a bit less demanding. Instead of identifying, analyzing and re-writing your personal storylines, the goal of stress relief meditation is simple: you set all of your storylines down. You forget your script. For the ten minutes or twenty minutes of your session, all the many demands placed upon you are gone. Place the locus of your attention on one single object, and let everything else go.
That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? The specifics are even easier – here is how you can use meditation for relief from stress:
- Find a nice quiet spot. This spot doesn’t have to be dead silent, but you should be confident that you won’t be disturbed by a phone or someone looking for a chat.
- Sit upright – by the end of this session you will be very relaxed, so maintaining a good posture will keep you from falling asleep.
- Choose a word or phrase you find comforting. Frequent choices are ‘love’, ‘one’, or even ‘calm’. Choosing a word with spiritual connotations is also helpful IF you are comfortable with the sentiment expressed. For instance, the very popular ‘maranatha’ means ‘Come Lord’ and will only be overtly helpful for Christians.
- Watch your breathing for a few moments. This begins the process of calming down and turning your attention inward.
- When ready, say your word to yourself on an outbreath. This can be done silently or at a low volume. Whichever feels comfortable and makes it easiest to keep your attention on the word.
- As you are drawing in breath, simply sit quietly, listening to that silence.
- Continue this cycle – say word to yourself on outbreath, sit quietly on inbreath – for the length of your session.
- As stray thoughts come along (and in the beginning they will do so frequently), don’t fret. Just note that the thought came to you, then go back to saying your word.
- At the end of your session, give yourself a few moments to enjoy the feeling of relaxed peace. Then take a nice, deep breath, open your eyes fully and let your senses spread to the world outside your body.
That’s it. Not too tough, is it? In most cases, this stress relief meditation will be the simplest thing you do on any given day – no need for special equipment, no expensive medicines, and just a few minutes to yourself required. In pretty short order you’ll sleep easier, see a reduction in high BP, and find that your emotional stability is greatly improved.
This single exercise is all that many people need. Eventually you might find you are interested in finding even more about meditation. Follow that inclination if it hits, but either way enjoy this extraordinary tool for health.