As a clinician, I recommend that most of my patients include meditation or relaxation techniques as a part of their healing journey. I work primarily with people who suffer from chronic, degenerative and autoimmune diseases, so I am familiar with the level of distress, distraction and suffering that a disease can bring into anyone’s life. In fact, I am a survivor of a near-fatal version of Crohn’s disease and colitis, so I am intimately aware of the necessity of meditation and deep relaxation in recovering from an illness. Meditation, or vitamin M, is an essential component of my well being as well as the well being of most of my patients.
In this series of articles, I am going to share some insights and some common sense about the kind of mediation that I practice and teach. It is important to begin by saying that meditation does not always have to be associated with Spirituality or Religion.
When I reflect back on most of human evolution, we must have spent a lot of time sitting still; quietly listening and waiting while hunting, fishing and trapping or watching the weather. For me, the experience of meditation, the experience of being calm and patiently aware, is a birthright and as natural and necessary as sleeping.
In the beginning, for most people, meditation is the challenging process of calming the talking mind, bringing attention to the breath and maintaining a good posture. The biggest challenge for most of us is the fact the talking mind likes to talk…, and talk. Fortunately, there is a simple method to meditation that brings the mind, breath and body back into the present moment, again and again, and again.
This method is called incremental breathing and involves counting the seconds or heartbeats it takes you to breath in and out. So, try this. Get into a good seated posture but don’t lean back. Place your palms on your thighs and close your eyes (after reading the rest of the instructions, of course). As you breathe in, count the number of seconds or heartbeats it takes to inhale deeply, yet comfortably. Do the same as you exhale. The average for most people is six seconds in and six seconds out. The important thing at this point is to give your talking mind something to say in your head… inhale 1-2-3-4-5-6, exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6 and repeat. In this practice you have to replace your internal dialogue with the internal vocalization of counting “out loud” in your head.
Once you are familiar with counting your breath, the next step is to focus on refining your posture as you inhale (still counting) and relaxing as deeply as you can as you exhale (yes, still counting). The counting is important and will help you go much deeper into the practices I will share over the next few weeks.
That’s It! A basic but thorough practice. Inhale into your posture, calmly yet alert. Exhale while relaxing every muscle in your body. From the outside no one should see a significant difference in your posture. You will get the most benefit and confidence with this practice by meditating for 3-5 minutes three times per day. I will go deeper into this practice in the next few articles.
“The opposite of disease is ease”