Meditation for Stress Relief

According to the Chopra Center, a pioneer in meditation and wellness, meditation is best described as the progressive quieting of the mind.  In our normal, everyday consciousness, our mind is filled with an unending flow of thoughts. The thoughts can become so noisy and even overwhelming and stressful. We might be replaying events and conversations in your mind (dwelling on the past).  We might be thinking about what’s going to happen at our next meeting or activity.  We might create fantasies about what life will be like when our dreams are fulfilled (future tripping).  Or we may conjure up scary scenarios about our worst fears coming true (worrying).  Seldom are we just in the present moment in our minds.

Between each thought there is a space known to meditators as the “gap”, or the pause between thoughts. In meditation, the goal is for your awareness to move from all that noisy activity in the mind to the quieter levels of the thinking process, until eventually you slip into that “gap”.   It takes practice, just like learning to play a sport or an instrument – you don’t just sit down and slip into the gap the first time you try it.  (But many people expect that and quit after only one or a few attempts stating they can’t meditate, this doesn’t work, etc.)

In the inner silence of meditation, your body experiences a deep state of restful alertness – by its very nature, meditation calms the mind, and when the mind is calm, the body relaxes too. This overall relaxation is extremely healing for the mind-body system.  The meditation you do doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated.  In fact, some of the best meditations I have ever experienced were incredibly simple and brief.

Today I want to share a short meditation you can do on your own to help with stress relief.  We are all terribly stressed in today’s fast-paced, instant gratification focused world.  Meditation is a powerful, and relatively quick way to calm the body and the mind, thus relieving some of that stress we are feeling.

Simply taking a few short minutes every day to do this meditation will help you feel a little less stressed.  So, let’s give this a try…

  • Find a comfortable seat (on a chair with feet firmly planted on the ground or on the floor).
  • Roll your shoulders down your back and begin to relax the body, allowing it to sink or melt into your seat.
  • Take 3 deep breaths, then allow your breath to flow at its normal, natural pace.
  • Bring your awareness to your head/face.  Scan the head/face from the crown to the chin looking for tightness or tension.  When you notice some, pause there and breathe into that place (that is to say breathe with your focus on that place)…breathing in for 4 counts, holding for one count, breathing out for 4 counts, and then holding for one more count. 
  • Repeat that breathing pattern a few times until you feel that part of your head/face relax, then move on to the next part of the head/face.  When the head/face feels complete, move on to the next part of the body.
  • When you are ready to move on from the head/face, bring your focus to your torso.  Scan the torso from neck to navel looking for tightness or tension.  When you notice some, pause there and breathe into that place…breathing in for 4 counts, holding for one count, breathing out for 4 counts, and then holding for one more count. 
  • Repeat that breathing pattern a few times until you feel that part of your torso relax, then move on to the next part of the torso.  When the torso feels complete, move on to the next part of the body.
  • When you are ready to move on from the torso, bring your focus to your arms.  Scan the arms from shoulder to fingertips looking for tightness or tension.  When you notice some, pause there and breathe into that place…breathing in for 4 counts, holding for one count, breathing out for 4 counts, and then holding for one more count. 
  • Repeat that breathing pattern a few times until you feel that part of your arms relax, then move on to the next part of the arms.  When the arms feel complete, move on to the next part of the body.
  • When you are ready to move on from the arms, bring your focus to your legs.  Scan the legs from hips to toes looking for tightness or tension.  When you notice some, pause there and breathe into that place…breathing in for 4 counts, holding for one count, breathing out for 4 counts, and then holding for one more count. 
  • Repeat that breathing pattern a few times until you feel that part of your legs relax, then move on to the next part of the legs.  When the legs feel complete, move on to the next part of the body.
  • When you are ready to move on from the legs, rescan the whole body, looking for any remaining tightness or tension and once again pause there and breathe as needed.
  • You can repeat this final scan as often as you want.  When it feels complete, and your body is feeling a little more relaxed, take another 3 deep breaths and then slowly open your eyes.
  • If you are pressed for time, you can choose to focus on only the areas of the body where you are feeling the most stress at the moment.  There is no set amount f time for a meditation like this.  Listen to your body and allow it to guide you in this mediation.

Namaste.

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