Mindfulness and Mediation

Dear Fellow Journalers,

I first heard about this practice when I taught a fifth grade religion class at my church. I had a rather rambunctious group that year and it took a lot of energy and wasted time to settle them down each morning. Several weeks into that school year, I was invited to a teachers’ conference and was introduced to one of the books that would change my life. It was written primarily for teachers of Religious Middle Schoolers and featured scripture stories and meditations.

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I read through the book and adapted one of the stories and meditations for my next class. The reaction was amazing. Several students didn’t want to stop and “come back to earth.” Even the most mischievous of the group was calmer. I decided to try the experiment once a month, but after the second month, the students asked if we could meditate every week! In time, I grew confident enough to script my own stories (based on the lesson) and meditations and found myself meditating as well. This practice continued throughout the rest of the school year until I “retired” some 10 years later.

Along the way, I was formally introduced to Mindfulness Meditation at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford CT. The workshop has become the highlight of my yearly retreat. I learned that this practice has no specific goal except awareness and acceptance in your life. There are many types of meditations – some focus on a word or a phrase, some on a particular image or visualization. You look at your thoughts and feelings as though you were looking at a different person, without analyzing those thoughts or feelings.

Some of the mediations are breath, common concerns, body scan, walking, emotions, night, smile, laughing, loving, difficult people, self-criticism, positive feelings, anxiety, stress, insomnia, gratitude, and peace.

The following is a brief synopsis of how to practice mediation. If you have a book or better yet, an audio of meditation, please refer to that resource.

  1. Find an environment where you can be free from distractions for a short period of time. A peaceful view of the ocean or a picture will help you create this space. Some people light candles or create an altar of found objects like shells or stones.

  2. Choose a chair where you can sit up straight with your feet touching the floor. You can close your eyes completely or just gaze downward.

  3. Pick a time for practice every day that will be non-evasive on your schedule. You can even make an appointment with yourself, if you wish. The duration is up to you. Some people start with 10 minutes a day and build from there.

  4. Pick an anchor. Those pesky thoughts may intrude and distracted thought is not constructive to meditation so it helps to re-focus from time to time. The anchor can be one of the objects in your room, part of your body (like a hand), or word or phrase. My practice has always included the breath as an anchor. There are many books, audio and even apps that can help you in your practice. Mindfulness meditation requires practice not perfection.

  5. Follow your breath. Begin by taking 3-4 breaths. Be aware that you are breathing. Feel your breath traveling from your mouth or nose to your lungs, chest and abdomen. If your mind wanders go back to the breath. After your timer goes off, reconnect to the world around you and process the meditation by writing in your journal.

‘Til next time,

~Sallie

 

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