Let’s be real here, the holiday season can be stressful. I know, I know; it seems difficult to imagine that drunken debates about politics with estranged family members over a roasted animal could ever possibly lead to stress, yet here we are!
One way to battle stress, year-round, is to meditate and there are many benefits to investing a small amount of time each day in developing a meditation practice. Taking time for yourself, to reset during stressful times, can be more helpful than you’d think. In fact, “when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in this week’s JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.” (Corliss, Julie. “Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Anxiety.” Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. 29 Oct. 2015, 7 Dec. 2015.)
As we were thinking about this in our office, a new book landed on our desks. A book filled with wonderful health information
and, as luck would have it, a simple meditation that we absolutely love. The New Chinese Medicine Handbook, by Misha Ruth Cohen, O.M.D., L.Ac., is an essential guide to achieving total health in body, mind, and spirit. It explores the powerful benefits of Chinese medicine to help you take control of your healing process and maintain wholeness and harmony in all aspects of your life.
Here’s an excerpt where Misha tells us how to begin meditating with one of her favorite meditations, The Lotus Blossom Meditation.
As a beginner, you want to allow yourself the time and pleasure of learning to meditate. If it feels awkward or if you have difficulty maintaining concentration,
take a step back.
Don’t set your standards too high. If you expect too much too soon, you disturb your mind/body/spirit and promote restlessness, frustration, and stress. This may defeat the whole purpose of meditation.
Your first goal should be simply to be quiet, relaxed, and comfortable for a few minutes.
Try to meditate in a comfortable environment. As you progress, distractions will become less of a problem. In the beginning, you want to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Choose a quiet room that is not so warm that you fall asleep nor so cold that you tense up. Wear loose-fitting clothing. Turn on meditation music to help block outside noise if need be.
Find a posture that works for you. Not everyone can sit on the floor in a full or half lotus or cross-legged. You may want to lie down, sit in a straight-backed chair, or stand.
Don’t eat heavy foods or drink alcohol or caffeine before meditating.
Don’t hold on to disturbing thoughts. One of the goals of meditation is to disconnect from worries. If you’ve had a tough day at work, a disagreement with your spouse, or worries about money, each exhalation of breath is a chance to let a piece of that tension dissipate.
Lotus Blossom Meditation
This is one of my favorite meditations. It is a brief and simple meditation that can be done almost anywhere, any time you feel the need to ease stress or allow your feelings of affection and connection to expand.
Sit peacefully, breathing evenly.
Half close your eyes
Inhale slowly, filling your body with air.
At the same time, concentrate your attention on the area of the fourth chakra that is located at your breastbone in the center of your chest.
Imagine a beautiful lotus blossom. Its petals are closed, and its scent is but a promise. As you exhale, see that blossom unfold. The velvety smooth petals extend, reaching out, releasing a beautiful scent.
Inhale and smell the fragrant aroma.
The petals are opening ever further. And as they open, you feel your heart and chest opening up to the world, expanding, relaxing.
You may extend the opening petals as far as you want. Feel your heart open in the same proportion.
When you have arrived at an openness that is comfortable, hold it there as you enjoy the scent of the flower and breathe in and out slowly.
You may practice this meditation concentrating on a chakra, or energy center.
Particularly effective are the third chakra, located at the diaphragm, and the second chakra, located below the navel in the Dantien or hara area.