Take a short break to un-scatter your mind and find a sense of calm.
At one time or another, you've probably been told you should try meditation. But you don't actually need to "try" at all. Meditation is much easier than most people think.
“Meditation is not about erasing who we are and having no thoughts,” explains Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year. “It’s about simply becoming aware of our breath and learning to sit with whatever it is that comes up.”
Conscious breathing, like you do during meditation, activates the rest-and-digest part of the nervous system, signaling to our body that it's safe to find a little stillness, Blair says. This un-scatters the mind, builds focus, and creates a sense of comfort.
In this exercise, you'll first do something called "lemon breath." It may seem silly, but it helps release tension and stress, and taps into your playful side. More importantly, it teaches you to be aware of your breath.
Later in the exercise, you'll do a visualization activity that helps hone your ability to check in with yourself and your senses. If thoughts pop up as you do this, it's okay.
"Meditation is definitely about quieting the mind, but we are not asked to completely rid our mind of thoughts," Blair says. "We are instead asked to become aware of our thoughts, of the sensations we find in the body, and of the breath moving in and out of the body."
Try this simple practice, and see how you feel after. You can follow along with the video above, or read the steps below and try it on your own. As you become accustomed to the practice, feel free to meditate for longer periods of time.
Step #1: Get Comfortable
Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor and your shoulders relaxed.
Step #2: Inhale for Lemon Breath
Breathe in like your entire body just sucked on a lemon, scrunching your face and all the muscles in your body.
Step #3: Exhale for Lemon Breath
Let your breath go, shaking your arms, fluttering your lips, or sighing if you wish. Allow yourself to have fun with it. Do lemon breath three times.
Step #4: Rest Your Hands on Your Body
Sit with the chair supporting your back. Either close your eyes or keep your eyes open with a soft gaze. Rest your hands on your thighs or anywhere on your body that you like.
Step #5: Find Your Natural Breath
Become aware of your breath coming in and out of your body. Simply notice your breath, without altering it or making any judgments.
Step #6: Get More Comfortable
Adjust your body to become more comfortable and supported in your seat.
Step #7: Imagine Your Favorite Spot Outside
Continuing to follow your breath, imagine your favorite spot in nature. It can be anywhere-the mountains, beach, or maybe an open field.
Step #8: Notice What’s Around You
Once you've established your spot in nature, really be there. Take a look around. What do you notice? What sensations do you feel in your body? Check in with your five senses.
Step #9: Find Something That Brings You Joy
As you continue to look around your favorite spot in nature, find an object that brings you joy. It could be the sky, the ocean, or an object you could put in your pocket like a pebble or leaf. Imagine what it would be like to take that object with you into your daily life. Give yourself that power.
Step #10: Practice Gratitude
Continuing to breathe naturally, offer your spot in nature some gratitude for bringing you joy. Know that this is somewhere you can return to at any moment, on any day.
Step #11: Come Back to the Present
After sitting for as long as you wish, allow your breath to deepen a little bit. Make a little more movement with your chest and belly as you inhale and exhale. Bring your eyes open gently, and slowly find your feet on the floor. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Find a little movement so you are back in your body. Remember to take your joyful object with you!
Make Meditation Your Own
The next time you meditate, feel free to try other techniques to tap into your breath. Some people like to count the length of their inhales and exhales. Others use a mantra, such as "love" on their inhale and "peace" on their exhale. The possibilities are endless. Be patient with your efforts, and find what works for you.
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