In dealing with illness or the death of a loved one, practicing mindful meditation can help overcome life’s stresses. Ignoring our own stressors are common, as no one likes to suffer–but by acknowledging them, we can better identify the underlying issue and learn to cope more effectively. It’s not about changing what we can’t, but instead accepting it, embracing it and becoming more aware.
Trying to sit and “do nothing” can be difficult, especially in our busy lives, but mindful meditation is about practicing being in the present moment and being aware of what is going on in the now. With continual practice, it can become easier to cope with hectic everyday situations such as being more alert while driving or being at work when you know a loved one who is ill.
How to Meditate
The concepts that are involved are environment, posture/sitting, breath control and your thoughts.
First, pick a spot to sit quietly and relaxed. Don’t worry about any ambient noises such as traffic or those weird noises your building makes, it can be a part of the moment (no, not the TV!). Keep the meditation session short in the beginning, 5 or 10 minutes, and gradually increase the increments as you become more comfortable.
Posture and Sitting
Pick a spot where you won’t be interrupted during your session; sitting crossed-legged on the ground or a cushion is just fine. If you would rather sit on a chair, no problem. Just make sure to sit with your back straight. You can keep your eyes open or closed. The idea is to stay in the present. If you keep your eyes open, keep your gaze steady and don’t put any emphasis on what you are looking at.
When breathing, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Visualizing the breath entering your nose as a “cool, white light” and leaving through your mouth as a “warmer colored light” is an excellent practice.
What if distracting thoughts still enter your mind? Plans for the weekend, what you’re going to make for dinner, the bill you forgot to pay. Thoughts will enter and your mind might wander, but avoid the urge to be pulled away from your stillness. Let these thoughts enter and gently glide from your mind, gradually bringing your concentration back to your breathing and the present. It can help having a conscious word that you say to yourself, if you catch yourself distracted, that can bring your mind back to meditation.
Another helpful and relaxing way to practice mindfulness is to try guided meditation. Check out UCLA’s free recorded mindful meditation sessions you can play right from your computer! A couple of other helpful resources are below.