I include the article below, an extract of my book, Mindfulness and Meditation Options, in the email I sent to all participants in my Connect with Horses Mindfulness Meditation retreats here in the south of France, a day or two before they arrive.
If you have been going through a particularly difficult period in your life and sometimes feel depressed, anxious and physically/mentally exhausted, meditation is a useful technique to get rid of negative thinking patterns. Granted, calming your mind can be a daunting challenge. Practising regularly will make this easier, you’ll reap the most benefits when you meditate daily. Even just 5 minutes a day will make a difference. Try this 5-min guided meditation and if it works for you, do it daily when you wake up: The Five Minute Miracle Meditation. Follow it with this short selection of Gratitude Affirmations to get the most benefit from your meditation practice.
Start by doing the two exercises above, once a day, for 30 days.
As you may know, meditation is a mind and body practice that by helping you focus on your breath, can enable you to find clarity, develop concentration, and enhance emotional positivity while encouraging you to remain in the present moment. This empowers you to observe your thoughts or feelings without judging them. Try for yourself – Follow these 6 simple steps during your mindfulness meditation practice:
Step 1: Settle down
Sit, stand or lie down wherever you are, in as comfortable a position as you can. Make sure that nothing will disturb you before you start to meditate.
Step 2: Time
Before you begin, you should decide how long you are going to meditate. Set a timer (see ‘tips’ below.) Seasoned meditators recommend 20-minute sessions twice a day, beginners can start by doing 5 minutes once a day.
Step 3: Acknowledge
Acknowledge how you feel. Identify any negative emotions or feelings. Pinpoint where you feel this negativity in your body, and calmly observe it in a non-judgmental manner. Let it be, let it go – it’s fine (and completely normal!) to experience negativity in this way.
Step 4: Breathe
As you take inventory of how you feel, take a few slow, deep breaths. Feel the breath make its way into your nose, all the way down your throat, into your chest and down into your abdomen, rising back up and out through your mouth. With each breath notice the coolness as it enters and the warmth as it exits. Don’t control the breath but follow its natural flow. Some people count their breaths as a way to stay focused.
Step 5: Feel
Breathe as you focus on the spot in your body where you feel negative energy. For example, if you feel anxiety or stress in your abdomen, take a deep breath and notice how your abdomen responds. Allow yourself to feel it and do not attempt to fight it or suppress it.
Step 6: Focus
If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought that has distracted you, but do not dwell on it. Just gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Listen to the sound of it, and feel it as it enters and leaves your body. It’s completely normal to have thoughts swirling around in your mind as you try to focus on meditating. Observe these thoughts without judgment. You can picture them as clouds floating by in the sky or as leaves drifting down a stream.
One of the best meditations I have found on Youtube to accompany my meditation practice is the one below. It’s perfect for those times when you need to release stress, reduce anxiety, lift your mood and empower yourself to live a calm, joyful, loving life.
Practical day-to-day tip for self-guided meditation: When you’re trying to work this into your daily routine, use your phone timer for help. Set your phone to ” do not disturb” and set a timer for 10 minutes either first thing in the morning before you start your day or right at the end of it. This way, you don’t have to keep peeking at the clock. Another great tip is to download a meditation app. One that has come in handy for me is the Stop, Breathe & Think app. This app has guided meditations but also has a meditation timer for self-guided meditation.
You’ll find that with regular practice, meditation will help you to accept things as they are. Meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, builds resilience and awareness to help people learn how to ride life’s ups and downs and live happier and healthier lives. The illusion of safety that control provides, will lose its appeal as you surrender to and embrace life as it is – on and off your meditation mat.