Meditation vs. stress
Stress affects all of us today and meditation is one of the best ways to beat stress, together with exercise, spending time with loved ones or perhaps some nice food and wine.
To relax your mind after a hectic day or before and important event, try the following short, to-the-point guide to meditation.
Sloooow, deeeep breaths
Inhale very slowly and exhale even more slowly with closed eyes, three times. Try to keep your mind empty during this and also afterwards, for about three minutes. Keep a slow, deep, relaxed breathing pattern throughout the whole relaxation exercise.
Empty your mind and "observe" your thoughts
After about two three minutes, perhaps earlier, you will not be able to keep your mind empty. A thought will come to “tickle” your consciousness and take you out of the meditation process. Don’t start analysing it but also don’t start fighting it. Just “observe” it, in a relaxed way.
After a while this thought will lose it’s importance and simply fade away. Then, most probably, another thought will attempt to bring you back into the thought process and out of the meditative experience. Continue with the same approach of resisting the temptation to think, each time this happens.
If you are sitting doing this, you will find that you are in a very relaxed state between sleep and wakefulness. If you lie down you will probably fall asleep. It is recommended you sit up, so that you can improve your control over this experience in the future, otherwise you will train yourself to be a very easy sleeper. Not bad either…
After 10-40 minutes, return to wakefulness, rejuvenated
After a few minutes, ten to forty, depending on how good meditator you are, you will find that you would like to come back to the “waking” state, yet rejuvenated and with clear mind!
Concentrate on one thing - a musical organ ideally
If you find this too difficult, try to concentrate on ONE thing, instead of nothing. Some people prefer to concentrate on their breathing pattern, but my favorite approach is to listen to the music and concentrate on ONE organ, throughout the duration of each song.
The music choice is left to you, but dancing music is not recommended. Classical, world or chill-out music are obvious choices but I have had fantastic meditation experiences with more upbeat tempos too.
Alpha and theta waves
Emptying your mind or focusing on one thing makes your brain cells work on a lower frequency and produce alpha waves (~10Hz) and theta waves (~7Hz), both known to induce relaxation, beat stress, unleash creativity and improve mental performance.
Stress and anxiety, occurring when your brain produces very high frequency beta waves (~20Hz or much higher), is simply incompatible with alpha or theta waves.
Bliss, calmness and a fortress against stress and anxiety attacks
Take it from someone who practised neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) for several years back in the 80s. Whenever I was in an alpha or theta "state", I was just blissful and deeply calm and it was impossible for stress to penetrate my being.
And this is the aim of meditation.
Of course you do not need to practice neurofeedback to achieve that - closing your eyes, slowing your breathing rate and increasing your breathing depth and emptying your mind or focusing your thoughts on one thing are enough. Neurofeedback, like any other feedback mechanism accelerates this process, giving you faster results. But it requires a gadget and sometimes that's a hassle.
So switch off your phone now, play some nice music, close your eyes, breathe deeply and get started!