Meditation Upon Waking Up
Meditation For Waiting
Meditation For Bedtime
Three Steps to Stress Management
Meditation & Heart Disease (by Dr. Ornish)
Heart Helps Message Board
Some cultures believe that everything is a meditation. They are fully mindful when they eat, drink, walk, pet an animal, or any other activity. Other cultures are at the opposite end of the spectrum, eating without tasting anything as they speed down the highway, or racing out of the house to start the day without paying any attention to their inner self. For people living in those cultures, a meditation exercise may be helpful in reducing stress levels and to re-center or re-focus oneself in the midst of a tornado of to-do lists, concerns and worries. They may be done alone or in conjunction with a relaxation exercise or a breathing exercise.
This article discusses some basic meditation exercises that anyone can do to lower their stress levels and improve their health. A more structured form of meditation called Transcendental Meditation has also shown heart health benefits. (NOTE FROM LEE: I use TM and if anyone is interested I will walk you through the basic steps, part of my education was devoted to Eastern Religion--email LeeJRoush@msn.com )
For example, a 2000 article published in STROKE revealed that this form of meditation slightly but significantly reduced plaque build-up, which lowered the risk of both stroke and heart attack. People interested in learning this form of meditation are encouraged to find a local class or to find an instructive book or videotape on the subject.
Which meditation exercise can be done upon waking up?
When people are in love or feeling happy, it can seem like everything goes smoothly through the day. Even minor disappointments or challenges are met with enthusiasm without affecting one’s overall good mood. This is an example of how much the attitude you adopt as you start the day has to do with how well your day actually turns out to be. If people wake up thinking how terrible the day is going to be, or how awful it is that they need to get up, then they will more easily be upset by small events that occur over the course of the day. If people wake up with enthusiasm and happiness, then they are less vulnerable to being upset by minor disappointments or setbacks. In other words, they are less likely to feel stressed.
A meditation exercise can be helpful in starting the day in a healthy, strong, enthusiastic frame of mind. It can be done while still lying in bed after the alarm has gone off, or between the time the snooze button was hit and the time the alarm goes off again.
The steps for this exercise are as follows:
- With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. With each breath, imagine your body getting stronger and healthier, until it is radiating with powerful energy.
- Imagine yourself standing in a beautiful place just after sunrise, such as the beach by the ocean or the top of a mountain. Feel the sun shining warmly and the breeze blowing all around you. Listen for the sounds that you would hear in this place as life all around you is waking up to another day.
- Imagine yourself stretching your arms out to embrace the new day, claiming it as your adventure. Then imagine yourself speaking in an unusually deep, clear and powerful voice as you state your intentions for the day despite any obstacles. For example, “No matter what happens today, I will maintain my sense of humor.” Or, “No matter what this day may bring, I will not forget what is truly important in my life.”
- Take a moment to feel the effect of those words, and then begin your adventure.
Which meditation exercise can be done while waiting? Waiting can be very stressful. Take the following examples:
- Waiting for test results to come back
- Waiting for a child to come home
- Waiting in the waiting room of a medical office or hospital
- Waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery
During these stressful periods of waiting, it can be helpful to do a meditation exercise that relieves stress rather than allowing it to get worse as time ticks by. Getting stressed out will not help any of the above situations, and is often harmful. Therefore, people are encouraged to try a meditation exercise such as the following:
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Imagine yourself at the top of 10 stairs that lead down to a door. Imagine yourself taking one step down toward the door. As you do, your body feels more heavy and relaxed, sinking gently into whatever chair you may be sitting in. With each step that you take toward the door, your body continues to feel heavier and more relaxed.
- As you reach the door, you open it and step out into the most beautiful, relaxing scene that you can imagine. Perhaps you find yourself by a waterfall, or in a cool forest, or in the best vacation spot that you have ever seen.
- Spend a few moments soaking in the sights, sounds, textures, smells and even tastes that you associate with this place.
- Before coming back from this place, take something with you to give you strength and a reminder of this relaxing break from the worries of the day.
- Come back through the door and climb back up those steps, feeling more refreshed and stronger with every step that you take.
- Take a deep breath and open your eyes.
Meditation at Bedtime:
- Thinking about stressful situations before going to sleep can trigger the stress response, which is the exact opposite of what the body requires in order to wind down and go to sleep. A meditation exercise can help people to get their attention from their racing thoughts to their hard-working body’s need for sleep. The following meditation exercise may be done with soft music, nature sounds (e.g., ocean waves) or a relaxation tape playing in the background. It may also be done in conjunction with a relaxation exercise or breathing exercise.
Each step of this exercise can be done while lying in bed. The steps are as follows:
- Close your eyes and take three deep, cleansing breaths. Focus on inhaling clean air and exhaling stale air.
- Continuing to breathe deeply, spend a few moments focusing your attention on your toes. You will have fully focused your attention on this part of your body when you can mentally visualize the position of each toe. This in itself can be quite relaxing as attention shifts from the mind to the body. Imagine your toes to be warm, limp and relaxed.
- Now focus your attention on your ankles. Imagine any knots or tension in your ankles to loosen and unravel, falling away as you continue to breath in fresh, cleansing air.
- Continue to spread this blanket of warmth and relaxation up over your knees, thighs, pelvis, stomach and chest.
- When you reach the shoulders, imagine massaging fingers working out the tension in your shoulders, upper arms, forearms, hands and fingertips. Let those massaging fingers continue to massage up your neck, jaw and cheeks, until you feel completely relaxed from your cheeks all the way down to your toes.
- Now imagine a cool facecloth over your forehead, soothing away any doubts, worries or concerns that you may have.
- Feeling relaxed from head to toe, continue to take deep breaths and remember that you can achieve this state of relaxation whenever you want to.
This information is courtesy of www.heartcenteronline.com
Basic stress management techniques include getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Exercise has been shown to decrease the amount of stress hormones that are released in response to stress (see effects of stress on the body). It is also important to eat a balanced diet that is high in vitamin C and low in both caffeine and sugar. Although it is important for each person to find a set of techniques that work best for him or her, the following three steps can also offer some helpful guidance when stressors arise.
Step 1: Relax in a healthy way
It is much harder to respond to a challenge when stress is interfering with clear thinking, so relaxation is the first step in stress management. Healthy strategies for relaxation include the following:
- Relaxation exercises
- Meditation exercises
- Breathing exercises
- Taking a bath
- Taking a walk
- Petting an animal
- Working out
- Counting to ten
- Taking a break/vacation
- Getting a massage
- Joining a support group
- Painting, drawing, or playing a musical instrument
- Engaging in a hobby
- Using positive self-talk (e.g., “I can do this”)
- Reading inspirational or spiritual words
- Writing in a journal or diary
- Confiding in, or “venting” to, a friend
- Listening to relaxing music or an inspirational tape
- Listening to relaxation tapes (available from a counselor or bookstore) on which a recorded voice guides the listener in relaxing from head to toe
- Watching television
It is important to understand the difference between the healthy strategies listed above and unhealthy strategies. Unhealthy strategies include the overuse of alcohol, the overuse of either illegal or prescription drugs, smoking, overeating, violence, and yelling at or verbally abusing others. These strategies are only temporarily effective at best, and tend to create more problems than those that were present in the first place.
Step 2: Identify the problem
The better you know the stressors that can affect you, the more effective you will be in combating them. Sometimes the problem is obvious, such as when someone is feeling stressed about moving. At other times, people are simply feeling stressed in the middle of a workday and are not sure why. When the source of the stress is unclear, it may be helpful to make a list of one’s daily activities and keep a log of events that trigger stress reactions. After a week, the log can be examined for any patterns that may be present. If it is still difficult to identify the source of the problem, counseling may be helpful in identifying what may be triggering the stress. Although people may be unaware of it, emotional responses are often triggered in the present because of events that occurred in the past. Learning about those past events and how they still affect the present can be very helpful in managing stress.
Step 3: Address the problem
Basically, people are faced with one of two options: changing the situation or learning to accept it without feeling stress. This idea has been stated in the form of the famous Serenity Prayer:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Examples of managing stress by making changes include the following:
- Changing unrealistic goals (e.g., not trying to be perfect all the time)
- Changing unrealistic expectations (e.g., not expecting others to be perfect all the time)
- Re-prioritizing (e.g., making time to take care of yourself)
- Delegating a task/chore to someone else (e.g., not trying to do everything alone)
- Forgiving someone (e.g., letting go of an old grudge)
- Planning ahead (e.g., being prepared for the little surprises that often arise)
- Viewing a stressor as challenging instead of terrible, awful, or catastrophic
- Becoming more assertive (e.g., speaking up and learning to say no)
- Resolving conflicts through sharing and listening, rather than allowing conflicts to fester
- Getting more support (e.g., asking for help instead of trying to “tough it out” alone)
- Avoiding quarrelsome people as much as possible (e.g., not seeking out trouble)
- Bringing more humor into your daily routine
- Taking a vacation, because studies suggest that not doing so may increase the risk of heart disease and early death
- Accepting what one cannot change means accepting the countless situations that are beyond human control. These include death, many illnesses, accidents, weather, the feelings or behaviors of other people, time and various mechanical problems. It is vital for one’s emotional and physical health to learn how to accept them instead of stressing over them.
With practice, these stress management techniques help people to gain control over stress, instead of allowing stress to gain control over them.
Information adopted from www.heartcenteronline.com
An interesting question, answered by Dr. Dean Ornish:
Question: Do you know of any research findings on how meditation affects the heart and blood pressure? It doesn't have to be specific to heart patients.
Answer from Dr. Ornish: Meditation is great for your heart, as well as for the rest of your body. Meditation can take you to a deeper state of relaxation that is more profound even than sleeping. This deep relaxation allows the heart to begin healing. Your body is designed or has evolved to deal with intermittent stresses, not the chronic, relentless stresses that are so common in everyday life in the 1990's. Many people find that they never really get a chance to recover from one stress before they're hit with another. Because of this, the stress mechanisms that are supposed to help you survive may actually threaten your survival.
For example, your blood clots faster and your arteries constrict during times of stress. This gives you a survival advantage if you are wounded in battle or bitten by a tiger, since you won't bleed as much. If these mechanisms are chronically activated, though, the arteries in your heart may constrict and blood clots may form there, both of which may lead to a heart attack.
As the pace of life becomes faster and faster, it seems that we have less and less time to relax. Meditation helps to break this harmful cycle. Even your heart rests between beats.
Many studies have documented that the regular practice of meditation may lower blood pressure, reduce the frequency of irregular heart beats, and even lower cholesterol levels independent of diet. Meditation is an important part of my program for reversing heart disease.
People who lead busy lives often have a hard time meditating not only because of the time it takes but also because it looks like you're just sitting there doing nothing when there is so much other stuff to do. But meditation is a very active process and has extraordinary benefits.
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Last Modified on October 16, 2001
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