Part of my recent effort to take better care of myself and not fall into a pit of mommy self-neglect has been adding meditation to my daily routine.
Benefits of Meditation
While mediation has long been thought of as a bit “out there,” it’s becoming more mainstream as even Western medicine is recognizing the real benefits of meditation–benefits that spiritual practitioners have long known. This LifeHacker article by Belle Beth Cooper covers what happens to your brain (based on brain-scanning technology and a variety of studies) when you meditate–this article is a must-read if you even think you might be interested in meditating. Effects include better focus, less anxiety, more creativity, more compassion, better memory–truly amazing!
My Own Practice
I’ve dabbled in meditation before, most consistently as a project for an Asian philosophy class in college. I did 30 minutes once or twice a week with a Jesuit professor who was also Buddhist. We had our own little meditation space in my dorm building. It was a lovely exploration into stillness and quiet, and it served as a great counterpoint to the general madness of university–all-nighters, stress, a heavy workload, too much partying!
But I’ve never kept up a consistent practice. For a while now I’ve been thinking of meditating but kept putting it off–my day is already so busy and the post-baby bedtime to-do list is always so long that it’s easy to find excuses not to take a few minutes to sit still and do nothing, on purpose.
But finally, having even greater difficulty finding 30 minutes for daily yoga, and wanting to find more calm and release some of the tension of dealing with toddler nap issues, tantrums and general stay-at-home-mom mayhem, I figured meditating would be 10 minutes well-spent.
I started a few weeks ago. Over the first week, my commitment was spotty and I showed up maybe twice. But as the weeks have gone on, I’ve become more consistent–the effort seems to be crystallizing into a routine now–every night after getting Linden to sleep, before heading downstairs to
waste spend my evening. And I really don’t find the 10 minute time commitment cutting into my productive time at all.
I’ve also settled on a mindfulness visualization that is working really well for me.
A Beginner-level Light Meditation/Body Scan Technique–Feel Free to Try!
There are many iterations of white light meditation. One basic idea is that you envision yourself inhaling clean, white light. It’s a way to focus your mind on your breathing and give it some additional feelings of cleansing and healing. I’ve always liked this, and often add to it the idea of breathing out dark smoke or air, containing all of my tension, worry, anxiety, self-doubt, and other inhibiting, negative thoughts.
In order to quiet my mind, I’ve begun imagining filling my whole body with this white light as I breathe in, displacing all of the dark. I start first at my pelvic floor, at the core and lowest point as I sit on my bed (very sophisticated mediation space!). I let it fill in there, and then spill into my legs, working its way down to my feet and toes, then filling in back up my legs to the crease at the groin. I try to especially focus my mind on areas that are tight or sore for whatever reason. The light then fills in through my core, wrapping around my midsection and up my back. It gets to my arms and fills in down to my fingers and back up the arm again. I spend a lot of time on my shoulders, where I seem to hold the most tension. I envision the light working its way through the sinews of my tight muscles, up into the neck, releasing the hold that the muscles have on my vertebrae and letting go of all of that tension. Finally, I let it fill up into my head, and then I spend a few minutes envisioning my entire body filled with this beautiful, soothing white light. Glowing from within.
It’s simple, but the visualization helps me avoid intrusive thoughts. When they do inevitably come, I imagine pushing them out on my exhale, like blowing away dandelion fluff.
I will have to report back on long-term effects, but already I feel myself looking forward to this quiet time, and I think I may be ready to up the amount of time as 10 minutes flies by very quickly. I take this as a sign that it’s working.
Do you meditate? What types of meditation do you like to do? Do you think this is something you might be interested in if you don’t meditate now? And Happy Thanksgiving!