Some things in life are complicated and difficult to do, no matter how you slice them. Meditation can be this way, especially if one pursues it to an advanced degree, but it does not have to be. There are versions of meditation which are simple, easy to do and can help us to live more mindfully. The problem is that when you mention meditation people often get intimidated and quickly discouraged because they have unrealistic expectations about what it entails.

We often say things like, “Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t sit still for that long.” Or, “I can’t concentrate like that. My mind just races all over the place.” Or, “I tried that. I just can’t relax.” Clearly, when we say things like this we’re conjuring up some idealized vision of a perfectly still, focused and deeply relaxed state perhaps only achieved by highly experienced practitioners of meditation. We tend to think of meditation only in it’s advanced form and not in the simple form.

Yes, you can sit in the lotus position, touch the tips of your index fingers to the tips of your thumbs, rest your forearms on your knees, focus on your breath and your mantra and begin your ninety minute journey to an alternate level of consciousness. Or, you can try this.

Please, do try this at home

Pick your comfortable position. My favorite is lying on my back on the floor. I happen to like the flatness of the floor and since lying on the floor is something we don’t usually do, I like that it feels different. It creates a sense of specialness around this part of my living room floor and this particular posture. This is the place I go to relax. You might choose an easy chair or upright chair, your bed or even standing in place.

Do these three things: close your eyes, slow and soften your breathing and allow your muscles to relax. These are the basics. If you do only this for as little as ten or fifteen minutes, you will probably feel a little better than you did before you started. If your mind wanders, let it wander. If your body fidgets, let it fidget. If you fall asleep, fall asleep. Enjoy a few minutes to yourself without any judgment or expectations about anything.

Want to get just a tad fancier?

Pick a mantra, a simple word or phrase that you would like to have delivered to your self—your body, mind, spirit. Maybe something like, “Everything will work out” or “It’s good to relax.” Blend the syllables of your mantra with the rhythm of your breath—perhaps, “It’s good” on the inhale, and “to relax” on the exhale. Gently blend the message of the mantra into your self like a teaspoon of honey into a hot cup of tea.

Not a mantra person? Maybe try a simple visualization exercise. Imagine your ideal comfortable scene. Whether it’s the beach, back porch, meadow or waterfall, walk yourself through the various senses—what do you see, hear, feel, smell in your ideal scene. Enjoy the scene while you continue to slow the breathing and melt the muscles.

You can do this

Thirty minutes a day would be great. Ten or fifteen minutes every now and then is a lot better than nothing. Some may get hooked and inspired to go further, maybe read about meditation, take a class or even find a mentor to teach specific techniques. Some may just have a new tool in their back pocket to take the edge off when the stress level starts to climb.

Art Frenz, Ph.D.

Image courtesy of Chris Sharp/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Psychological Fitness

“Psychological Fitness” is my monthly column featured in the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun Bulletin since 2004. This page highlights articles, or adaptations thereof, from that column.