Dr. Catherine Oseni, is the Director of Integrative Medicine at The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders
I woke up this morning to the beautiful view of the falling leaves, realizing the season has definitely changed, we are now in the fall season. It brought a lot of excitement to me as I showed my boys through the kitchen window that fall is here! This view created an urge for me to reflect on the leaves that have fallen... The leaves that have fallen are an indication for us to let go of all that has been holding us back. These fallen leaves indicate that a new season is upon us. My mind was swept away with the mantra, "Let it go. Let it fall." This moment was a beautiful beginning to my morning meditation. I thought to myself, "what was it that set you back in the last three quarters of this year?" "Let it go. Let it fall." As the leaves break free from the comfort of their branches and joyfully dance to the ground this beautiful fall morning, so let your worries that have held you back. Those things that have brought sorrow, heartache, and stress. Let them fall to make room for the new season.
If you are new to meditation, I'd like to walk you through a few meditation styles that I personally enjoy.
First, let's discuss Mindful Observation. Practicing mindful observation allows us to be more aware of the present moment. Too often we find ourselves waiting at 5 o'clock, the weekend, the end of the month, the new year. We do not take the time to appreciate the moment for what it is. Taking time each day, whether that be in the morning or right before bed to find five minutes of presence can create a sense of peace for whatever chaos has been enduring or will endure throughout our hectic days. To begin, you should sit in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed and zero distractions. Ask your mind to notice the present and nothing else. When you find your mind wandering to other thoughts, do not be hard on yourself. It is a natural thing for the mind to go to other places. Simply bring yourself back to the present moment and find your center again. Start with a couple of minutes each day and work your way into more time.
For those on the go or lack a quiet place, but need those extra minutes to break free of the stress of the day, try Walking Meditation. Some may find this to be a foreign concept in regards to meditation, but walking has proven to be very therapeutic to the mind. In walking meditation, a person is encouraged to find a path of about 10-15 paces that they can comfortably walk to and from without disturbances. Walk the 10-15 paces forward, all the while focusing on each step you take and the movements it requires. Once you have reached the end of your path, pause and take slow, deliberate breaths for as long as desired. Once finished, turn around and start the process again. Ideally, your attention is focused on your steps and your breath. If you find your mind wandering, be gentle with yourself. Bring your thoughts back to the center and continue.
Next is Mantra Meditation. If you want to start mantra meditation you must choose a mantra. And to choose a mantra you must figure out what you want to accomplish with mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is intended to serve several purposes. It can help protect the mind against unwanted fears or distractions (such as anxieties regarding public speaking). It can also help keep the mind focused on certain tasks at hand (such as when athletes compete in high stakes competitions). Once you decide what you want to accomplish, then you can choose your mantra. Once chosen, you will want to find a comfortable spot to sit and practice your meditation. Practice your breathing and say your mantra in your mind slowly and deliberately. Focus on what it means. Do not let it be empty words. Create deliberate meaning with those words each time they are said in your head. Center your breathing around the words and create a space of relaxation. If your mind wanders, bring it back gently and start again.
Lastly, we will look at Yoga Meditation. There are several aspects to practicing yoga such as breathing, posing and the act of meditation. Each part is equally challenging as it is vital. It can take practice and some guidance if you are new to it. Focus on deep breathing that inhales and exhales only through your nose. Make sure you are feeling the breath throughout the entirety of your body and not just the front part of your lungs. If you are interested in the true art of posing, look into classes or online videos. Be mindful of your body's ability and do not ask it to do something it is not ready to do. The act of meditation is truly about quieting a busy mind. Be present in the moment and as always, do not be hard on yourself if you find your thoughts wandering to other things. Slowly bring yourself back to center and continue to focus on the present.
Whatever your meditation style, the benefits are countless. It's so important for us to take these small breaks throughout our day to relieve our stress and refocus our intention.