Meditation practice is an increasingly popular way to develop a “quieter” mind and to improve our emotional-regulation skills. Several scientific studies point to the health benefits associated with long-term meditation practice like lower blood pressure, improved tolerance for “stress” and better immune system functioning. However, meditation is not magic; it is simply a method for cultivating a “present mind” versus one being lost in the distraction of our constant thoughts.
Believe it or not, meditation practice is not about controlling our thoughts. In fact, thoughts cannot be “controlled.” Thoughts come and go all the time and they are a normal function of our mind. Meditation practice involves returning our awareness to one point of focus again and again and again until our mind begins to “sit still.”
For most people, the simplest type of meditation practice involves counting our breath silently to ourselves. To start: Find a quiet place to sit, put your feet on the ground (don’t cross your legs), sit straight (not slouching against the back of the chair), place your hands in your lap with the right palm over the left, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, close your eyes half-way and breathe in through your nose. As you breathe in, count to yourself “one” and as you exhale (again through your nose), count to yourself “two.” Continue this pattern until you reach “ten” and return again to “one.” Try sitting for 5-10 minutes to start.
When you begin to practice, you will probably notice how many thoughts come flooding into your mind. In fact, you will probably lose track of your breath and frequently become caught up in your thoughts. Don’t worry—getting lost in thought is totally normal. Simply return to counting your breath and start over with “one.” As meditation teachers often say “it is not important how many times you lose track of your practice, it is more important how many times you come back to it!”
Jeffrey M. George, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist, PY6361