Meditation is the new black

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Much is being said and written about mindfulness and meditation these days, and there are many books and CDs on the subject. Look for names such as Bodhipaksa and Jon Kabat-Zinn and websites such as www.wildmind.org. Meditation is said to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, maintain equanimity (clear the ‘clutter’ of unruly thoughts and aid positive thinking and decision making), and aid concentration and creativity. Personally, I find – after having tried to meditate daily for a while – that it improves my quality of sleep – not that I had problems sleeping but I seem to need a little less sleep and wake up less groggy in the morning. I also find that it regulates my appetite and controls those annoying mid-morning and late-afternoon food cravings.

Here is how to get started: Sit comfortably, but as upright as possible, either cross-legged or on a dining chair in a place where you will not be disturbed. It does not have to be completely quiet, since the trick is to learn to acknowledge noises around you and let them be. Take a few slow, deep breaths and imagine that you are relaxing every fibre of your body from the crown of your head to the tip of your toes. Two tricks: Imagine you are in a place that usually gives you a sense of complete wellbeing, and try to relax your eye sockets. This may sound strange, but it really heps me to focus on relaxing the area behind my eyes. Then turn your attention to your breath and the sensation of breathing in and out without controlling the breath. When other thoughts arise, which they will, acknowledge them and let them go. If it helps, count your outbreaths from one to ten and then start over.

Sit like this for at least ten minutes once a day. You may want to use a stopwatch with a not too agressive tone, or download a gong timer. If you find it difficult to stop racing thoughts, try counting each outbreath until you get to ten, and then start over. Another method is to count to one while breathing in, then hold your breath while counting to four, and breathe out while counting to two. Ideally for 15 to 20 minutes at least once each day.

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