Grieving parents know that it is very easy to become preoccupied with thoughts of the child who has died. Our minds often return to the circumstances of their death, or we wonder who they would be now. Sometimes to the point of distraction.
The same thing can happen with couples who are struggling with infertility. They’re preoccupied with thoughts of this month’s attempt to conceive, cycle tracking, test results and the like.
These types of thoughts or worries can create tension and anxiety, even to the point that it interferes with daily life, making it difficult to concentrate at work or home. Tension and stress can also make it more difficult to conceive, if you are struggling with infertility.
One way to assuage these feelings, quiet the mind and relax the body is to meditate. Meditation is highly beneficial for both mind and body. Studies have shown that meditation lowers blood pressure. People who meditate are more relaxed and are less likely to be depressed or anxious. You can learn more about the science behind meditation here.
How do you start meditating? Do you need a teacher or a CD or a book? Those can all be helpful, as there are many ways to meditate. But meditation is really very simple, and you can get started as soon as you’re finished reading this. And my hope is that you will try it.
One of the easiest ways to meditate is using mindfulness meditation. It is also known as Insight or Vipassana meditation. It grew out of Buddhist traditions, but is now a secular practice. It is the method of meditation that I was instructed in as part of my yoga teacher training.
It is a very simple technique, but takes years to master as you train your mind to passively observe thoughts, feelings and physical sensations as they arise and then allow them to pass without dwelling on any one thought or feeling. There are many other types of meditation to explore, of course. Most faith traditions practice some sort of meditation or contemplative prayer. But mindfulness is a great place to start.
All you need to begin a mindfulness practice is a comfortable cushion to sit on. You may want a blanket or shawl to wrap around yourself and a timer, as well.
How to meditate:
- Place your cushion on the floor. You can sit in a chair if you have physical limitations that prevent you from sitting on the floor. Sit tall and straight with your legs crossed comfortably. Some sitters position themselves against the wall to support the back. Do not sit on a bed or lie down.
- Place your hands in your lap or on your knees. Many people position the hands with palms up to symbolize receptivity.
- Once you’re sitting comfortably, close your eyes. The first sign of relaxation is the ability to close your eyes.
- Start to breathe in and out through your nose only, if you aren’t already. Nasal breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system, and the body will start to relax. Our mouths weren’t meant for breathing, except in emergency situations!
- Observe your breath and notice whether or not you expanding your chest as you breathe or if you are belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing). You should be belly breathing. As you inhale, breathe into your abdomen, expanding your belly instead of your chest. As you exhale, your abdomen draws in. You can place a hand on the abdomen to feel this happening, especially if breathing this way is new to you. Focus on the breath, giving attention to each inhale and exhale until you start to feel relaxed.
- Once you’ve established the breath, observe thoughts and physical sensations as they arise, but don’t focus on any one thought or sensation. If you start thinking about your schedule for the next day, for instance, come back to observing the breath.
- Your mind will wander again and again. Be patient with yourself, remembering that you can always come back to the breath.
If you generally have trouble sitting still, sit for 10 minutes the first time out, and gradually increase with every session. It is challenging, but over time, you will be able to sit for longer and longer as you teach your brain to be mindful and observant rather than reactive and judgmental.
The goal is to be present, to be unconcerned about the past or the future. The lessons learned in meditation will help you to be less anxious and tense in everyday life, realizing that these moments will pass, and allowing you to focus on this moment rather than worrying about the past or the future.
Be mindful. Be relaxed. Be present.
You can do this. Just close your eyes and breathe.
If you meditate, please share your experience. If you try the practice outlined above, please let me know. I can also answer any questions you may have.