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Meditation has been practiced throughout recorded history and in virtually every human culture and tradition. It has been shown to help reduce stress and pain as well as aid in the healing process.
Mindfulness meditation involves being alert and relaxed in the same moment. We wait, watch and acknowledge whatever happens, whether pleasant or unpleasant, with kindness and judgment-free awareness. Like learning any new skill, learning mindfulness meditation takes practice. By practicing regularly, we learn that we can be mindful in everyday life, moment to moment.
A good way to begin learning about mindfulness meditation is to sit in a chair, close your eyes, and then bring your attention to the contact of your body with the seat of your chair. Notice the feelings that arise simply because there is contact of body with the seat of the chair. Now describe those sensations to yourself. For example, words that come to mind might be "warm," "firm," "soft," "pressure," etc.
Notice that the words do not fully encompass the totality of the experience itself. You can also practice mindfulness by bringing attention to your hands resting on your legs, on the arms of the chair or touching one another. Mindfulness practice is learning to gently rest your attention on the moment-to-moment changing sensations that we call "sensate experience" rather than the words that come to mind that we call "thinking."
Mindfulness Meditation Podcasts
The Swedish Cancer Institute has recorded three meditation podcasts to guide you as you start your meditation practice. (After clicking on this link, you'll reach to the Cancer Institute's podcast page. Scroll down until you find the meditation podcasts). The first is called "An Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation." It talks about the practice of mindfulness. Following the introduction, there are two practice meditation podcasts for beginners, including a 20-minute and five-minute abbreviated version. Please use either version when you begin.
Mindfulness meditation can be practiced sitting down, lying down, walking or standing. The most important instruction for meditation is to be attentive and alert to what is arising and passing in your mind and you body, moment to moment. It is important to be comfortable, so choose a posture that feels right for you. This posture may be different at different times, so listen to your body. Following are some suggestions for specific postures you may choose.
- Sitting Meditation
There is no "perfect" posture for sitting meditation. The best posture for you can only be sensed by you. How your posture looks to others is not important. From the outside it may not look "right" to others. That's okay. Our sitting posture is influenced by the unique life experiences each of us have had. Trauma, chronic or acute illness, lifestyle choices and genetics are only a few of many factors that contribute to the posture we take when practicing meditation.
The five-minute and 20-minute meditation podcast are designed to be used while practicing sitting meditation. First, you need to sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and close your eyes. Next bring your torso into a comfortable, upright and balanced position.
- Lying Down Meditation
If you practice mindfulness meditation while lying down, you may want to open your eyes so that you remain alert. Many people are comfortable lying completely flat on their back, while others like a pillow beneath their head or knees to increase comfort.
- Walking Meditation
For some people, meditating while walking — called "walking meditation" — is very helpful. If you choose to practice slow walking meditation, keep your eyes open and focused on the ground about six feet in front of you. Focus attention on the sensations as each foot is placed, moved and lifted from the ground. Make sure you are in a safe and quiet place.
If you choose to walk faster, focus attention on natural movements of your arms and legs as you walk. Let your eyes focus softly in front of you so that you are fully aware of your surroundings. Allow your body and mind to be relaxed and quiet.
No matter what posture you choose, you can still benefit from meditation. We hope you find the meditation podcast series useful and informative.
–Information adapted from articles written by David Zucker, M.D., Ph.D., rehabilitation physician at the Swedish Cancer Institute.