Soulful Medicine: How to Reduce Stress Through Meditation
Let’s face it. We’d rather be “on.” We’d rather have that edge where we feel connected and that everything is going with the flow. But life isn’t like that, is it?
There are often stumbling blocks that get in the way. We take what others say personally. People find themselves feeling ashamed. Others feel excluded or not good enough.
Particularly for women, we can find ourselves in positions where we need to speak up in ways that might feel confrontational. No matter what the stressful situation, it can throw us off our game, leaving us feeling untethered.
How do we come back to center? How do we reclaim our joie de vivre?
In my own case I had been extra busy at work with less than optimal support. A renter in my office created havoc. I didn’t have the skill set to handle the situation. My buttons were getting pushed. Red flags were flying. I was angry, self-critical. I was over-eating. I was up at 3:00 am unable to go back to sleep.
There is a quote written by Anaïs Nin hanging in my office that says, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I was there. I was suffering. I needed to stop and call a truce. I needed a dose of mindfulness and compassion.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice, a process of purposely paying attention in a loving, non-judgmental way to the internal and external experiences happening each moment. Instead of paying attention to all the thoughts in your head, mindfulness grounds you deep in your body. The practices leave you feeling refreshed and peaceful.
One practice may include focusing on the feeling of your breath moving as you inhale and exhale. Another practice engages your senses; noticing tastes, smells and sounds. Others invite you to explore where you are holding tension in your body and find a way to relax.
In many of the mindfulness schools there is a weaving together of loving kindness meditations with mindful practices. This binding deepens the experience of self-compassion. Loving kindness, or metta meditations evoke a feeling of love in the heart, like you would feel towards a puppy, a baby or even a stuffed animal.
The more you work with different meditation techniques, the easier it is to know what works best for you. The night I climbed onto my couch to meditate I needed a safe way to feel my vulnerability. I chose a tool that is very powerful for helping me sit with challenging emotions. This process has the acronym RAINS which I would like to share with you.
The RAINS Process
The RAINS process can wash away hurt and help you gain self-compassion.
Following these five steps as you sit quietly with yourself has great power:
Simply recognize that you have been lost in thought instead of feeling what is going on right now.
Allow the experience to be there without trying to change it or judge it. No resistance. Just let it be. Become in harmony with the exact way your body feels.
Can you get really curious about this feeling that you are feeling? Where does this feeling live in your body since every emotion has a corresponding physical counterpart.
Ask yourself, “If that body part could talk what would it say? Does this feeling have a size, a color? What does the feeling feel like?”
Don’t identify the feeling as being you. See it as non-personal, a temporary feeling that is present.
Send loving kindness to that area of your body. I do this by feeling love in my heart and then imagining myself sending that love with the following words, “I send you love. I offer you peace. I wish you happiness.”
Surround the emotion with loving kindness by saying to the emotion, “I feel you in there. I really feel you. I hear you calling me. I am here for you. I see you are asking for my attention.”
I am in awe of this process. Fully aware of what is happening inside myself without my judging mind adding insults, I feel at peace knowing the truth. I accept it.
Offering my own love to myself creates a cease-fire. And while focusing on what hurts seems counterintuitive, bearing witness with compassion creates space for self-love and acceptance. I have come back home to myself.
What about you? What allows you to get back on track and center yourself? What forms of meditation have you found helpful in times of stress or anxiety? Please share with the Sixty and Me community in the comments.
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