Meditation Techniques for the Meditation-Challenged, Part One

I’ve been trying to meditate for years.

I had read about the benefits of meditation for coping with Lyme disease, chronic pain, thyroid disease, allergies, anxiety, and almost every condition I have, but I just couldn’t focus on my breath and keep my mind from racing.

I even took a class a few years ago. The class was free and VERY low tech. We used recordings of the teacher reading guided meditations. Unfortunately, the sound quality was bad, and there were loud clicking sounds and weird huffing breathing noises, and ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT were the noises. I lasted five sessions.

Me in Horrible Noisy Mediation Class

In the book Mindsight, psychologist Daniel Siegel writes, “Nearly everyone who tries meditation discovers that thoughts and feelings keep interrupting our attempts at focus, even after years of practice.” People judge themselves for being “bad meditators” and give up. Siegel believes the key is to keep practicing without judging yourself when your mind wanders, and each time you practice, you strengthen the parts of the brain that help you meditate.

A friend who meditates told me that people who have extreme stress or trauma in their lives often have a hard time doing meditations that focus on the breath.

So, is having a chronic illness extremely stressful or traumatic? Hmmm … Let’s see!

Picture of pills, MRI machine, surgical knife, etc.

I recently learned some meditation techniques that work for me and might work for other meditation-challenged people. I’m starting out slow (as in five minutes), and trying not to worry about doing it perfectly or setting up the right environment. For instance, one book suggested blocking out a specific time each day for meditation, and choosing a peaceful “oasis-like” spot in my home, but I live in a tiny ground-floor apartment that is so close to the street it is practically on it—so much for “oasis-like.”

I often meditate while riding the subway to my doctors’ appointments. I keep meditating while I’m sitting in the waiting room: It blocks out people’s loud cell phone conversations and makes me less anxious about the appointment. I usually cart along a mile-long list of questions, and meditating beforehand helps me choose which ones are the most important to ask first, so I go in to the appointment feeling more relaxed and focused. I noticed that doctors, especially Western doctors, tend to act dismissive and sometimes rude when I seem anxious. I’m not sure if they’re being sexist and putting me into the “hysterical female” category, or if they just didn’t have a “How to Deal With an Anxious Patient” class in med school, but whatever the reason, calmer is better.

So, here are the techniques I’ve been using. Because I’m trying to write posts that are not the length of a novel, I’m covering the first two in this post and the second two in the next post.

1) Loving Kindness Meditation — short version

I got this from the aptly named book Meditation for Wimps by Miriam Austin, and it’s adapted from traditional Buddhist meditation.

Inhale and silently repeat, “May I be free from suffering.
Exhale and silently repeat, “May I be at peace.”

Variations:

When you’re stressed about a new medical condition, a test result, or any medical issue:
Inhale and silently repeat, “May I be free from suffering.”
Exhale and silently repeat, “May I be healed.”

When you feel a lot of fear:
May I be safe and secure,
May I be safe and secure.

When you are having difficulty making a choice:
May I be free from suffering,
May I make wise decisions.

When you want to send healing thoughts to someone else, you can just substitute “you” for “I” with any of the above meditations, e.g.:
May you be free from suffering,
May you be healed.

I sometimes alternate the “I” version with the “you” version:
May I be free from suffering,
May I be at peace.
May you be free from suffering,
May you be at peace.

I’m not necessarily sending healing thoughts to one specific person—it’s just really comforting to do it this way.

The next technique I got from my physical therapist, Tracey Vincel of Kima Physiotherapy. Most physical therapists will not give you meditation techniques, but the therapists at Kima have a holistic orientation: They do mind-body work, they combine traditional physical therapy with Pilates, Feldenkrais and other modalities, and they have an acupuncturist and a massage therapist on staff. I went to four physical therapy practices before finding Kima, and they helped me when no one else did. I highly recommend them if you live in the Greater New York City area.

2) One-Minute Mindfulness Meditation*

I like to do this one when I am out running errands or going somewhere. It works really well when you’re in an annoying situation, such as standing in line in a crowded store. It is a simple breath meditation, but it works for me because it’s so short.

Bring yourself into the present by asking yourself the following:

What is my experience right now?
In thoughts: What am I saying to myself?
In feelings: How do I feel? Am I happy, sad, neutral, upset, excited, etc.?
In body sensations: How does my body feel? Do my muscles feel painful or tight? Am I holding a lot of tension?

Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted.

Then take a few breaths, focusing on inhaling and exhaling. Your breath can function as an anchor to create awareness and stillness. Try to feel your body as a whole, especially your posture and facial expression.

Stay tuned for “Meditation Techniques for the Meditation-Challenged, Part Two.”

Do you meditate? Which techniques work best for you? Please feel free to add your favorite techniques or meditation-related links in the comments section.

*Adapted from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale (2002).

Published by

Miss Diagnoses

Hi! I'm Vicki. My blog is called "Miss Diagnoses" because I have too many diagnoses and because my Lyme disease was misdiagnosed for many years. In addition to being a professional patient, I'm a compulsive reader and doodler. Sadly, my writing and drawing are limited by repetitive strain injury and neuropathy; I use assistive technology, but I can't post as often as I'd like. I'm also an allergic, chemically sensitive shopaholic, always on the hunt for less toxic beauty products. You can find me on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Twitter: @miss_diagnoses Pinterest and Facebook: @MissDiagnoses

14 thoughts on “Meditation Techniques for the Meditation-Challenged, Part One

  1. I loved the blog about meditation. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best advice. Simple little mantras and techniques are a great starter kit for beginners and those of us who meditate regularly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post and I definitely adore you! Lately, I have been doing guided meditations (Deepak Chopra) once or twice a day and often a few moments of simple silence as well. What a wonderful suggestion to meditate anywhere. I am going to be practicing this today, incorporating the mantras you mentioned into various activities. Thank you for this post and I look forward to part 2 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thank you so much, ZenThyroid! I adore you as well! 😀 I also heard about the Deepak Chopra meditation from a friend who loves it, but I was nervous about trying guided meditation after that class. I will look into it and give guided meditation another try. I love that you are going to meditate as you go through the day — I love doing that. I just did the second meditation (the one-minute mini one) when I was in a taxi stuck in traffic.

      Like

  3. Meditation is so helpful. Even mini meditations wherever we are when we think of it! I’m not much good at moving “to the cushion” but whenever I remember, I breathe and bring myself back to my body and the present moment, and I have a regular little walking meditation around my dining room table (if the air outside was better, I’d go out).
    I found this website offers some good meditation resources, often some nice freebies, so you don’t have to subscribe (I “liked” their fb page)
    http://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-practice/mindfulness-the-basics

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Linda! That is such a great page! It has everything! I just bookmarked it. Yeah I have one friend who mentioned John Kabat Zinn and another who listens to Tara Brach… I keep meaning to read “Full Catastrophe Living” but I just have so many books downloaded. I’ll get to it eventually though.

      Liked by 1 person

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