For those of you who did not read the exciting, I mean relaxing and contemplative, “Meditation Techniques for the Meditation-Challenged, Part One,” I described two techniques: a simplified version of the Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation, and an easy, one-minute mindfulness meditation you can do anywhere.
For a long time, I really felt that I should meditate, since meditating helps so much with the physical and emotional stress of chronic illness. But I never had any luck when I tried to meditate, because I was either too stressed out to focus, in too much pain to focus, or I thought I had to do it perfectly, sitting in the proper position for a long time.
Recently, I learned a few techniques I can actually use, even if I only get in a few minutes at a time. Some of these can be done while walking around, some are good for just lying on the sofa, and some I even use to cope with noise and overstimulation on public transportation. Subways and buses are not good for sound-sensitive people with Lyme disease or fibromyalgia.
Coming back from a doctor’s appointment several weeks ago, I did the Loving-Kindness Meditation and was able to partially block out a woman who talked like Shoshana from the show Girls and a guitar player singing Bob Dylan with a heavy Russian accent.
To put the Dylan-singing guy into context, the NYC subways have a lot of musicians who randomly wander into subway cars, play a song, and ask for money. Sometimes people are really talented and sometimes … not so much.
The first technique comes from the perfectly named Meditation for Wimps by Miriam Austin.
1) Calming Anger Meditation – When I first glanced at this I didn’t think it was going to work. I have a lot of anger: anger about being sick, anger about not having the life I thought I was supposed to have, and anger about the daily aggravations of living with chronic illness.
It really does work. And it’s VERY EASY.
On the inhale, silently repeat: “Inhaling, I calm my anger.” On the exhale, silently repeat: “Exhaling, I calm my anger.”
You can substitute “release my anger,” “calm my tension,” or any wording you prefer. You can say it as many times as you like, but three to five repetitions is usually good for an instant feeling of release. This technique works especially well if you are on the phone with any sort of tech support, customer service, or difficult family member.
And I wish I had known about it during my recent insurance telephone nightmare.
I used to call the following meditation technique, which I got from my physical therapist Tracey from Kima Physiotherapy, my “Ayurvedic thyroid meditation,” because I started by doing the mantra for the throat chakra, which corresponds to the thyroid. Now I do the mantras for the throat chakra, the immune system (for my Lyme and allergies), and the adrenals. This is a simplified version of traditional chakra-based meditation, taken from the book Absolute Beauty by Ayurvedic skin specialist Pratima Raichur. By “simplified,” I mean that there are seven chakras, and for some reason the book lists only five. I think the author was trying to make things easier, which definitely works for me.
2) Bija mantras – The Bija mantras are one-syllable, therapeutic, untranslatable sounds from Sanskrit. Each mantra is meant to balance a different chakra. Chakras are energy centers located along the base of the spine that correspond to the body’s seven major nerve ganglia. Physically, each chakra corresponds to different organs and bodily functions:
To do the meditation, inhale, and on the exhale softly begin to repeat the mantra aloud. Let your voice become gradually softer until the sound becomes a whisper and then fades out completely. Don’t force yourself to focus on the sound. If you get distracted, just go back to the mantra on the next breath.
The author recommends doing each mantra for two or three minutes if you want to cover most of the body. If you want to work on specific health issues, do only the mantras for those areas of the body. So, for thyroid disease and allergies, you would do the mantras for the fifth chakra (thyroid) and fourth chakra (immune system) and not do the other mantras.
She suggests not using a timer, but I used my cell phone the first few times, and now I estimate when two or three minutes are up. The idea is to work up to doing 10 to 15 minutes daily (if you do all five mantras).
If you do only a few mantras to focus on specific problems, the author recommends alternating that with doing all five mantras. For example, you might do two mantras for four days, then all five for another four days, then back to the two, etc. Actually, I haven’t had the concentration to do all five mantras yet, but I will get there eventually.
Right now, I’m doing about two to three minutes each for the mantras for the fifth chakra (thyroid), fourth chakra (immune system), and first chakra (adrenal medulla). The adrenal medulla is at the center of each adrenal gland, and it is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, which is instrumental in adrenal fatigue, which I am starting to think I might have. Anyway, my thyroid, immune system, and adrenals may be beyond the help of meditation, but meditating helps me feel peaceful and clear-headed, and who knows, maybe it will help.
There is a lot more to say about mantras and chakras, obviously (including the various emotional correlations of the different chakras), but if you are as new to this as I am, here is a quick overview (OK, it IS a Wikipedia page, but I found it helpful nonetheless).
If you’re interested in longer meditations, several people provided great links in the comments section of my earlier meditation post, which I am reposting, since I noticed people clicked on them. Also, several friends emailed me more links. My friend Bob posted meditation teacher Susan Piver’s newsletter and sent me a link to her website. My blog buddy Linda from Seriously Sensitive to Pollution posted this great page with links for different teachers, classes, and articles, and my blog buddy Mikelle from ZenThyroid sent me Deepak Chopra’s free three-week meditation challenge (it started on April 14th, but a new one will begin after this one ends).
Do you meditate, or do you have problems meditating? If you meditate, what are your favorite methods? Do you hate subway musicians and fuchsia winter hats too?
Stay tuned for “Meditation Techniques for the Meditation-Challenged, Part Three.”