First Published at http://menopausemission.com/author/constadina-vasiliades/page/2 September 2012
Far too often when people hear the word “meditation” images of a toga-draped Buddhist sitting in an incense-filled room chanting “OM” comes to mind, but the main goal of meditation is in fact to shut off the mind and focus on breathing. Our daily lives consist of a variety of stresses leading to us unconsciously holding our breath when we feel tension. This briefly prevents oxygen from getting to our brains, sometimes making us dizzy, confused, and disoriented, and sometimes more stressed. Stress has a major effect on our hormones and when you are at the stage in your life where you are either about to enter menopause or already going through it, adding one more factor to change your hormone levels can in fact influence how your body copes with various menopause symptoms.
Whether you are going through menopause or not, everyone needs to find a little time to breathe, re-group, de-stress and empty the mind of all negative thoughts. It’s kind of like pressing the refresh button on your computer when a page gets a little confused and stuck. Once you press that button, things get un-stuck and make more sense.
There are a few things you can do to get into a meditative state. You won’t feel stupid, you don’t have to sit in a cross-legged position, eyes closed and chanting “OM,” however if you try it you will actually feel better. What you do need to do is stop what you are doing for at least ten minutes.
If you are at work or home running around trying to get things done, it doesn’t matter if there is noise going on around you; the key is to focus on nature and your breath. If you have a backyard, pay attention to the garden, a tree, a flower, a bird, something that you find beautiful and just gaze at its beauty. If you are in an office look out the window at the blue sky, unique clouds, or any pretty piece of nature you see. If you don’t have a window, any photos you have of nature, or something on the internet – a beautiful sunset on a tropical island.
It’s best to sit on a chair, make sure it’s comfortable. Keep your feet on the ground, preferably at a 90 degree angle, and place your hands on your lap. Doing this keeps you connected to earth’s natural energy. Other options are sitting on a cushion on the floor or lying down. You can even close your eyes and imagine your favorite beach or natural place you would like to go to. Focus on a natural scene of your choice. Really pay attention to what you find beautiful about it. Now begin to pay attention to your breath and begin to take in a deep breath slowly to a count of seven, and then let your breath out slowly to a count of seven, repeat this for ten minutes while focusing on the beautiful natural image. At the end of ten minutes you should feel more energized, your thoughts should be clearer, and your mood should be improved. For those going through menopause you may also find your hot flashes, sweats, and irritability decrease, and perhaps even stop.
Ideally you should aim to slowly increase you meditation practice to at least 15 – 20 minutes for optimum health, many studies have proven this. That may seem like a lot now, but you will eventually surprise yourself after a daily practice of ten minutes over a period of time that you naturally end up getting to that 15 – 20 minutes without really trying.
If looking at nature or visualizing nature isn’t something that you find easy to do, then visualize a white light coming into the top of your head and slowly moving its way down and throughout your body, all the way to your toes, on each breath. Visualize your body as a grey color, slowly turning into this white light removing negativity and toxins from each part of your body as you take in a breath of air. You can also silently say words in your mind that give you a sense of balance, like “calm,” “relax,” “cleanse,” or “floating.”
If you have more than ten minutes to spare, get into nature. This can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood, or sitting at a park bench paying attention to the beautiful trees, flowers and animal life around you. You don’t have to drive an hour to take a walk in a forest, or sit at a beach or lakeside. Walking outside, again taking deep breaths of fresh air to a count of seven and letting out your breath to a count of seven will not only give you more energy and clear your mind, but your blood flow will be improved.
The added benefit of meditation and taking deep breaths in and out is the release of toxins from your body. Also, when you are able to quiet your mind it is easier for you to evaluate your body as you are taking your meditative breaths. Note if any part of your body has pain, discomfort, or unique sensations. Becoming more aware of your body during your meditation practice can also alert you to symptoms you may want to explore further with your doctor or practitioner.
Many people say they can’t shut off their brain when they try meditation techniques. The stresses of all the things they need to get done, the negative things people have said to them, the worries about family and obligations keep tormenting their minds to no escape. It is normal to get to a point where you clear your mind and then one of these thoughts pop in. It’s OK. Be aware of it, but make an internal note to stop and know you will deal with that thought later. Then return your focus on your breath. This isn’t easy at first, but soon you will be able to block all stressful thoughts out and only focus on your breath. Once you’ve mastered the ten-minute break you can slowly add another five minutes bit by bit, eventually getting yourself to an hour. If ten minutes is all you will ever have to give yourself a break, then take it!
If you are having troubles sleeping at night try mediating again before bedtime. Also try cutting back on the caffeine if you can’t eliminate it completely during the day.
It takes a little time to get used to, but it can be done. You will surprise yourself. Just give it a try. Even if you don’t master the ability to shut off your mind, know you are guaranteed to get a little break and a reduction in the amount of stress you have on a daily basis. During menopausal stages in life, your hormones will appreciate it as well. Decreased stress from meditation allows your body to physically and mentally maintain its balance, allowing you to deal with any future stressful situation with ease.
Photo courtesy of apache at Freedigitalphotos.net