Relaxation and meditation help me to live fully in the moment

By Cathy Fenwick

by Catherine Fenwick ã 2000

My kids often say to me, "Mom, relax!" I have a tendency to get wound up when I'm very busy. I need to be reminded to relax. When I get "like that," I take a ten-minute break and do a mini-relaxation. I become aware of my self - body tight, teeth clenched, mind racing. I smile and say, "what a silly thing to do to my body," not to mention the effects on the people around me! Then I take easy deep breaths counting four in and four out. Let my jaw go limp, let the relaxation flow throughout my body. Breath out tension and distress, breath in relaxation and healing.

Relaxation and meditation is like shaking up a glass of muddy water and letting the dirt settle to the bottom, just observing as the dirt sinks all by itself. We begin by getting into a comfortable position, having some intent, then taking time and lots of practice. An attitude of quiet acceptance is needed, we just let it happen. This is a gentle practice with powerful results. Meditation is awareness of self, it is bringing the different aspects of our being into focus. Meditation brings my mind home. We begin to understand ourselves and get a glimpse at our fundamental nature. Meditation defuses my negativity and turbulent emotions. Rather than suppressing or indulging my emotions, meditation helps me to view them with understanding and acceptance. As I focus my mind more and more, I begin to feel well in my being, I get more comfortable in my own skin, I control my thoughts, my mind is at peace. From this comes a greater understanding and acceptance of who I am. My body has a better chance to heal itself when I stop fretting about the awfulness and start focusing on the possibilities. I often do a walking meditation, as I walk I say to myself, "My body is healthy and strong, my mind is sharp and clear, my soul is at peace."

There is no one right way to meditate. Each person will find what works best for them, but we must work at it. Things worthwhile usually take time and effort. Real change is not easy and needs strong commitment. There are five basic types of meditation.

Focused breathing - I pay attention to my breathing by taking deep breaths counting four in and four out. Observe my thoughts and feelings while remaining somewhat detached. Become aware of the physical sensation of my breath as it enters and leaves my body. With each breath, breathe in relaxation and breathe out tension. The rhythm of the breath is a basic rhythm of life. Focused breathing gets us back into our natural healing rhythm. Once I feel connected to this healing rhythm I find this is an excellent time to put important questions to my spirit such as, "What do I need to know about my health at this time?" I wait for answers, and they always come. I have found this to be one of the most helpful practices - comfortable position, focused breathing, open-ended question "What do I need to know about _____ ?" Wait patiently and calmly for the answer. Sometimes it takes a few attempts over several days, but I always get an answer that is helpful.

Transcendental Meditation - in which we repeat a word, phrase or mantra over and over. It is not one that I have used a lot, but many people report having excellent results with this method.

Progressive relaxation and meditation - in which we listen to, and follow with our mind, a speaker or a tape. Relax and follow the voice, which usually gives suggestions on how to relax, relieve pain or achieve a sense of well-being. I find these very helpful, particularly with easing pain and getting better sleeps.

Visualization - is a form of meditation in which we actively work to see in our mind various things we wish to achieve. We might visualize cancer cells shrinking and the body's healing forces expanding and multiplying. Bernie Siegel and Carl Simonton have developed excellent programs using visualization for healing. The day before my mastectomy I relaxed, focused on, and told my body to send the blood away from the sight of surgery. Siegel, a surgeon, says this helps to reduce blood loss during surgery. Evidence from bio-feedback research suggests that this works. During chemotherapy I instructed my body to work with the medication, gave thanks for the opportunity for healing and visualized warm healing light entering my body, shrinking cancer cells and mobilizing my immune system.

Mindfulness - is a "learn-to-do-one-thing-at-a-time" method, in which we focus our mind and bring it more under our control. Often taught and written about by Buddhists, it is also a spiritual practice. This form of meditation is used to bring the mind to full awareness about what the body is doing, thinking and feeling. I practise this daily by focusing on the task at hand. When I focus on what I'm doing my mind does not mess with me by generating worries, fears and things I can do nothing about. When it is time to focus on the problem, I have more energy to do what needs to be done. For practice, I mindfully "do tea." "I am making the tea. I am drinking the tea, I feel, taste and smell the tea," in full awareness of what is happening. Nothing in the world matters right now except that I am mindfully having tea. Relaxation and meditation help me to live life fully each and every moment.

Cathy Fenwick is an author, educator and workplace consultant. She develops and delivers workshops and keynotes on how to get more healthy humour into your life and your work. Her books and manuals include Healing With Humour, Telling My Sister's Story, Workscapes: Keeping spirit alive at work , Building Bridges: The heart of effective communication and Hope for people facing cancer.

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