Keys to Calm

Need a break from life's pressures? Learn the easy way to reach a state of relaxation almost anywhere at no cost.
ESSENCE.COM Jul, 13, 2012

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Meditation is like taking a tranquil vacation whenever you want—for free. Those who do it say it leaves them clearheaded, incredibly calm and more self-aware. “Meditation is about actively listening to yourself so that you can get an emotional perspective on your life,” explains Nicholas Pepe, a meditation expert in Los Angeles.

Considering how overextended most of us feel, why aren’t more of us getting our om on? For some, it’s the fear of actually stepping away from busy, noisy surroundings and being silent. We say we have too much going on to stop and just be still. The busier our lives, the more we could benefit from a peaceful pause. Experts at the Mayo Clinic point out that meditation may help conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep problems and even cancer.

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Find a comfortable place, whether it’s in your bedroom, your office (make sure the door is closed), your car or under a tree. Shut off anything that might disturb you—the phone, computer or TV, for example. You don’t have to sit on the floor cross-legged and burn candles or incense if you don’t want to. Just find a convenient place where you can be silent.

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Whether you’re using a CD or a downloaded meditation program or doing your own thing, sit or lie down with your eyes closed. If your thoughts wander, don’t worry. Let your mind drift back to the present each time it strays.

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Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Concentrate intently on each breath you take. Notice how much more at ease you feel as you continue. “When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and our body tenses,” says Pepe. “Controlling your breath helps you control your emotions.”

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Release any issues or problems nagging you by visualizing that with every breath you are expelling confusion and negativity and inhaling clarity and positivity. Rather than dwelling on doubts and fears, only think about what you are feeling at this moment.

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Toward the end of your meditation, you will be at your most peaceful state and you may even fall asleep. That’s fine. Or you might prefer to use this time for prayer or to give thanks to yourself for embarking on this retreat.