Many of us are so busy working, running errands, taking care of our family and a household, that we miss the opportunity to focus on a very important part of ourselves and that’s our mind (our thoughts, our inner self, and our soul). In fact, we often become so consumed with taking care of our physical bodies that we neglect this one specific area of our health and well-being that also needs conditioning, stretching and relaxation. But how do we actually care for our mind? One easy, but often overlooked way is meditation or prayer.
Just research the word ‘meditation’ on the web and you’ll find numerous websites, articles and videos on the definition of meditation as well as how to do it. In fact, the process can be a bit overwhelming for some people, especially for those who have never meditated before or even practiced the ritual of praying.
So, why even start a practice of meditation? What’s the purpose?
For me personally, I grew up in a Christian home, attended church and have practiced praying ever since. My faith is extremely important to me, but at times, I wanted to include something extra to help lower my work-related stress. (Telling you this history is important and you’ll see why in a moment.)
So, I researched online and found a few mobile apps and started practicing meditation. To say that it was a struggle to sit still for 15 -20 minutes and ‘not think’ is an understatement. I thought – How in the world can I do this? I can’t even relax for 10 minutes without thinking of all the things I have to do.
Luckily I work at a healthcare facility, so over a year ago, they offered an ‘Intro to Mindfulness and Meditation’ session and of course, I signed up immediately. The soft-spoken J. Ramita Bonadonna, PhD, APRN-BC walked in and started describing the purpose of meditation and focused the conversation towards mindfulness. (According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.) Ramita expanded on this concept by describing the act of washing dishes and being aware of the warmth of the water and feeling the suds as you picked up each plate. She continued describing similar examples of mindfulness and then opened the group for discussion.
Someone asked ‘How long they should meditate?’ and I was thankful for the question since I was also struggling with the ‘sitting still’ part as mentioned above. Ramita suggested starting with just 5 minutes. 5 minutes???? (Hello there overloaded mind – I can definitely sit still for 5 minutes! Thank you, Jesus – or rather, Ramita.) She went on to suggest that with practice and with time we can train our mind and body to work ourselves up for longer durations.
Next, someone asked about getting distracted while meditating and Ramita’s response was perfect. She stated that as the mind wanders, think about the thought like it’s a little puppy. ‘You go get the puppy and you bring it back.’ The same concept works with your thoughts. While meditating, if your thoughts begin to wander, bring it back and focus on the breath. This is how you train your mind to relax and use your awareness.
There were several other questions asked by fellow attendees, but of course, I had one that had ‘bothered’ me for some time so I had to ask. I asked Ramita, ‘What is the difference between prayer and meditation?’ And I will never forget her beautiful response. Ramita said that she learned that ‘prayer was speaking to God and meditation was hearing from him.’ Wow – that’s all I needed to hear. This was going to be great beginning.
We concluded our meeting with 5 minutes of quiet and guided breathing by Ramita’s calming and soft voice of instructions. This was truly my initial journey towards living a life of mindfulness meditation.Prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is hearing from God. #meditation Click To Tweet
If you would like to begin a journey of meditation, here are some suggestions to help you get started.
- Find a quiet space in your home, office, outside – wherever you can find a place that will have limited distractions.
- Start slow – begin with 3-5 minutes and train yourself (your body and mind) to longer time frames.
- Focus on your breath (or breathing) – learn to find areas of your body that are tense and just relax.
- It’s ok if your mind starts to wander, but learn to ‘bring the puppy back’, and focus on your breath.
- Learn the concept of awareness in everyday activities – take a few moments to learn to feel the book or pen you are holding at work, smell the grass or flowers when walking to your car, or hear the sounds of chatter in the restaurant.
As you will learn, meditating is a journey just like living a healthy lifestyle. It takes patience, practice and definitely discipline. Allow yourself the idea that you will not to be perfect when you first start your practice. In fact, there really isn’t a perfect way to meditate. The purpose is to be mindful of yourself and most importantly to bring peace and relaxation to your mind.
Resource for more information about meditation: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Ramita Bonadonna, PhD, APRN-BC is a psychiatric consultant/liaison nurse with the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also a facilitator with the MUSC Health Schwartz Rounds and is highly regarded for her passion for the joys, stress and wellbeing of healthcare workers who care for patients and families.
First two photos by Pixabay, the garden by SAE.