Stress Management Techniques: Meditation

Sandi Anders, MDiv, RYT, CSC

In this discussion, we will explore ways to relax with Centering Meditation and Mindfulness Meditation.

What Is Centering Meditation?

In centering meditation, you will focus your attention on a word or phrase to enhance the sense of relaxation. With that focus, you also breathe deeply, slowly and evenly. The words you choose can have deep personal meaning, be neutral, or simply be pleasing sounds.

One approach with this kind of structured meditation is to say one word or phrase to yourself as you breathe in and another as you breathe out.

Centering Meditation Practice to Try Right Now:

Centering meditation examples that you can easily incorporate into your rhythm of breath in this moment are:

As you breathe in, mentally say to yourself: "At"
As you breathe out, mentally say to yourself: "Peace"

With the inhale, saying: "Let"
With the exhale, saying: "Go"

Breathing in: "Deep"
Breathing out: "Slow"

Another way to use centering meditation is to repeat a word or phrase each time you breathe out. Here are some examples of words or phrases you might repeat to yourself in this way:


You can also practice centering meditation by counting breaths. To do this, simply count each time you breathe out, You can count up to ten and start over again. When you lose track of the count, start over again at 1.

If thoughts, feelings or distractions arise, just let them pass on by and gently bring your attention back to the repetitive word, phrase, or counting.

Mindfulness -- Present Moment Awareness

Mindfulness is the discovery of what the essayist, Henry David Thoreau, referred to as the "bloom of the present moment." This practice can provide an experience of the relaxation response as you learn to be in the present with non-judgmental, moment to moment awareness. It allows you to become centered and fully engaged in your life as it unfolds.

Mindfulness in Two Ways -- Regular Practice and Spontaneous Practice Throughout the Day

Mindfulness can be practiced formally with a a regular established time to do so. And it can also be practiced in an informal way that is spontaneous and done throughout the activities of the day.

Regular, Formal Practice of Mindfulness

In the formal practice of mindfulness, you begin practice with attention on the physical ensations that come with breathing. That is followed by a widening of focus as you begin to be aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts, experiences, or feelings. As you become aware of what is within you and around you, you can learn to consider and embrace what is present without judgment, without trying to change it or move away from it.

Breath Awareness in Formal Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is best practiced with awareness of the breath. As you breathe, you observe the thoughts or feelings that arise without reacting to them. Then, using the rhythm of your breath, simply name and acknowledge what you observe, and continue focusing on the breath. In this way, the breath becomes an ongoing anchor to the present moment, and the interruptive thought or feeling fades from awareness.

This process has been likened to sitting on the bank of a stream, focusing on the breath. As a leaf or a stick floats by, it enters conscious awareness. The leaf is observed, noted, and then it floats down the stream out of view. The observer returns to the focus on the breath.

Formal Mindfulness Meditation Practice to Try Right Now:

Here are some examples of ways that you can incorporate formal mindfulness practice in your life as you are reading:

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.

Breathing in, I am sad (or happy, worried, afraid, etc.)
Breathing out, I am still sad, etc.

With this approach, we stop thinking about what has triggered the emotion and simply name and breathe it.

Mindfulness as a Regular, Spontaneous Part of Your Day

A less formal approach to mindfulness involves bringing your full awareness to any task in which you are engaged, or to any moment that is occurring in your day. Whether you are eating, walking, driving, or getting dressed, you can proceed with the task or pleasure at hand, being fully absorbed in it while maintaining the awareness of your breathing. You can engage your senses fully and savor sensations that you notice.

Informal Mindfulness Meditation Practice to Try As You Live Your Life:

We will use the example of taking an shower to illustrate how informal mindfulness practice can be done:

Breathing in, I know that I am taking a shower.
Breathing out, I hear the rushing sounds of the water.

Breathing in, I notice the sensation of the warm water on my body.
Breathing out, I see the swirling patterns of steam.

With this informal approach - bringing mindful awareness to what is happening in the moment - we cease the stress-inducing habit of multi-tasking and allow ourselves to be fully engaged in what is at hand. Only then can we be fully alive -- present to our lives!

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