You can do these exercises anytime and anywhere to access a place of restorative calm.

Everybody needs a sanctuary—a place to rest and renew. The beauty of meditation, a proven and profound form of self-care for the mind and body, is that you can access the place of restorative calm almost anytime, anywhere. There are many benefits of meditation, including stress reduction, increasing focus, and enhancing your overall health. Yet for some, meditation sounds mysterious or intimidating, probably because of some common misconceptions: That it's dry, boring, or "too spiritual;" that it's an esoteric practice for those operating on some higher, more rarefied plane. Yes, meditation is an ancient spiritual practice, one that cuts across different religions and many different traditions, but what it boils down to is this: To meditate simply means to rest in moments of appreciative, exquisite attentiveness. Moments that allow us to savor the experience of living and that make us feel both deeply calm and deeply alert, in tune both with ourselves and with the world around us. Moments we come away from feeling refreshed, renewed, and engaged. For many, meditation is a way of communing with your spirit.

We all know how to meditate; it's an instinctive ability. If you've ever been deliciously absorbed gazing at the flow of a river, the dance of a fire, or the twinkle of stars, you've enjoyed meditative moments. And you can create those moments almost anywhere at any time. If you have a favorite place in your home in which to meditate, that's wonderful, but you can meditate just as effectively sitting at your desk or lying in the grass. Meditating on a daily basis is easy. Give yourself a space of time—10 to 20 minutes every morning and afternoon, or if that's not possible, a few minutes here and there throughout the day. Choose a pleasing, peaceful focus for your attention—sensations, such as the flow of your breath; a sound you make, such as "ah," or a visual image, like waves coming to shore. This is your home base. Lightly focus your attention, and when your mind wanders off, gently come back to home base. Minds wander a lot; so go easy on yourself and accept the process.

While those are the basics, there is no one right way to meditate; explore what works for you. These two simple meditations will help you get started.

Meditation One: Sensuousness of Breath

This meditation takes five to 10 minutes and is done while sitting comfortably or lying down, eyes open or closed. After you're comfortable, it's time to set your intention. One I use is: I bask in healing pleasure. I receive the nourishment into every cell of my body.

One of the most universal meditation practices is to take pleasure in the flow and rhythm of the breath. Buddha described this as "breathing in and out sensitive to rapture." To begin, breathe out with a deep sigh a few times and notice what that feels like. Let yourself make quiet whooshing sounds. If you feel a stretch or a yawn coming on, give in to it. Gently ask yourself, "What pleasure do I feel in breathing?" Next, explore the sensations that accompany breathing—the feeling of the chest expanding and contracting, the gentle touch of the air gliding through the nose and down the throat, filling and then emptying the lungs. How luscious can you let breathing be? Perhaps you enjoy the relaxing ebb and flow of the breath or love breathing's whispering sounds. If you're outside, you might savor the fragrance of grass, trees, or flowers as you inhale. You might feel a simple wonder at receiving this essential gift from life. Breathe with this type of awareness for 10 minutes or so, allowing your attention to be soft and undemanding, like rose petals on your skin. Thoughts and feelings about your life will come into your awareness; this is healthy and healing, so don't try to block them out. Just keep coming back, gently, to focusing on the sensuousness of breath when you can.

Meditation Two: Heart Warming

This meditation takes five to 20 minutes and is best practiced at night while sitting comfortably or lying down, eyes open or closed. Set your intention. I use: I am awake to love. I am ready to give and receive.

In this meditation, give yourself time to feel the emotional impact of all that is in your heart. Be leisurely, and linger in any of the meditation's phases for as long as you like. Begin by thinking of someone or something you love without reservation. Notice the sensations that arise in your heart and let yourself be with whatever is there—warmth, aching, joy, longing. Then bring both hands to your heart, feeling the warm contact of your palms against your chest. Imagine your heart being warmed by your love, melting any cold places, any part of you that is afraid, grieving, or lonely. Next, make a humming sound, such as "ah" or "ohm." Enjoy the way the sound vibrates in your chest for as long as you like. Then gradually let the sound fade away; you can return to it at any time. Again, notice the contact of your hands on your heart. Slowly open your arms outward, as you would to embrace someone. Take a few breaths and then slowly bring your hands back to your chest. Repeat this movement several times with great leisure. The simple motion of opening to give and drawing in to receive is a yoga of the heart—a way of expressing balance. End by bringing your hands back to your heart; pause, savoring the sensations and feelings.

Text by Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine.


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