"HOW COME I CAN'T MEDITATE?" ARTICLE by Pamela Smale Williams LPC LMFT AAMFT copyright 2008-9

Ok, you're all set to experience a meditative state, or "alpha state" as some refer to it. Others might call this trance induction, self hypnosis, or Visualization practice. You try it out, and are terribly disappointed or confused at why you didn't reach what you thought you were searching for. To begin, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I expecting a mystical, "Twilight Zone" sort of experience?
Don't expect this! It isn't necessary to nor is it likely to be that type of journey. The best expectation is to allow your mind to be focused on a single thing, such as your breathing, your own heart beat, or perhaps a single sound (repeating a word such as "ohm" for example, a frequently used focus for some
types of meditation that originate in Eastern religions). There are several good Sound Effects CD's that may also aid you in focusing ONLY on the ambient music...my recommendations are: Dan Gibson's "Solitudes" series...Two selections I prefer are "Ocean Surf "(visit PSW books to get details and listen to a portion of the SFX), "Thunderstorm in the Wilderness"--both are excellent choices are are well produced. "Ocean Surf" is one I use in my office to help teach deep breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing.
Each wave is an inhalation then an expiration and this CD helps get the tempo of how slowly the breaths need to be. Fast breathing or over-breathing can produce light-headedness or dizziness, so if this occurs, slow it down, maybe even lie down if you experience the beginnings of blacking out--you won't pass out if you are in a lying down posture since that allows your blood pressure and blood flow to be distributed more evenly. I DO NOT recommend COUNTING for your breathing because this forces you to focus on the counting rather than allowing your mind to be free of thoughts--the ultimate goal of meditation.

What if thoughts interrupt my meditation practice?

This is Normal, you may even plan on it to begin with. Often interruptive thoughts are the reason you try to learn meditation in the first place! Practice setting whatever thoughts interfere over to the side, even visualize a spot you can store them, and just focus back on your breathing. Worry simply takes away relaxation that is key here. If you have an anxiety disorder, this will be harder to control at first but don't let that stop you, just PRACTICE putting the interruptions aside--you may even try visualizing "in your mind's eye" putting them in a sack or in a closet and locking them up with a key that you throw into a deep pond of water.
You may not be able to make your mind a complete blank, but you can get yourself to allow all thoughts to flow past you and not allow yourself to judge or analyze these thoughts. Realize that they are merely thoughts and that you can allow them to come in and then leave you, replacing a neutral thought in their place if you wish...EX. "I know I have all these things to do today...and then going into the laundry list of all you have on your plate. Instead of doing an that inventory of things-to-do, know that they will be there when you return from your meditative state and that you will be better able to focus on those things when it comes time to, merely by having done the meditation and allowing yourself the Self care that comes by allowing yourself to RELAX and LET GO in meditation and /or Visualization.

What is the best focus for me?

This might be part of your lifestyle and may need to change each time your meditate or each month that passes, the practice will allow you to know what works for you. Use rhythm as your guide. Repetitive movements like watching a spinning crystal, closing your eyes and telling yourself to drift to a comfotable state, or thoughts that relax you, can induce a trance-like state. Focus on a single spot of light until your eyelids become heavy, see a positive/relaxing image in your mind ( a "Vacation of the Mind"), can help. There is no rule that says you must sit in a Lotus position and "look like your have Wisdom of the ages"! Whatever position is comfortable for you is the position YOU NEED to practice using. TIP: try not to cross your legs or arms. This can interfere with your blood flow and remember that we are aiming for smooth and full blood flow throughout your body.

How much do I practice?

3-5 minutes at first, with increases in time as you become more familiar with the state of relaxation and what it feels like to be Relaxed. Notice the difference between relaxation and tension, especially in your muscles. Scan your body for any tense spots and direct your visualization there. Give your muscles permission to relax and undo the knots they may be in. Verbally, to yourself, talk to your anxiety or tension or to your own thoughts, what does it/they need? You may not get an answer at first and that's fine. It may come to you in a word, a color, a sentence, a vision...and then again it may never come to you, at least not on a conscious level. As long as you recognize where you are tense, you will be locating a source of something that needs to change...which is the beginning of new behaviors and peace.

How will I know if this is meditating?

If you can allow your thoughts to empty from your consciousness and focus simply on your breathing, you are in a state of relaxation, and you are "meditating". Your breathing should be slow and deep rather than fast and shallow. You may discover that you have tuned out everything around you, or you may hear only slight sounds but allow them to remain in the background---which is why this is best not practiced while operating machinery!! Don't try to drive and do this.

Why Meditation?

Learning what Relaxation is, getting a break from your tension and/or anxiety, and clearing away any "noise" in your head. How much can you do this currently? If you break through the distractions, you may already be meditating in a sort of way that works for you--don't discount that! Own it for what it is and recognize it as being successful and helpful.

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