How do I Meditate

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Meditation is not an evasion. It is a serene encounter with reality.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

Practicing mediation has helped people alleviate a wide variety of symptoms. Meditation seeks to help a person gain awareness of the present moment and limit distractions. In terms of treating TMS meditation can help people become in touch with their present break away barriers used to repress emotions. There are a variety of techniques that can be used, and the following is a brief overview of these techniques as well as other helpful tips. If you use a different method of meditation feel free to share about other approaches, tips, or about your experience meditating on our discussion forum.

General Tips

Meditation is a time for a person to tune out all outside distractions and stress. It is important that when engaging in these exercises a person has a clear mind and is committed to eliminating outside distractions. The following are several tips that are intended to guide anyone in a variety of meditation techniques

  • Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed or distracted.
  • Set an alarm clock, that way you do not have to worry about how long you are practicing.
  • Dim or turn off the lights. This will help create a relaxing atmosphere.
  • If you listen to music make sure it is either classical or easy listening. The music shouldn't have words, and needs to be something that won't suddenly distract your mind.
  • Lighting candles or incense can be distracting and not recommended. It will only distract your mind from focusing on the present moment.
  • Don't worry if your mind wanders. Whenever you notice you are thinking about something else, simply realize that and refocus on the meditation.
  • Set a standard time to practice. Mornings are an excellent time to practice in that it helps a person set the stage for the rest of their day. Evenings, right before bed, can also be a great time to practice in that it can help a person release the tension built up during the day. It can also help a person have a good night's sleep.

"But My Mind Wanders"

A lot of people use the fact that their mind wanders as a reason not to meditate. There is nothing abnormal about having a wandering mind, and meditation does not try to prevent this. The point of meditation is not to think about nothing, that's impossible. The trick is to allow all of your thoughts, but to also release them. In 8 Minute Meditation, Victor Davich offers two tips on how to treat your wandering mind.

  • Allow, Allow, Allow: Do not try to prevent your mind from thinking. Allow any and all thoughts to arise.
  • Catch and Release: Recognize your thoughts and release them. Identify what you are thinking of and let it go. Another thought will pop up, and when you recognize it release that one also.
  • It's all about the facts. You can have thoughts and feelings while meditating. All you need to do though is to keep it on the facts. Meaning you can think I hear a bird outside, as long as you don't add commentary to this sound. The fact is there is a bird outside. Notice the sound, recognize the fact, and then move on.

One way to think about thoughts is to imagine them as a door to door salesman. You hear the knocking at the door and you answer it. Once you recognize the salesman you close the door. When you are meditating you will feel your mind drifting off. When this happens answer the door by recognizing what the thought is. Then shut the door and let the thought drift away.

Breath Meditation

This exercise focuses on recognizing the breath. It is a simple technique that is excellent to use when you are first learning how to meditate.

  • First take a deep breath that captures all of the stress, anxiety, and emotions in your life.
  • Hold the breath and then release it along with all of those emotions.
  • Next identify what part of your body experiences the most sensation when you breath. This is usually the diaphragm, mouth, or nostrils, but it can be any part. This body part is going to be your focus point.
  • Begin taking slow deep breaths and pay attention to your focus point.
  • Notice the sensations of each breath on your focus point.
  • When your mind drifts off, recognize your thoughts and release them. Bring your attention back to your focus point.
  • A good tip on this exercise is to think focus on the breath not your breath.

Sound Meditation

In this exercise your focus is going to be on the sounds around you. The main objective is to notice every sound that comes and then let it pass. Once you begin your steady breathing begin to take note of the sounds around you. Some examples of this could be animals outside the window, rain falling down, or even a fan blowing in the room. The key is to recognize each sound and notice how it comes and goes, and then move on. Try not to fully examine the sound or think about what is causing it. If you start to day dream that's okay, just refocus back on a new sound.

Kindness Meditation

The purpose of this exercise is to help you focus on how it felt when you helped someone in your past.

  • The first thing to do is to think of a time when you showed someone kindness or helped someone else.
  • Begin to think of how you felt when you helped this person, and then place yourself back in that situation feeling those feelings. Recognize the emotions and sensations that you attribute to this memory.
  • Next, begin to state a positive affirmation about yourself such as My happiness is important.
  • Continue this until the timer goes off.

Pain-Free Meditation

The key to this technique is to think of a memory where you were not in pain. Ideally this will be a memory where you are taking part in physical activity.

  • Remember a time when you engaged in physical activity and you were not in pain. This can be before your symptoms started or a brief period when you did not have pain. Sometimes people can engage in physical activity, such as helping a friend move or exercising, and have a surprising absence of pain. If this has ever happened to you think about this time.
  • Think about the feelings you had while doing this activity and begin to feel those sensations.
  • Try to focus just on the activity and not on what else was going on in your life at the time.
  • After you recognize that activity begin saying an affirmation such as Pain does not control my life, I can engage in physical activity, or I am pain free.
  • Continue to do this technique until your timer goes off.

Muscle Relaxation

This technique is designed to help a person relax all of their muscles, and release tension that is built up and stored in the body. The key to this exercise is to focus on your breath and to place yourself in the moment. While there is no set time limit, ten minutes is a sufficient amount of time to relieve the tension in your muscles.

  • Sit in a supportive chair that is comfortable. It is important to be in a position that you can stay in for an extended length of time. Moving around will only distract you during the exercise.
  • Close your eyes and begin to take deep breaths from your diaphragm. One way to ensure you are breathing correctly is to place your hand over your belly button and raise your stomach up and down.
  • Notice how the chair supports you and how your feet feel on the ground. Take note of the temperature in the room and any sounds you hear.
  • Notice your head and the way it is supported by your body. Begin to relax every part of your head relieving the tension in your ears, checks, jaw.
  • Next move down to your neck and relax it. Follow down to your shoulders, back muscles, and arms.
  • Continue to progress down your entire body relaxing every body part until you get to your toes.
  • As you move from body part to body part some people like to say a word, phrase, or affirmation. Some examples of this would be to say Peace or Calm. If you would like to use an affirmation you could say something like I have no tension in my body, I am pain free, I am at peace with my emotions. These are just suggestions, if you can think of a phrase that works for you go for it.
  • Continue to breath and focus on the present moment until the alarm goes off.

Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery has been proven to help people relieve stress and refocus their lives. In short it is the practice of transferring your mind to a place of peace and calm. It is an effective tool to use to turn negative thoughts into positive thought patterns. You can spend as much time as you like doing this exercise, however five to ten minutes should be enough time to help reduce stress and tension. Don't worry if you don't have a vivid image the first few times you try this out. Guided Imagery is a practice. The more you do it, the better your results will be.

  • Think of a place that brings comfort, security, and peace of mind. This can be any place you want. Some examples are of mountains, beaches, or gardens. You can think of an activity as well such as sailing, golfing, or even running.
  • Sit in a supportive, comfortable chair and close your eyes (If you have a photograph of this place you can also focus on the photograph). Begin to take deep breaths from your diaphragm.
  • Begin to build the image of your special place in your mind, and imagine you are there.
  • Notice the sounds and the way the breeze feels as it hits your face.
  • Feel the ground beneath your feet.
  • Focus on every little part of the scene and attempt to actually feel what its like to be there.
  • If your mind begins to wander its okay, just bring it back to the scene and continue to focus what you are doing.
  • It is important not to focus on pain. You have no symptoms in this place. You can do anything you want.
  • If you picture someone there with you be sure that it is a person with whom you have a positive relationship with.
  • Continue to imagine yourself in this place until the timer goes off.

On the Spot Meditation Practices

There are several TMS books that urge people to incorporate a daily meditation practice with their TMS treatment approach. Most of these sessions occur in a scheduled time and in a private place. But what should a person do when they have a flare-up in the middle of the day, or on the commute to work? One answer is to do a brief on the spot meditation session. This will help you recognize your negative thoughts, allow them to pass, and refocus on your day.

  • Exercise One: Take a deep breath and hold it for several seconds. Slowly exhale and repeat your focus word or phrase.
  • Exercise Two: Place your hand on your stomach and focus on the rising and falling of your stomach. Focus on each breath. Countdown from 10 saying one number for each breath, and end on zero.
  • Exercise Three: Place your hand on your stomach and focus on the rising and falling of your stomach. Focus on each breath. As you inhale count one to four. As you exhale count down from four to one.
  • Exercise Four: Breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Do this 10 times, and notice the variations between the inhale and exhale.

Meditation Sources

There are several books that discuss meditation that were used in researching and developing this page. They include:

Other Resources

DISCLAIMER: The TMS Wiki is for informational and support purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. See Full Disclaimer.