Controlling our emotions can be difficult at times. We know they arise unconsciously…but does that mean we are at the mercy of them? There are times our emotions do get the best of us. However, there are tools to help us maintain equilibrium and to react to events, people, and other stimuli in healthier ways. Today we will begin looking at meditation as a tool.

There are many forms of meditation, and it can be beneficial to try several forms to see what works for you; everyone resonates with different things, and that is okay! It is usually very difficult for beginners to sit in meditation for extended periods of time or to achieve an “empty mind.” There are several basic forms that are simple and effective, especially when just beginning. We will look at two forms today:

Concentration meditation: This form involves focusing on a single point. This point could be noticing the breath; some people count their breaths to a chosen number, a candle’s flame is an excellent focus point, chanting a word or mantra is also a choice. In the Buddhist tradition, mala beds are often used, saying a “prayer” or word for each bead. This is a simple way of quieting your mind and body; if you notice your thoughts straying, gently bring them back to the point of focus. Most beginners can only sit for a few minutes; that is okay. Be kind to yourself during the learning process.

Mindfulness meditation: In this form, you simply notice that a thought has arisen without engaging with it. Some people find it helpful to label the thought and then let it pass. When I practice this form, I imagine my thoughts are puffy, white clouds passing across the sky; I encourage you to try several visualizations until you find what works for you (please use clouds if you like!). It does help if you can sit quietly while doing this, if you can. However, for people who like/need movement, there is a form of mindfulness involving movement and everyday activities. The goal is to become aware of each step in any activity. For fun, you can give this a try: Mindfully eating a piece of candy: choose a small wrapped candy. Sit quietly, it can be helpful to close your eyes. Unwrap the candy slowly, focusing on the sound of the wrapper as you remove it. Next, smell the candy and really focus your attention on the scent of it, noticing any thoughts or sensations. When you are ready, taste the candy, again paying attention to the flavor, really focus on it. Pop in into your mouth and savor the flavor and notice any thoughts/emotions that arise. When you are ready, open your eyes. You just completed a mindfulness in action mini meditation!

There are a great number of books on meditation and mindfulness. I recommend almost anything by Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn; but, I encourage you to explore! Until next time, happy mindfulness and concentration!