Mindfulness and Meditation

The Zen Zone for Relaxation and Stress Mastery

The Counseling Center has added a new resource area for students and staff to take a break and experience stress reduction. Experiencing high levels of stress over long periods of time can take a toll on a person’s life, including emotional wellbeing, physical health, being able to focus and get things done, not to mention relationships and being happily engaged with the world. Over time, it can be hard to remember what it feels like to be fully awake and focused yet relaxed at the same time. Even changes in routine or boredom can be experienced as stressful.

There are many ways to relax and master stress, we hear about them all the time. Even though there are many great mindfulness resources online that can be downloaded for free, it can be challenging to find a place that is quiet enough; where you won’t have to worry about being interrupted or distracted.    That’s why the Counseling Center has created just such a place where you can take the time to practice stress reduction, calming down, and opening your focus. And it won’t take you hours and hours to get results.

The resources include two guided relaxation biofeedback computer programs, Heart Math’s emWave and The Chopra Center’s Relaxing Rhythms biofeedback program that guide you step by step. Besides the two computer stations for the biofeedback practice, there is an easy chair where one can listen to one of the guided imagery CDs available in the lending library. Or, you can listen on your iphone or mp3 player to your own music or relaxation program. There is also a lending library of books that address common student issues.

    Meditation Groups

There are regular meditation groups held each semester. These groups are open to all staff and students at any level of experience. Registration is not required. Once a week on Tuesday, there are two separate sessions with a 10 minute break in between. You are welcome to attend one or both of them. The first group is a silent mediation which starts at 11:10 a.m. and ends at 11:30 a.m. The second is a guided meditation that starts at 11:40 a.m. and ends around 12:00 p.m. Chairs are provided but you are welcome to bring cushions or mats for the floor if you like. The groups are being held in the Oakwood Room at the Memorial Student Center. Any questions email Mary Jackelen at jackelenm@uwstout.edu.

Group Meditation is a great way to get your meditation practice started or to keep your commitment to your meditation practice. Both beginners and long-time meditators are welcome.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
— Roger Keyes, from “Hokusai Says”

    Biofeedback

Biofeedback is the use of technology to gather immediate information about your body’s functions such as breathing, heart rate, temperature and/or brain activity. There are several computer based software programs designed for the general public that have gained popularity in recent years. And more are coming onto the market every day. The two programs that the Counseling Center has purchased are Heart Math’s emWave device heartmath.com and Wild Divine’s Relaxing Rhythms wilddivine.com. These programs can help you become more aware of what’s happening in your body so you can develop the skills you need to effectively make a difference in your level of stress. If you are interested in trying either of these programs, contact the Counseling Center, and they will help you see if this is a good fit for you.

“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will… An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.” 
— William James

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being present. It is a way to observe your experiences that allows you to let go of thinking about living so you can get on with fully participating in life. Mindfulness is waking up, connecting, and appreciating each moment.

"Every practice you work with is about learning to create the spacious presence that will help limit your need to react. This opens the door to responding to your life more deeply and with greater compassion and tenderness."  — Thomas Roberts, The Mindfulness Workbook

Meditation

Meditation is having a regular systematic practice of intentionally turning attention inward, with an attitude of compassion using repetition. There are many meditation techniques, but all involve some measure of centering and observing the here and now.

“Let go of everything and have the courage and faith and conviction to keep letting go, fearlessly, no matter what arise. But don’t let go of consciousness, don’t let go of attention, don’t let go of awareness. Meditation is the paradox between those two positions.”  — Andrew Cohen

Practice of Mindfulness and Meditation

Click on the following practice menu titles to display content; click again on the menu title to hide content.

    Having a Regular Practice

There are many meditation practices to choose from. Meditation has been shown to have many positive effects that accumulate over time. Meditation comes in two basic forms. One way is to focus on something, like the breath. Another is just observing what arises. Both work with repetition. Some find that listening to guided meditations is a good way to begin. Start with setting aside 10 or 15 minutes every day with the idea of gradually increasing to 20 or 30 minutes a day.  Doing meditation right away in the morning is very beneficial. Experiment with a regular meditation practice that you think you might like for two weeks, and see how it goes. Remember to be patient with yourself, stay curious about what you experience, and above all be kind to yourself.

Finding others to meditate with can be a powerful way to activate and keep your meditation practice going. You can also do many casual mindful practices during the day such as walking between classes or when you find yourself waiting in line, or as you drift off to sleep. It’s as simple as remembering to stop—breathe—reflect—let go. 

To start with, get yourself into an open and receptive state of mind. Drop your shoulders, loosen your jaw, soften your gaze, and take several nice deep breaths. Sit on a chair or a cushion or against your favorite tree. (If you lie down and you are sleep-deprived, don’t be surprised if you fall asleep instead!) Sit upright but not rigid, with your head, neck and spine straight and comfortable. Rest a moment, then begin. How do you know when 15, or 20 or 30 minutes have gone by? You can set a timer, or play soothing music that you know how long it runs for, or you can try suggesting to yourself that you will stop your mediation after 20 minutes have gone by visualizing a clock with that time on it. It might surprise you how effective this can be.

    Use Your Words

For some people, repeating a phrase as part of a formal meditation practice is beneficial. You can use an affirmation, an inspirational quote, or develop a central phrase of your own. One suggestion from Stephen A. Schwartz is to do the following:

  • Choose a regular time to meditate, 20 minutes.
  • Choose a specific place to meditate
  • Find a central phrase that you can repeat to yourself, something that helps you to focus your attention.
  • Before you begin, take a few minutes to examine four areas of your life—emotional, physical, mental and spiritual, choosing words that represent ways that you want to grow or be strong in these areas.
  • Begin your meditation by reciting your four words of power to yourself.
  • Say your central phrase in your mind. As time goes by, your attention will tend to wander. When that happens, gently bring your focus back to your central phrase, saying it again in your mind to bring you back to the meditative state.
  • Close your meditation with your words of power—emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual.

For a more casual way to use words in meditation, try Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion on how to enhance mindfulness and increase wellbeing while engaged in day to day activities. To turn your conscious breathing into a mini retreat, repeat one of the following silently to yourself:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Breathing in, I am a mountain.
Breathing out, I am strong.
Breathing in, I am a flower.
Breathing out, I smile.
Breathing in, I am a mountain pool.
Breathing out, I am calm.

    Relaxed and Calm

Calm

A basic form of meditation is getting in touch with how your body feels. Making friends with your body. It will reward you with many health benefits plus feeling more calm, more grounded and centered. Make friends with yourself—and you no longer thrown off center by the ups and downs that life seems to hand you. There are several basic ways to get centered. Just by noticing where you are storing tension and then visualizing yourself breathing light into those places can help you start to release tension, be more aware and settled.

Check out the related links for free audio files:

Body Scan:
Be Where you Are

Progressive Relaxation:
uwstout.edu/counsel

Yoga at University Recreation:
uwstout.edu/urec

Yoga in Menomonie:
thirdmountain.com
yogamimi.com

NYU’s Relaxation Oasis Yoga Room:
nyu.edu

    Appreciation

Appreciation

When you look around you, notice what you notice. Take your appreciation temperature by naming all the many, often invisible ways that life supports you. Recall the people who love you and mentally wish them well. Recall the many people whose labor created and brought you your computer or your shoes, or your cup of tea— and wish them well. Is the glass half empty or half full? You have the power to decide which it is for you. Try this: Each day, recall one thing that you think went well or that you appreciated. Recall the event as clearly as you can. Take a few deep breaths as you sit quietly. Breathe as though you are breathing through your heart. Visualize this event slowly settling down until it sinks into your heart space. Then, allow yourself to sink into the goodness of this memory. Sit with this for a few moments. Notice the effect on your mood and how you see things.

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Mindful Conversations

Mindfulness is not just a posture of keeping your spine straight. It is also about attitude, attention, and intention. Mindfully notice how you attend to your relationships. As you listen, practice giving others your full attention, with an open accepting attitude, letting go of any judgments, criticisms, advice so that your intention is compassionate. Stay focused on their words and see what this does to the quality of your responses. When you are in the present, giving others the “present of your presence”, relationships can transform and deepened.

“Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field.
I will meet you there.”
— Jala ad-Din Rumi

Loving-Kindness: Loving-Kindness is the translation of the Sanskrit word Metta, which means to allow spontaneous caring and loving responses to the kindness of others that then can be deliberately expanded and magnified. For a version of this meditation, try: jackkornfield.com

    Music as Meditation

Music

When you just can’t settle down to sit and be mindful, certain kinds of music can be very helpful. It can help you tune in to a better rhythm before you even start. The music you choose is whatever is soothing for you. Some might choose jazz or classical music, or the long sounds in chants and “new age” music. Some might need to play very intense music like rock or rap, before their bodies can settle. Music can be the meditation itself as well. You might find that you can just let go and let the music meditate you. Music can bring up feelings, pleasant and unpleasant. That can also be part of the nonjudgmental component of mindful meditation.

There are some very interesting technological advances in using sound to help brain coherence. This music uses what is called “binaural beats” to create a meditative alpha or theta state. If you are interested in experimenting with this meditative technology, go to: neuroacoustic.com

    Watching Thoughts

Thoughts

Thoughts are just thoughts. But we can easily get lost in our thoughts— reacting to every thought that crosses our mind’s sky. Paradoxically, we can become more present to life when we become aware that we are thinking—and thinking is only a small part of who we are. Your thoughts are like clouds passing through the sky of your awareness. Without judging them or evaluating them, just let them float on by. Easier said than done? This is where meditation can help.

“Don’t believe everything you think.” — Byron Katie

    Guided Imagery

Guided

Guided imagery is a way to focus ones attention in a directed, daydreamy way. Many people who struggle with meditation, find listening to a guided imagery meditation easier to do. Guided imagery has been found to have very beneficial results while calming an overactive mind. It combines soothing music with gently cadenced verbal directions. You can even create your own script and record it. There are many good resources on the internet with topics ranging from better sleep to smoking cessation to healing traumatic stress. If you don’t know where to start, check out the Related Links on this page. Belleruth Naparstek healthjourneys.com has done extensive research on the power of healing through imagery and from her research has established three basic principles:

  • The human body responds to sensory-rich images as though they were real.
  • While in a meditative state, you can heal, learn, change and grow at an accelerated rate.
  • Imagery can give you back your sense of power and mastery during challenging events and circumstances. This, in turn, reduces stress and increased self-confidence.

    Haiku Challenge

Haiku is a meditation practice and a style of poetry. But you don’t have to be a poet to try it. Haiku is meant to bring awareness to the present moment. It is a way to look at the world around you that helps you connect deeply and directly with your day to day experience.

Old Pond
A frog jumps in
Sound of water
— Basho

Here are some ideas to help you get started: Grab a book of haikus to read. There are some wonderfully illustrated books on haiku at the University Library. Or go to the Haiku Society of America www.hsa-haiku.org for ideas.

Haiku

Haikus are usually made up of 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5-7-5. But these rules were made for Japanese characters, not the English language. To get your point across, you might find it better to go above or below 17 syllables, dividing them the traditional way, or not (4-6-5, 3-8-4, etc.).

Leave out references to yourself or other persons. Just give the detail of what you experience.

Don’t use evaluations, judgments, thoughts or feelings. Allow space for the reader to fill the space with their own reactions.

    Relaxation Exercise

Click on the link below to listen to a free guided meditation that many students have said help them get calmed down, release stress, or just get to sleep at night. You can read instructions about how to get to a relaxed state or a way to keep track of progress by clicking the Relaxation Skills links below.

Relaxation Exercise: Online mp3 file – 20 minutes.
You can download the mp3 file from any browser through a right click on a PC or Control click on a Mac, which will provide the following options:
Chrome: Save link as...
Internet Explorer: Save target as...
Firefox: Save Link As...
Safari: Download Linked File or Download Linked File As...

Relaxation Skills Instructions: How to get to a relaxed state of mind.

Relaxation Skills Rating Scale: A way to keep track of your progress.

    Buddhist eLibrary

The Buddhist eLibrary supports the study and practice of the Buddha´s Teachings in all Buddhist traditions. The elibrary is a comprehensive digital resource for e-books, lectures, music and downloadable mp3 meditation files.

Buddhist eLibrary