This stress relief meditation page includes several guided meditations including mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of emotions, and mindfulness of thoughts and thinking.
One of the most powerful ways to relief pain in the body is to dial down our stress level. By reducing stress we can calm our nervous systems, and by calming the nervous system we can lower the tension in the entire musculoskeletal system.
Let's begin with a very simple and very short practice. The video below shows water flowing under ice. Play the video and just allow your attention to be on the flow of water. It's just a 15-second clip so you might consider playing it two or three times.
You might also try closing your eyes to focus only on the sound of the running water.
Allowing our focus to gently rest on an object of attention such at the flowing water is the beginning of learning how to meditate and the first building block in cultivating a powerful method of stress relief.
As we progress through the meditations here, I'll ask you to focus your attention on various things: your breathing, your body, your emotions, your thoughts.
The foundation of our practice here is to notice these things with a light attention but not to become entangled with them. This will make more sense once we're doing the meditations, so no need to worry!
This guided practice is about ten minutes long and is focused on mindfulness of breathing. As you'll hear me mention in the introduction, I was on a silent meditation retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh years ago and, before each guided practice he did with us, he would offer the following instruction:
Please sit beautifully and enjoy your breathing.
As you follow the guided practice, see if you can allow Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle encouragement to support you.
This guided meditation will focus on mindfulness of the body and turning our attention to body discomfort.
It may seem counterintuitive to turn our attention toward body discomfort rather than away from it, but this is one of the profound insights we gain in this practice:
Turning our attention toward sensation has several beneficial effects:
This meditation will focus on mindfulness of emotions. Here our practice is to simply notice whatever emotions are arising.
Our goal is to try not to become entangled with any particular emotion but simply to notice the fact of an emotion, like seeing the appearance of thought bubbles.
If a particular emotion arises repeatedly it can be helpful to notice if the emotion is associated with a part of the body.
For example, does the emotion seem connected to a felt sensation in my gut or my low back or my shoulder.
It's not necessary to analyze why an emotion is be associated with a particular body region.
This stress relief meditation will focus on mindfulness of thoughts and thinking. A common misconception about meditation is that the objective is to prevent, push away, or stop thoughts from occurring.
But the act of trying to push thoughts away only causes tension and increases our stress. Instead of pushing thoughts away our objective will be to simply notice the fact of thoughts arising. There's a thought about work. There's a thought about my to do list. There's a thought about my mother.
We attempt to do this without becoming entangled in an associative thought-stream where we lose contact with the fact that we are observing thoughts.
While the mind can become quieter with regular practice, thoughts don't stop appearing. They are a natural activity of the mind and we can learn to work with them skillfully.
Second Arrow Mind is part of a framework of chronic pain that I describe in detail in my post, Three Hidden Roots of Unexplained Pain.
I am developing a video treatment program for resolving the causes of pain described in this framework.
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