Meditation? Say what? Up until last year, if I heard the word “meditation,” I would think of some ancient statue or ancient civilization. I am not sure why. I just did not know or understand what meditation was. Little did I know meditation is a total game changer, and would change my life, helping me find peace amidst the tough daily realities of living with an autoimmune disease. For reals.
So…what is meditation? I love getting back to basics and looking up words in the dictionary (not even joking), so here you go…According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “meditate” is “to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” So why is meditation one of my “daily must-dos?” Because when I meditate, it helps me to overcome any negative physical symptoms I am feeling.
When I started meditating, I was experiencing fatigue, anxiety, muscle pain, and other symptoms, depending on the day. At the time, I was undiagnosed and filled with frustration and questions. Integrating daily meditation in my life helped me find increased inner peace during a trying time, helped me to temporarily overcome my physical symptoms during the meditation, and helped me to focus my mind on what was most important in life.
Today, I have been practicing daily meditation for over a year. Although the past year has been one of the hardest of my life, it has also been filled with growth, learning, healing, and peace, thanks in part to daily meditation. Carving out five to twenty minutes each day to meditate helps me to remember that my autoimmune disease does not define me. Meditation helps me to focus my mind, clear away negative and unwanted thoughts, and allows me to just be. Just be silent. Just be still. Just find quiet. Meditation is a spiritual practice and I found it seamlessly complemented spiritual practices I already had in place.
How do I meditate? There are different ways to meditate. When I started meditating, I was about as anxious and stressy as you could be (I know that “stressy” is not a word, but it is a perfect description of the way I used to be). I was taught to meditate through these easy steps:
- Sit comfortably in a chair, or lay down on your back, with your hands on your stomach (keeping your hands on your stomach will help you focus on your stomach expanding with each diaphragmatic breath). My personal preference is to meditate in a dark and quiet room, laying down on my back.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in deep through your nose, bypassing your lungs, and breathing the air all the way into your belly, then slowly exhale. Continue this breathing for the duration of the meditation. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing or deep belly breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing is a tool you can use anytime, anywhere when you need to destress, feel peace, or live more fully in the present moment.
- As you breathe, clear your mind of all thoughts. Sound easy? Oh man, it is crazy hard. Be loving and patient with yourself. Thoughts will come into your mind. Try to simply acknowledge them, then think of them disappearing or floating away. This takes time, practice, and patience. It gets easier with time – pinky promise!
- You can play soft meditation music if you would like to during the meditation. Simply search “mediation music” on Apple Music. I like playing meditation music because it is an easy way to keep track of time – I make a playlist for however long I would like to meditate.
Do this breathing practice for five minutes a day to start out for the first week, then build up to ten minutes a day, then fifteen minutes a day, then twenty minutes a day. My new saying is “twenty minutes of meditation a day keeps stress and anxiety away.” 😉
There are other ways to meditate, which I encourage you to explore. There are also great guided meditations available. Personally, I do not recommend doing any guided meditations until after you have the breathing exercises I mentioned down pat. My favorite guided meditations are by yogawithadriene.com. She has meditations for anxiety, depression, inner peace, and so on.
Living with an autoimmune disease, some days are better than others. I practice meditation on my good days, on my bad days, and on the days in between. I always end a meditation feeling better than when I began.
“Meditation: because some questions can’t be answered by Google.”
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
“We do not spend enough time meditating…we are entitled to spend some time with ourselves in introspection, in development.”
-David O. Mckay
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
-Old Zen Saying
How has meditation helped you in your daily battle with autoimmune disease? I would love to hear about your meditation practices. Please comment and share – I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!