Jennifer Cottrell’s informative and motivating presentation about the link between Meditation and Wellness on Saturday, January 16th at the Simm’s Center, was an inspirational way to begin the New Year. Jennifer, a Harrisonburg Branch member, who holds certificates in Yoga instruction, Zentangle practice, and mediation coaching, provided a lively and engaging insight into the many types of meditation used by people around the world. Some originated in religious ceremonies, like Christianity (the Rosary) and Buddhism (repetition of Mantras), some in secular practices (like the new interest in “coloring”). For example, Jennifer explained, Japa meditation is counting the 108 beads of the circular mala. One hundred and eight is a mystical and highly potent number. The So ham mantra, also known as the Natural mantra or Universal Mantra, is the silent or vocal repetition of a 2-syllable word or phrase like “So han,” “Jesus” or “Buddha.” With repetition and over time, a repeated word or phrase, like “respond not react,” which is called a sankalpa or intention, will become neurally encoded in the brain and will come to mind at critical moments in our daily experiences.
Other forms of meditation include gazing at an image, such as a mandala; guided visual meditations; chanting musical phrases; measured body movement, like tai chai, yoga, or walking a labyrinth. Deep breathing exercises can be a form of mediation, and mindful breathing is always part of any type of mediational practice.
Ideally, setting aside half an hour or an hour daily will be of most benefit to anyone desiring to be more centered and focused. Meditation has been shown to have healthful side effects like lower blood pressure, lower cholesteral, and reduced stress and feelings of anxiety. However, Jennifer emphasized, even taking just a few moments to deep breathe, relax, and “let go” can be rewarding. You can do this at a stop light instead of fussing about the delay in traffic. Or savor the experience of peeling a mandarin orange–with its bright color, aroma, and intricate pattern of fibers.
Here are 20 practical tips from Jennifer that will enhance the meditative experience for you whether you are a beginner or have been doing meditation for a long time: sit for just 2 minutes; do it first thing in the morning; don’t get caught up in the “how”–just “do;” check in with how you are feeling; count your breaths; don’t worry about clearing the mind; come back if you wander; develop a loving attitude; don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong; stay with whatever arises; get to know yourself; become friends with yourself; do a body scan; notice the light, sounds, energy that arise; really commit yourself; you can do it anywhere; follow guided meditation; check in with friends; find a community; smile when you are done.
If you would like a little assistance getting started meditating, Jennifer would be very happy to suggest some good mantras for you or help you find just the right meditative practice for your needs. Her contact information is in our branch Year Book.
Here are links to two sites that you might find of interest. One has to do with “coloring,” the other with the numerological meaning of the mystical number 108.