Exploring Meditation for Health and Mental Wellness

The Fiddlehead Life series–Living Well

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

To begin this “The Fiddlehead Life” series, I am beginning with a “biggie” that is such a broad topic, some background and information is essential. Though this article is a bit longer, I encourage you to be open and potentially see something in a different way. I wish you the best on your wellness journey! Thank you for being here, for being a wellness-seeker, and for wishing to live better. This series will bring all kinds of topics and you are welcome to apply the parts that most appeal to you. There is an activity at the bottom of this article. Let’s get started.

Meditation may not be what you think.

I’ll be honest, as a Christian, I have always been a bit hesitant to consider a meditation practice. But after doctor after doctor has recommended meditation to me, I have been learning about it, bit by bit. The important thing to remember with meditation is that there are many methods and applications. Meditation can be adapted to suit your personal spiritual beliefs (therefore, I adapt the physical practice with my Christian beliefs and incorporate prayer), can focus entirely on physical wellness without the spiritual aspect (also an option for me), and can be tailored to your own personal desires.

The end goal is up to you. The “rules” are up to you. Learn what you can about meditation in its many forms and you can be sure to find the aspects of this ancient practice that will bring a greater sense of peace and wellness to your life, both physically and mentally, and if you seek it–spiritually.

Where did meditation originate?

Though meditation got its start in the Hindu practice of Vendatism around 1500 BCE, roots of meditative practices can be traced back to Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to name a few. Though meditation has a strong connection to spirituality, the mental health and physical benefits are undeniable. To put it simply: there are many ways to meditate and many reasons to develop a meditation practice that works for your lifestyle, your needs, and your spiritual beliefs.

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

The Argument for Meditation:

US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health gives us information about the science behind meditation, and I recommend browsing the multiple links on their page for more in-depth information on this, if you would like to know more. Here is some information I found:

Meditation and the Brain

Some research suggests that meditation may physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.

  • In a 2012 study, researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information.
  • A 2013 review of three studies suggests that meditation may slow, stall, or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging.
  • Results from a 2012 NCCIH-funded study suggest that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions), and that different types of meditation can affect the amygdala differently even when the person is not meditating.
  • Research about meditation’s ability to reduce pain has produced mixed results. However, in some studies scientists suggest that meditation activates certain areas of the brain in response to pain.

(US Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)

Healthline website outlines benefits of meditation practice on their website:

  • reduces stress
  • controls anxiety
  • promotes emotional health
  • enhances self-awareness
  • lengthens attention span
  • may reduce age-related memory loss
  • can generate kindness
  • may help fight addictions
  • improves sleep
  • helps control pain
  • can decrease blood pressure

The article also states that “People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.” (Bold-emphasis mine.)

Mayo Clinic provides this list of benefits on their website:

Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

Types of Meditation

As I said before, there are many different types of meditation.

  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Christian/prayer meditation
  • walking meditation
  • Body scan meditation
  • progressive relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breath awareness meditation
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Zen meditation
  • Transcendental Meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • Sufi meditation
  • Self-Enquiry or “I Am” Meditation
  • Vipassana Meditation
  • guided meditation

And there are others, but this list should give you an idea of how variable meditation practice can be. Explore the different types to determine which feels more comfortable to you. There are many apps and resources available in the various meditation types. Educating yourself with an open mind will help you to form a practice that can improve your overall health, or if you choose not to, will still help you to better understand others that choose to practice. The more you know, right?


Meditation Activity:

You all know I love poetry. So when I stumbled upon this terrific guided meditation that uses POETRY in the meditation, I just had to try it and share it with you. It was fantastic. Below you will see a copy of one of the poems used in the meditation and with the link to the meditation itself just below it. Enjoy!

Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

by Vanessa

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

Guided Poetry Meditation:

Guided Meditation: Mindfulness and Poetry Meditation #1

For further reading:

Medical News Today
Could Mindfulness and Meditation Really be a Good Thing to Try?

Thank you for being here on this wonderful journey we all have. If this is your first time joining us for the “The Fiddlehead Life” series, check out the tab for the series at the top of this blog for what you may have missed.

Christina

–-author of “organic,” a poetry collection that sits at the heart of this “Live Your Best Life” movement. You may find this bestselling collection on Amazon at ORGANIC–FIDDLEHEADS & FLOSS VOL. 1

Medium is a Great Way to get Your Poetry Noticed

Here’s how!

Book Opened on Top of White Table Beside Closed Red Book and Round Blue Foliage Ceramic Cup on Top of Saucer
Photo courtesy; Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels.com

Hiya Fiddleheads!

Green Fern
photo courtesy; Fabien Burgue, Pexels.com

(That’s what I call my writer friends these days–out there nurturing your dreams and rising in the sun!)

If you are interested in promoting your poetry, your articles, your photography, then this is the post for you.

Where have I been lately? I have been on Medium, making a little money for my poetry and getting some exposure for my writing.


Medium allows me to post my poetry into “publications” which are like online magazines, which have one or many editors that approve your posts. Several of my poems have been published this way in the month I have been on Medium, and since I am in the Partner Program, I make a little money while I am at it. THANK GOODNESS.


Check these out! You may be impressed with the clean interface and impressive presentation of my poems as published on these Medium Publications:

***note that P.S. I Love You has over 120K followers!


Publications worth checking out!!

P.S. I Love You

Written Tales

Fiddleheads & Floss Poetry

The Junction

The Weekly Knob  (this poem is for a writing contest: The Weekly Knob and Writing Cooperative Writing Contest )

 Literally Literary

Intimately Intricate

So what to do first? Here’s what to do if you want to get involved with this and get your work moving, out there, seen…

  • Join Medium — I know, it costs. 5.00 a month. If you are worried about it then spend about 5 days on Medium just reading through things. (You will be limited on how much you can read if you are not a member.) Then you will most likely want to join.
  • Of course create a profile. This is a given.
  • Look for publications on the Medium homepage that have articles in your “lane” of writing–you are welcome to use the ones I listed above. they are great!
  • Join publications (follow them) and if you want to write for them be accepted as a writer for their publication. Look around the publication for “submission guidelines” and you will likely see the process you need to follow to become a writer with that publication. (I now write for 16 different publications!)
  • Next, study the format of other stories that are highly successful on Medium. Pay attention to length, spacing, use of white space, and by all means NO ERRORS in your work helps your article or poem to be approved.
  • Follow the instructions to “submit as a draft.”
  • How to Submit a Draft to a Publication on Medium
  • And–FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS on the publication for submission. Otherwise they will reject your story.

If you have any interest in promoting your writing, by no means do you have to leave your beloved WordPress blog, which gives you a lot of control over the appearance and design of your blog, but I would suggest, strongly, that you take a look at Medium as a lucrative income stream and avenue for self-promotion. I joined the site (for $5.00 a month) which gives unlimited readership and it has been well-spent. I spent much of my online reading time perusing articles, clapping for other readers, highlighting crafty sentences and phrasing that just speaks to me in some beautiful way, or shocks my soul into motion. I try to comment on as much poetry as possible and support other poets as well.

Come on over…the Medium water’s fun!

I’ll be back on soon when I am feeling better to post about my experiences with another acute-pain flare up this week. this one landed me at Duke University for an overnight stay and a bunch of tests and electrodes and…well, it was miserable. But the scary part is passed and I am on the mend. Doing a LOT of resting and a little writing today. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day!


May your footprints in the moss leave whispers of good memories.–Christina


Chronic Pain: Just DEAL With It??? 10 Ways HOW

A friend of mine recently said to me while we were discussing my experiences in living with chronic pain and how difficult it can be for others to understand, “well, it is a “thing.” Yes, chronic pain is a “thing,” and it is something many of us live with daily. Maybe you power through and […]

 

A friend of mine recently said to me while we were discussing my experiences in living with chronic pain and how difficult it can be for others to understand, “well, it is a “thing.” Yes, chronic pain is a “thing,” and it is something many of us live with daily. Maybe you power through and keep on working, or you find yourself parked on the couch day after day, feeling like life is simply passing you by.

Life does not have to just pass you by.

We all do our best to “just deal with it,” a phrase we hear more often than comfortable. And in the throes of a nationwide opiod epidemic, some of us do so without medications that would have been a standard treatment. Other medications, not necessarily pain medications, are often prescribed, counseling or physical therapy recommended, or occasional steroid treatments.

 

The source of chronic pain often goes undiagnosed, which can lead to anxiety and unease. “What is wrong with me?” becomes a dominating thought.

There is hope.

But managing chronic pain is more than doctors, pills and therapy. It is developing a support system and a lifestyle that allows you to continue living your life to the fullest that you are able and having people around you that love you in spite of your limits. Here are a few tips to managing the pain and living life off the couch of despair.

 

 

Managing Your Pain

 

  • Yes, see your doctors and follow their advice. It is not a final solution to what you are going through, but they can offer medications, therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, or possibly surgical options. Do not carry a shame or guilt about pursuing these options. You are taking care of your health the same as you would any other disease or condition. Understand that they may not be able to cure you of your condition.

 

  • Be honest with your family and friends. Let them know you are struggling with pain and that it is affecting how you go about your daily activities, how you participate in social engagements, and how you feel from day to day. Try to understand that they cannot feel what you are going through and some skepticism is understandable. Be careful not to burden them with complaints, but he honest. If there are people in your life who criticize you, berate you, or abuse you for what you are going through, perhaps it is time to distance yourself or burn a bridge with those people. You need a supportive community, not one that makes you feel less of a person for what you are going through.

 

  • Develop healthy coping skills. This is not the time to abuse alcohol, pain killers, or other unhealthy means of dealing with your pain. Self-abusive activities will only worsen what your body is already trying to manage. Find things that alleviate your pain and listen to your body. Understand that our approach may have to be alleviating or tolerating your pain, not ending it. Chronic pain is just that, chronic. If walking helps the pain in your hips, then make the time to do it. If Epsom salt baths or using your TENS unit bring you relief, then make the time to do it Taking care of yourself is crucial to living a more comfortable life.

 

  • Don’t beat yourself up over your limitations. Pain changes people. You realize you have limits, but this does NOT mean that you do not have purpose, value, and deserve to live proudly. While your pain may limit you, it does not define you. Try to focus on what you CAN do, not on what you can’t.

 

  • Ask for help. This may seem simple, but some people try to do everything they used to do and make living with the pain much harder than it could be. Let some things go if need be and ask others to pitch in a little more and lighten the load where it is most cumbersome.

 

  • Find joy wherever you can. Joy, smiling, laughter, even in small doses can help you to feel alive, content, and change your perspective on having a bad day. Embrace these moments and cling to them!

 

  • Try to accept that there will be good days and bad days. Maximize on your good days and be patient with yourself on the difficult ones. You didn’t ask to be in this position, and you may have no control over the circumstances, but you do have control over how you respond to it, how much mental attention you give it, and how you can stay positive.

 

  • Listen to your body and respond to it with kindness. Sometimes pain signals are for us to slow down, stop using that are of our body and let it rest and heal, or the signals are simply misfirings that will fade on it’s own. Do not ruminate or inflate problems that may be temporary. Focus on something else the best you can until it passes.

 

  • Say NO. There are times you just, cannot. It is ok to be present when you can, but you know that you can’t always be at that meeting, or that party, or get-together. It is ok to be absent, without guilt. If you were sick, you’d have to bow out and this is no different. Sometimes you just can’t be there…and this is OK.

 

  • Finally, if someone tells you to “just deal with it,” tell them: I AM.

 

It’s Time to Take Back Your Life
Life can be difficult, but it does not mean it is impossible.

 

Living with chronic pain can be difficult, isolating, embarrassing, and debilitating. If you know someone experiencing this, try not to judge or be unkind, or worse, to gossip about them to others. We ALL have our burdens to bear and we handle them in vastly different ways, the best that we can. And again, to those of you living with this condition: Stay positive, you have VALUE, and your pain does not define who you are.

AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

 

 

 

 

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