Meditation is an ancient technique that is often misunderstood. But there are several reasons to add meditation to your stress management toolbox.

Practiced correctly, it induces deep relaxation. Practiced regularly, it becomes a therapeutic process that reduces habituated stress. Practiced seriously, it offers personal insights, increased mental acuity and harmonized brain wave activity.

There are several major meditation techniques: light, sound, breath and mantra (a repeated word or sound). Most people who meditate regularly develop a practice routine that involves two or more of these major techniques.

The goal of meditation practice is to stop your mental activity. You practice stopping your thinking process and then simply remain alert in clear, thoughtless awareness. This gives your mind a rest and deeply relaxes the body.

A good, basic routine for someone considering meditation for the first time is to meditate once a day for 20 minutes. Attempt to meditate at the same time, in the same conducive dimly lit, quiet and private place each day. Give yourself permission to have this time for, with and by yourself. Turn off your cell phone and ask others to respect your privacy for those few minutes.

There is good information in books, on the Internet and through yoga teachers on how to meditate effectively. Use those resources to help you expand your knowledge and deepen your experience of meditation.

Here is a simple but effective meditation technique to get you started.

Technique: Sit upright with your back straight, chin down slightly, hands on your knees, feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes gently. Place your attention on the tip of your nose. As you inhale, allow your stomach to expand, breathe like a baby. As the air comes into your nose, notice the cool temperature as you inhale. Then, gently exhale, don’t hold your breath.

As the air passes out through the end of your nose notice how warm it is. Then continue this process. Breathe in relaxation, feeling the coolness of the air. Fill your lungs fully by allowing your stomach to expand. Then exhale and notice the warmth of your breath as it passes out of your nose.

Keep your attention on the tip of your nose. If your attention wanders, just bring it back and stay aware of your breath. No strain, no forced breathing, just comfortable inhalations and exhalations.

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.

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