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Meditation - Antidote to Stress

by Nancy Goudie(more info)

listed in meditation, originally published in issue 91 - August 2003

If you have ever experienced stress, carried worries or fought fears, or are just looking for an oasis in your busy life, then meditation would be ideal for you. Meditation can take you to a place of tranquillity, where peace, love and grace can be yours in abundance.

stress relief
Nacy Goudie ALCNM

Stressed Out?

Stress is something each of us will have experienced at some point in our lives. If you are anything like me, with a six year old son who has enough energy for the whole nation, then you will have experienced stress at many times throughout your life. I am a wife, a mum (to a teenager as well as a six year old) and have a full time job, which carries a huge responsibility. Life is not normally quiet – it is usually full of 101 things to do, all of which should have been done yesterday! Stress is the great scourge of modern society that most of us have to learn to cope with.

Of course, not all stress is bad – positive stress can motivate you to accomplish goals and give you the added push to keep you going through a difficult or important project. However, bad stress can lead to health related problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, irritable bowel and back problems, as well as depression and anxiety. In fact, stress can affect us mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. If you are looking for an easy-to-read little book to help you deal with stress, then try The Thing About Stress by Liz Babbs (Lion, £3.99). This book combines amusing comments and reflections with thoughtful and practical ways to combat stress.

So… Does Meditation Help With Stress?

In my own life I have discovered meditation to be a huge help in a stress filled life. It is a fantastic way of helping us deal with stress, depression, anxiety and worry. There are many different types of meditation, but the one I would recommend to you is the one I have used for years and have discovered it works. It has been practised by millions of ordinary people down throughout the centuries. Meditation encompasses breathing and relaxation techniques that are designed to help you relax and feel at peace. The amazing thing about meditation is that whether you have 20 minutes to spare or whether you only have 20 seconds, you can feel its benefits.

A teenage girl, who had been at one of my teaching seminars on meditation, wrote to me to tell me how meditation had healed her of a deep fear of dogs. Just a short while after learning of the benefits of meditation, she was sitting on a grassy slope in the countryside when a dog came running towards her. As she had been frightened of dogs all her life, her first thought was to run away, but then she remembered a phrase that she had been meditating on – "I can do all things through him who strengthens me". She took a deep breath and began to meditate on her phrase. As the dog came nearer and nearer instead of feeling fearful, a real peace descended on her and she was able to watch the dog come very close without any of her usual panic and fear.

A number of years ago, I met and helped a singer who found it difficult to control her nerves as she walked on stage to perform. I taught her that, in the seconds before she walked onto the stage, she should take a couple of deep breaths, close her eyes and meditate on a similar positive phrase. As she did so, the tension would leave and a peace would descend upon her. A much more confidant singer appeared on stage each time she meditated like that.

If you have longer than a few seconds then you can really begin to experiment with meditation and feel its effects in every part of your life. A lady who has bought a copy of my Peace Like a River recording at a class where I show the benefits of meditation, has expressed to me what a difference these meditations have made in her everyday life. She writes, "I have found the meditations at the classes extremely useful in helping me to unwind after a busy and sometimes stressful day. Just recently, I came to the class feeling stressed and upset at a situation that had happened at home, but when I did the meditation, I found that the meditative journey transported my mind and my heart to a place of peace and rest. Your meditations transport me out of my stress to a place that is soothing and peaceful. I find I am so relaxed that I sometimes don't get up and switch the recording off, and then I get a double session when the next meditation comes on which is just wonderful." LT – S. Glos.

There are many ways to meditate – on nature (for example on stones, trees, flowers, fruit, grass and leaves), objects (including everyday objects, such as candles, paper and water), using chocolate (yes, you can even use chocolate to meditate!) or using music, the spoken word and your imagination. I am going to talk today about the latter way.

Some people find it easy to use the imagination and visualize a picture – others might struggle. If you belong to the latter section, then can I encourage you to keep pressing on through, because it is easier than you think. Let me explain what I mean.

Close your eyes and bring back to your mind a familiar picture, like your bedroom or your lounge. Can you see it in your mind's eye? Take a good look around the room. Can you see it? If you can, begin to bring these pictures back to your mind. That is visualization – using your imagination to see with your mind. If you struggle, then don't worry, just keep trying – it will eventually come. Using a meditation CD will certainly help. I have a CD called Peace Like a River, which uses the spoken word, music and our imagination to transport us to a place of tranquillity, where peace, love and grace are in abundance. Each journey will take you to a positive and peaceful destination where you will find peace like a river flowing through your soul. All you need to do is to close your eyes and allow me to paint a picture in your mind.

Before you begin your journey into meditation, make sure you will not be disturbed by anyone in your household. Let them know that you are taking some time out for yourself. Lock the door if possible. If there is no one else in the house, disconnect the phone for a few minutes. Perhaps light a candle in your room – a scented candle would be perfect, or use some camomile, rose or lavender oils to calm the mind. Make sure you are sitting or lying in a comfortable position – perhaps lie on your bed, or the floor with a cushion for your head or sit upright on a comfortable chair. Take a couple of deep breaths. I should explain that deep abdominal breathing using your diaphragm is not only the correct way of breathing, but is good for your body.

Deep Breathing

When I was training to become an elocution teacher, I was astonished to discover that 50 percent of the nation breathes incorrectly. Half of us shallow breathe instead of breathing from our diaphragm. If we breathe incorrectly and 'shallow breathe' (using only the top part of our lungs), it can add further stress to our bodies. Deep breathing means we are using our diaphragm to breathe and, therefore, filling our lungs with air. Let me give you an exercise to try which will show if you are breathing correctly. Place your hand on your abdomen just below your breastbone and take a deep breath. If your hand and tummy moves in then you are shallow breathing. If your hand is pushed up and out, then you are breathing using your diaphragm. In order to correct your breathing, practise this exercise:

1. Put your hand on your abdomen again. Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of four, allowing your abdomen to rise, thus pushing your hand upwards and outwards;

2. Hold your breath for the count of four and then release the air slowly through your mouth. Put your mouth into an 'ooh' shape helping you to release the air slowly, again to the count of four. Try and release as much air as possible within the count of four. If you find four too easy, then you can increase your count to six or eight;

3. Do this a number of times until you are sure you are breathing in a correct manner. Make sure you concentrate on your breathing as you do this exercise. If you begin to feel faint, then do take a break before starting again.

Whenever you experience a stressful time, take a couple of deep breaths and it will help your body and your mind cope with the pressure.

You are now ready to begin your spiritual journey. Let me give you a sample of my meditations. If you have the CD Peace Like a River, then put on Track 1. If not, use some quiet meditative music and either read the following and then follow the instructions, or ask someone to speak the following meditation over you.

Tranquillity

Make sure you are sitting or lying in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second and then expel the air slowly. Keep on breathing deeply, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

As you expel the air, in your mind, speak to your body and say the word "relax". Breathe in through your nose and relax. Do this a number of times until you start to feel your body beginning to relax.

Our minds too need to relax. The mind at times seems to be full of words, pictures and unspoken thoughts, often seeming busier than the traffic at rush hour. It is good to learn to quieten the mind and rest your wearied thoughts.

Now come with me on a journey – a journey that will begin to bring peace to your body, mind and spirit.

Let me paint a picture in your mind. Can you remember a time when you lay or walked on a beautiful beach? Can you remember it? Can you see it? Allow that picture of beauty to permeate your mind. See the golden sand. Feel the warmth of the sun as it shines its rays on your body. Hear the birds singing in the sky. Hear the rhythm of the sea as it laps gently against the shore. You are in a place of peace. Listen to the rhythms of the sea and allow that rhythm to transport your mind to tranquillity. There's a song in the Bible that says, "Seek peace and pursue it". In your quiet thoughts, ask the Prince of Peace to quieten your mind, renew your strength and soothe you with His peace.

The Word says, "The Prince of Peace will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame".

At your own pace, begin to come out of the meditation, but whenever your feel the need, close your eyes and be transported back to your special place of peace and rest.

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About Nancy Goudie

About the Author Public speaker, author, broadcaster, singer and teacher, Nancy Goudie is co-director (with her husband Ray) of the pioneering music and arts registered charity, NGM based in Thornbury, near Bristol. Nancy has also recorded three meditation CDs, the most recent of which is entitled Peace Like A River, which is great for alleviating stress. Nancy Goudie's Spiritual Health Weekends are extremely popular and usually take place at the start of each year. To contact Nancy or to purchase her Peace like a River CD (£9.99), write to Nancy Goudie, NGM, Caedmon Complex, Bristol Road, Thornbury, Bristol. BS35 3BA or Tel: 01454-414880; fax 01454-414812; nancy@nancygoudie.com, www.nancygoudie.com

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