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  • Writer's picturePaul White

Relaxed Awareness for Stress Management

Stress Reduction Series: Meditation & Relaxed Awareness

The awareness you develop in meditation helps you identify the circumstances and conditions that cause you to stress, which is the first step in learning to manage your stress; learning meditation as a practice of relaxed self-awareness means working directly with the heart of effective stress-management. There are three major types of meditation — concentrative, mindfulness, and expressive. In the first of this series, you’ll practice all three types. The good news is that you don’t have to subscribe to a particular religious or spiritual tradition to enjoy the benefits of these techniques. The more often you do them, the more you will experience their powerful beneficial effects.

Concentrative meditation consists of focused awareness on a particular object, such as an image or sound. For example: repeating a meaningful word or phrase or a mantra has been found to be incredibly healing for many people.

Mindfulness meditation involves being relaxed and aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise, without focusing on a particular object. It has been shown to have great value as a stress-management technique when included with psychotherapy, especially.

Expressive meditation includes such active techniques as chanting, dancing, whirling, shaking, and fast, deep breathing. Though different from the other two, it helps to induce the same kind of relaxed, aware state. Expressive meditation has been used for thousands of years by traditional societies to activate the healing potential of body and mind.

Keeping a journal is another effective tool for cultivating awareness. You write down ideas, thoughts, and feelings that come to you in the course of the day, or dreams you recall on awakening. Studies have shown that if you write even briefly about emotionally charged events, you can gain some relief from emotions that have remained bottled up inside you.

This simple, easy-to-learn concentrative meditation technique helps you to become more aware, solve problems, and deal with a number of physical and emotional health issues:

Sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed, and begin to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth - feel free to invite a sigh to be released on the exhale - allowing your breathing to deepen.

Slow, deep, abdominal breathing encourages more oxygen to enter your body and more carbon dioxide to leave. This is the way babies breathe: relaxed, efficient, comfortable.

To encourage your abdomen to relax and your breathing to deepen, you can say to yourself “gentle” as you breathe in and “breath” as you breathe out.

Let thoughts come and go, and gently keep bringing your awareness back to “gentle . . . breath”. If you feel tension anywhere, imagine the in-breath going there and the out-breath taking the tension away with it. As the tension leaves, bring your attention gently back to 'gentle breath'.

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