Tag Archives: Meditation

Why You Should Meditate on a Flight (and How to Do It)

I recently arrived home from an Alaskan cruise I went on with my spouse and extended family. It was a wonderful trip that I’ll talk more about in various posts over the next couple of weeks, but I have missed connecting with everyone in the blogosphere.

So here’s an interesting thing about me. I enjoy travelling, but I am not a fan of flying. Between the hassle of going through security, airplane seats that seem to grow smaller and closer together every year, and how quickly I start to feel queasy if there’s any turbulence on the journey, I do not enjoy the process of getting to my destination or back home again.

Normally I distract myself from these unpleasant things with delicious, salty snacks like pretzels and tomato juice, playing games on my smartphone, or reading ebooks. This year I decided to add another tool to my defence against flights that feel like they’re going to last until the end of time itself: meditation.

Thoughts are powerful things. No one can fast forward through time, but you can learn to be less nervous about flying through the air in tight quarters if you learn to sit with your thoughts instead of letting them control the narrative.

How to Meditate in a Human Sardine Can

Photo credit: Truthseeker

I’ve decided that all commercial flights should be renamed human sardine cans in order to better demonstrate what it really feels like to be on one.

Having a good sense of humour about the sometimes uncomfortable realities of flying in Economy Class also helps!

Consider Downloading an App Beforehand

No, this is not strictly necessary. I often mediate without the help of an app, but I did find it nice to listen to a guided meditation routine on my last two flights due to all of the background noise happening on them.

There are several great meditation apps out there that offer free material, too.

Focus on Your Breathing

The easiest method I’ve found for meditating is to simply focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly. Pay attention to the way your chest rises and falls with each breath. When a thought pops up, acknowledge it before returning to the slow and steady rhythm of one of the most basic body functions there is.

This is something I find particularly helpful when there is turbulence.

Do a Body Scan 

If you have an app that offers this, feel free to hit play on that session. If not, simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes before gently turning your attention to the top of your head. Take note of any sensations you may feel there without labeling them as good or bad. Slowly move down the rest of your body, paying attention to each part of it by turn.

If it’s a part of your body that you can consciously move, try to relax it as much as possible before gently moving down to the next part. I find that I can carry a lot of tension in my jaw and shoulders especially when I’m nervous. Sometimes this leads to tension headaches if there was a flight delay or if I’ve been in the same seat for several hours.

Move from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. This could be done in a few minutes, but it could also take half an hour or longer depending on how quickly your attention shifts.

Body scans can be a nice alternative to taking over-the-counter medication for these sorts of headaches for me. As always, consult with your family doctor if you have any questions about what is or isn’t appropriate for you. I’m only speaking from personal experience here.

Visualize Happier Places

I like to end my meditation sessions with a visualization exercise. if you were meditating with your eyes open earlier, feel free to close them now if it makes this easier.

Pick a setting that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

For me, going to the beach fits this bill. This is even more true on days when it’s a little too chilly to get into the water. Swimming is nice, but it’s not strictly necessary when I hit the beach.

I focus on every sense and try to make the visualization as detailed as possible. Sometimes I can almost taste the salt in the air, feel the sand between my toes, and hear the seagulls cawing above me by the time I’m a few minutes into it.

As someone who is not a fan of needles, this is also an exercise I do when I need to have a vaccination or to have blood drawn. It’s a nice distraction from a short period of unpleasantness. This can last for as many or as few minutes as you want it to depending on how detailed you decide to make your scene.

If flying also makes you nervous or uncomfortable, I’d love to hear what other techniques you use to get through it!

Update on Autumn Goals

Last autumn I blogged about four goals I wanted to accomplish. Originally, I was planning to revisit it in the winter, but it turned out I needed more time than I originally thought for a wide variety of reasons.

So much has happened in my life since last year. I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and write a proper update for all of you.

For anyone who hasn’t read that post yet, these were the goals I set then:

 

 – Spend one hour a week lifting weights. 

 – Meditate for 20 minutes a day.

 – Join new social groups.

– Write my second sci-fi novel. 

  So how did I do? Let’s go through the original goals one by one.

Spend One Hour a Week Lifting Weights.

Progress: Accomplished.

While I did need to take a few temporary breaks from weightlifting for medical reasons, I have been lifting weights for an hour a week as often as I could. I count this as a success!

For those of you who haven’t met me in real life, know that I’m a short, petite woman. People have often assumed that this means I’m not physically strong. There have been a few times over the last nine months when folks were surprised when I didn’t need help lifting something up or carrying it.

I do appreciate friendly offers of assistance. With that being said, there is something amusing about seeing the way people react when they realize that I’m stronger than I look. Their eyes grow wide for a split second, and they don’t know what to say next.

This definitely wasn’t my original reasons for getting into weightlifting, but the feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes from being able to rely on yourself to lift heavy stuff is a real perk of it.

 Meditate for 20 Minutes a Day.

Progress: Modified but accomplished.

Sitting meditation was a good idea during some of the medical stuff I dealt last year and this year. Walking meditation was more helpful at other times.

I have not been keeping strict tabs on how often I meditate, but I am doing it much more regularly and for longer periods of time these days. The only caveat to this is that much of it involves me going for a walk and drinking in my surroundings instead of sitting perfectly still every single time.

There’s something about the act of walking that makes it much easier for me to acknowledge and then release my thoughts as they bubble up.

 Join New Social Groups.

Progress: Accomplished and still ongoing.

Based on everything else that happened in my life over the past year, I’m proud of myself for working on this goal as much as I did.

I have checked out new social groups since last September and had a good time getting a feel for who they are and what they’re about.

There are other groups I still want to visit, so this goal is something I will continue to pursue in the future.

I believe in in taking your time when getting to know any group. Not every organization will be a good fit for everyone, but it’s also not always possible to know immediately if you should keep attending or find a different social outlet.

So I will continue to dip my toes into various meetings and events to see what I think of them.

  Write My Second Sci-fi Novel.

Progress: Ongoing but looking good.

Why is it so easy to knock out a 1,000 word blog post but so much more time consuming to write a novel? I mean, other than the fact that novels are generally at least 70,000 words long and sometimes much lengthier than that. Ha!

My second sci-fi novel is a work in progress. I did not mention the subject matter of it in last autumn’s post and will continue to keep most of it under wraps until I’m further along in the process. It’s been my experience that writing is easier when I don’t reveal too much ahead of time.

Let’s just say that it’s set somewhere other than Earth. If you recognize the red planet in this section of the post, you’ll have a clue about the setting.

I love all things connected to NASA and space exploration, and  I want to do as much justice to this story as someone from a non-technical background can do. There is a lot of research involved behind the scenes, so that is why it has taken me much longer than I originally thought it might.

Respond

What goals have you set over the last year or so? How are you doing with them?

7 Free Online Meditation Resources

I’ve been slowly accumulating a list of the most helpful resources for my daily meditations. When I first began meditating, I was overwhelmed by all of the options I had online and had no idea where to begin.

It is my hope that this list will make it a little easier for readers who are new to meditation to stick with the practice over the longterm.

All of the links I’m about to share in today’s post have free content that I’ve found useful. Some of them do also offer certain courses or other types of material for a fee, but you are by no means required to buy them. I made sure that I selected sites that have plenty to offer for visitors who aren’t ready for that kind of commitment yet (or ever).

I should also note that I am not affiliated with these sites, and I am not being compensated for mentioning them in any way. I simply find their content useful.

Breathworks

Breathworks is a website that teaches people who are experiencing pain how to reduce suffering through Mindfulness-Based Pain Management. I have no experience with the chronic and/or severe pain many of its users are dealing with, but i do find this site helpful for headaches and other minor issues I occasionally have.

Calm

Calm is a guided meditation app that I’ve mentioned on this site before. While many of their routines do require you to be a paying member, they are currently offering a free trial for anyone who wants to experience the full app. Although, to be honest,  I’ve gotten a lot of use out of their free content and do not have a membership at this site.

F*ck That: An Honest Meditation

F*ck That: An Honest Meditation is the perfect thing to watch if you’re not easily offended by curse words or sarcasm. (If you are, skip this entry).

Not every meditation session goes smoothly for me, so I appreciate videos like this one that acknowledge that.

Mindfulness in Action

Mindfulness in Action focuses on managing stress in places like schools, prisons, and the workplace. I don’t know as much about them as I do some of the other resources on this list, but I love the idea of finding such practical applications for meditation and mindfulness.

Rain Sounds

Rain Sounds is quickly becoming one of my favourite resources for non-guided meditation. I’ve loved the sound of rain since I was a small child. Few things relax me as quickly as that does, so it works perfectly when I need to take twenty minutes and quiet down my mind.

\

The Scientific Power of Meditation

The Scientific Power of Meditation is a fast introduction to how meditation can change your brain waves, amount of grey matter,  and mental state. I like the fact that there is scientific evidence that meditation is good for the human body. It’s not all the placebo affect!

Tiny Buddha

Finally, Tiny Buddha is a site that shares meditation and mindfulness articles, tips, quotes, and so much more. They have multiple people contributing new material to this site, so the audience gets a very wide range of perspectives. Some of the contributors approach meditation from a spiritual perspective while others are more interested in practical or scientific applications of it. I love the diversity of thought in this community.

What meditation resources do you find most helpful?

4 Things I Want to Accomplish This Autumn

There’s something about the autumn season that makes me want to write out lists and accomplish things. Maybe it’s because of how much I generally looked forward to school beginning again when I was a student.

A blank notebook can hold an endless number of possibilities. Several months from now they’ll be full of lecture notes, but there might be poems or little drawings scribbled in the margins. The smell of fresh paper is enticing, too.

An unread textbook is often full of interesting things that you never knew about the world before. Sometimes I even read parts of my textbooks – especially the literature ones –  that were never assigned to us for the sheer fun of it.

It’s been well over a decade since I took any courses, but I thought this year it might be helpful to set a few non-academic goals for myself. This post will be shorter than usual. My goals are fairly simple, and I see no reason to pad them out  since they don’t require a thousand words of explanation.

1. Spend One Hour a Week Lifting Weights.

I’m currently recovering from a minor injury that temporarily derailed my normal weightlifting routine. As soon as I’ve healed, I’m going to leap back into my normal routine of lifting free weights. I can’t tell you how much I miss that. In the meantime I’m trying to do some bodyweight activities that don’t aggravate my injury to keep up my strength as much as possible.

2. Meditate for 20 Minutes Every Day.

Honestly, my meditation habits have been pretty erratic these past six months. That needs to change.

3. Join New Social Groups.

One of the downsides of being a writer, and especially a full-time writer, is how much time we tend to spend alone typing on a keyboard. While I’m incredibly grateful for the many benefits of this career choice, I think it would be healthy for me to get out and socialize with other people at times.

Ideally, I’ll find at least one group that had nothing to do with writing so I can meet people from other professions and walks of life. I’m open to all possibilities, though, and hope to blog about my experiences once I find a couple of groups that suit my interests and schedule.

4. Write My Second Sci-Fi Novel.

This is by far my biggest goal for the autumn. A while ago I began a novel that was about a woman living in what used to be Arizona several generations from now after climate change permanently altered the landscape there and North America at large. I got stuck 30,000 words into it and have yet to finish it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to figure out how to do that one if I work on a entirely new story in the science fiction genre.

I’m tentatively planning to check back in with my readers in December to discuss how many of these goals I’ve reached and what’s happening with them in general.  My hope is that I’ll be very motivated to accomplish them now that everyone knows what I’m trying to do.

What are your goals for the next few months?

10 Quotes I Like About Mindfulness and Meditation

This year I’ve slowly gotten into the habit of collecting quotes about mindfulness and meditation that speak to me. Here are ten of my favourite ones so far. Most of them are serious. One is downright snarky in a funny, not cruel, sort of way.

A few of them might appear to contradict each other at first, but they will end up in the same place if you give yourself a chance to think about what they’re saying.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
Thich Nhat Hanh,

 

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
Walter Isaacson

 

“Sometimes you need to sit lonely on the floor in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it drown in the noise of others.”
Charlotte Eriksson

 

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”
Kurt Vonnegut

 

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
Sharon Salzberg

 

“Sitting still is a pain in the ass.”
Noah Levine

 

“Meditation practice is like piano scales, basketball drills, ballroom dance class. Practice requires discipline; it can be tedious; it is necessary. After you have practiced enough, you become more skilled at the art form itself. You do not practice to become a great scale player or drill champion. You practice to become a musician or athlete. Likewise, one does not practice meditation to become a great meditator. We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living.”
Elizabeth Lesser

 

“You cannot control the results, only your actions.”
Allan Lokos

 

“Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating, not by beating it into submission, but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice.”
Sylvia Boorstein

 

If you have a favourite quote on this topic, I’d love to hear it!

Unguided Meditation Update #2

Last month in this series on my experiments with unguided meditation, I mentioned wanting to try sitting up during my sessions. Meditation is something I’d previously been doing lying down due to a minor injury that made sitting in certain positions uncomfortable. Click on the link above if you want a refresher on why I chose that… Read More