by Cheryl Hitchcock

Meditation for Change, MASSAGE MagazineMeditation can change your life. A simple meditation practice will not only bring you into alignment with the universe and your purpose, but it also connects your energy to everyone else.

Practicing meditation is something anyone can do regardless of religious or spiritual affiliations. What counts in meditation is the act of meditating or quieting the mind.

All of us have so much chatter in our heads, which contributes to stress and anxiety. Meditation can immediately slow down and even rid your mind of all that chatter and chaos—plus it’s free and you can do it anywhere. In my book, Just Give Your Head a Shake, I talk about meditation techniques for using Vipassana meditation, which is a Buddhist practice that simply has you focus on your breath.

There are many other ways to meditate, but the key is getting yourself fully engaged in the present moment, whether through watching your breath or repeating a word. Being in the present moment means you’re not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday or what you’re going to do in an hour. It also means sitting with your thoughts and watching them like an observer without judgment.

The first time (or anytime) you sit down to meditate, you’re probably going to have 100 thoughts. But with practice, it gets easier. The idea is not to fight these thoughts or criticize yourself for having them, but to simply accept each thought in a detached way and watch it pass by. You’re simply accepting the moment (and the thought) like an observer.

If you’re not quite ready to sit and be still, going for a walk and really observing what is around you is a good start. What sounds do you hear? What colors do you see? Can you find yourself walking for a minute or two while simply “being” and not thinking about the future? That is the place you want to get to in meditation.

Being in the present moment is not something many of us are used to, but it is the place where you can find your deepest connection to yourself and your place in the world. It is also the place that contains what I call your “spiritual centre.” In this place, there is no anxiety, depression, worry, guilt or shame; there is only truth. But just like anything in life, finding this place takes practice.

Here’s an excerpt from my book about how to start a Vipassana meditation practice:

“If thoughts enter your mind, do not get frustrated and give up, but observe the thought or picture, seeing how it starts and then goes away, simply seeing it come and go in your mind. Take your mind back to your breath and continue to concentrate on it. Intrusions can and do happen, sometimes multiple times during your meditative practice, so don’t feel like you are incapable, or give up. As you begin to meditate more, you will observe that you are able to enter a deeper state of meditation and your focus and concentration will enhance. You will become more centered and grounded because of this. It is from this place that you are able to access your divine energy and bring it into your everyday existence.”

In the beginning, you might want to try just five minutes a day of Vipassana meditation or whatever meditation technique you choose. Even though that’s not a long time, you’ll start to see the benefits and notice over the course of your day a more pronounced feeling of calmness and content. When you’re ready for more, work up to 30 minutes a day or more.

As you begin to practice meditation techniques, you will not only affect yourself, but also those around you. The feelings of relaxation and peacefulness will build slowly, but with time you’ll connect to your spiritual centre and know you can to handle anything that comes your way.

Cheryl Hitchcock, D.S.W., A.D.C., C.A.C.C.F., is a certified life and spiritual coach and clinical counselor from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Just Give Your Head a Shake and Change Your Life for the Better. She has extensive expertise in the areas of general counseling, developmental disabilities, mental health and addictions. Hitchcock also holds a specialized forensic certification in the areas of high risk sexual behaviors and anger management. She uses a diverse repertoire of skills that enable her to guide individuals so they can foster healthy, positive and sustainable change in their lives and foster the ideal vision of their existence.