By Kate Robitello
As I peaked the top of Blue Ridge overlook with my trusty pit-dalmation alongside, I was kindly reminded by a text from a friend to meditate. Mountain meditation—such a wonderfully grounding, calming, yet powerful experience! Meditation in general has, ostensibly, presented a number of miraculous health benefits to those who practice regularly. But is it just a “woo-woo” practice that can be spared for those who are slightly more “out there” than the average Vermonter? (In reality, the majority of us are in fact a proud bunch of eccentric beings.) But what are the facts? We know that meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, but are the benefits measurably justifiable?
There have been hundreds of studies on the various types of meditation and the associated benefits that have been experienced. But how legitimate are the statistical data that claim these benefits are real? According to a 2003 meta-analysis conducted by the Freiburg Institute for Mindfulness Research, it was concluded that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) may assist those with management of clinical and non-clinical issues, including chronic pain, stress reduction, fibromyalgia, and cancer.
The Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit also found meditation to be of significant help to prevent a relapse in those who had previously experienced major depression. These are just two of the hundreds of studies done that have documented the benefits meditation can provide—and for a sizable list of ailments!
Personally, I find meditation to be a soothing method to ease feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. Undoubtedly, the practice has been beneficial for me.
What’s great about the practice of mindfulness meditation is that it’s completely free and can be done virtually anywhere!
How to practice
To begin, sit in a comfortable chair or on the ground, whichever you prefer. Feel free to cross your legs if you’d like. Sit upright, yet not in a way that’s rigid or tense. You want to be able to sit comfortably for at least 10-15 minutes and gradually work your way up to 30 minute or even hour long meditation sessions (but don’t rush it – you’ll get there when ready). Gently close your eyes and take a few moments to get settled.
Continue to let thoughts come in, evolve, and pass. The intention of meditation is not to quiet the mind, as the harder you try, the more difficult it will become, most find. Rather than telling the mind to “be quiet,” simply look at your thoughts objectively, allow them to arise, exist, and pass.
Take note of your body. Is there any noticeable tension in one particular area? Do not try to relieve that tension—merely take note of its existence. Take a moment to focus on your breathing. In and out through the nose, allowing the chest to rise and fall naturally. Do not force your breath to slow, just as you do not force your mind to slow. Just bring your attention to your breath. Allow it to rise and fall, as your thoughts arise and pass.
If you find that your mind simply will not stop, that is perfectly normal. Try counting the breaths as they come in and out. When you get to ten, stop, and begin again. Whenever you catch your mind beginning to wander, bring it back to the body and the breath.
As you continue to practice, you may find yourself discovering past memories that you had forgotten long ago, or even details of dreams from months ago. By allowing yourself to sit with yourself without judgement or force, you will create the ability to delve deeper into the subconscious mind and also become more present in your everyday actions, encounters, and relationships. Enjoy the process and whatever comes from it!
Kate Robitello is a certified Plant Based Nutritionist who works out of the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center in Rutland. She received her certification from Cornell University and has built her practice around the ability to heal the body naturally of various ailments through diet and lifestyle change.