WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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meditating with stella

When I began my therapy practice, I often encouraged clients to meditate, despite my own inconsistent habit.  I trusted the research on meditation’s importance, but weighted against getting more work done or finishing some task, I chose the latter.  My meditation commitment looked sketchy at best.

Some months ago I was craving space.  I made some by de-cluttering my home and office.  Next came my calendar.  My less cluttered environments and schedule were welcome, but didn’t fully scratch the itch.  My mind needed space, and a consistent meditation practice offered a path for making room up there.

Now, a diversion . . . . I write a lot about being our most authentic, best selves.  This means trying on new ways of being in the world and, sometimes, seeking models for that.  Judy Jetson is my model for tech savvy.  Usain Bolt is the model for my blistering 10-minute mile.  Stella, our beloved, poorly bred, 13-year-old Maltese is my model for being still in the moment. 

Stella and I wake up early to meditate.  Most recommend meditating in a seated position. Stella and I opt for horizontal.  Breath is a common meditation focus, but other sensations work, too.  I have several meditation apps and choose from them based on time and inclination.  Then we’re off.  My mind wanders – a LOT – and when it does, I refocus. 

As noted, research on meditation is impressive.  Harvard researchers found after an eight-week meditation course people had thicker gray matter in brain areas associated with self-awareness and compassion, while areas associated with stress shrank.  Other studies find meditation decreases blood pressure, depression, asthma, pain perception, anxiety, sleep disorders, and the risk of cancer and heart disease. 

I appreciate these effects, but they aren’t my meditation motivators.  My motivation remains firmly rooted in my wish for mental space.  This space allows me to see through the noise and clutter distracting me from what I really want, need, and value.  Meditation gives me some of this space and Stella gives me an incredibly patient model as I work to keep finding it.   Many thanks, Stella.

Resources & References

Meditation Cheat Sheet

  • Get Comfortable:  Sit in a chair, stand up or lie down.
  • Find a Focus.
  • Return to the Focus.

My Favorite Meditation Apps

Books & Articles

Harris, D. (2014).  10% happier:  How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works - A true story.  New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publisher.

 

Hotzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti S.M., Gard, T., et al. (2011).  Mindfulness practice leads to increase in regional brain gray matter density.  Psychiatry Research, 19(1), 36-43.

Kuchinskas, S. (n.d.).  Meditation heals body and mind.  Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/meditation-heals-body-and-mind.

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K.T., Kract, R.A., Gordon, N.S., McHaffie, JG., & Cogdill, R.C. (2011).  Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), 5540-5548.

 

Whitney Cain