About these meditations
Why I created them, and why they may be beneficial to you:
Over the billions of years that we have evolved as human beings there are many ways that our brains and bodies have adapted magnificently to our changing circumstances and surroundings. However, there are two ways in which our evolutionary inheritance can contribute to our experience of “suffering” in our modern lives. The first has to do with our stress response, sometimes referred to as the “fight or flight” response. We are wired to flee from predators or to fight them, which was a particularly useful response back in cave person days when bears and tigers roamed freely. Today our stress response gets turned on even when there are no life-threatening emergencies, such as when we are late to work, stuck in traffic, angry at a family member, overloaded with too many things to do, etc. Sometimes, our stress response can remain elevated for long periods of time, triggered by numerous situations throughout our day-to-day lives. This kind of chronic stress puts wear and tear on our emotional and physical health. One does not have to look far to read about the effects of chronic stress on many common medical illnesses from headaches, to gastrointestinal issues, to heart disease. Being able to find ways to turn down our stress response, and to interrupt our stress response when it starts to build, can be very beneficial to our well-being.
In addition to our fight or flight response, we have also inherited a brain that is adept at scanning our environment and finding negative things to focus on, and dismissing the positives (something called the “negativity bias). Furthermore, our thinking is such that by default we tend to put our attention on things in the past or future, often ruminating on things that are already passed, or worrying about things that may or may not ever happen. Commonly, our thinking pulls us away from the present moment and we are often lost in some thought stream in our heads rather than noticing what is happening right in front of us. If you begin to notice this you will probably become aware of how often you are on “automatic pilot” throughout the day. The cost of this can be that we experience anxiety, stress, depression, or simply an inability to show up fully in our lives and appreciate what is before us. Having a skill to be able to bring our attention back to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way, again and again when it wanders away, can be extremely valuable. This skill is called mindfulness, and it can be cultivated with practice. The research on mindfulness in recent years has exploded and is showing that practicing mindfulness regularly can not only be helpful to one’s emotional well-being, but can actually lead to specific and beneficial changes in the brain.
The meditation audios and videos on this website are designed to address the two issues discussed above. Some of these meditations are designed to help encourage you to interrupt and turn down your stress response, and to help elicit relaxation in your body and mind. Some of the meditations are designed to help teach you how to pause and incorporate mindfulness into your day.
When some people hear the word “meditation” they may become intimidated, have negative connotations, or feel like they need to set aside huge amounts of time to incorporate this into their lives. Based on the research that I have read, I am a strong believer that even inviting in short amounts of time where we can step away from our busyness, pause, and turn inward can be very beneficial to our well-being. Like building a muscle by going to the gym and exercising it regularly, the skill of dialing down stress and the skill of mindfulness can be practiced regularly in order to make noticeable and lasting changes.
These meditation audios and videos can be used in whatever way you find most helpful. You may select a particular one that you feel is most relevant for your needs, or use them collectively to help you throughout your day and week. For example, you might start your day off with the Four Minute Mindfulness Meditation. If you notice yourself getting stressed in the morning about a particular situation you might stop and do the Three Minute Relaxation. If there is something later in the day that causes you to get stuck in ruminating thoughts you might try the Five Minute Mindfulness of Thoughts Meditation. Perhaps after dinner you find yourself turning to eating when you know you are not hungry, or you want to confront a family member about something you are upset about but know you are quite angry and might say something you could regret; in that case, you could use the Five Minute Mindful Pause Meditation. Right before bed you could listen to the Meditation to Relax Before Sleep.
Some people prefer the audios, and find the images of the videos distracting, while other people find that the video images help them to remain more focused. For those who are at work and may not want to close their eyes, the videos may be a helpful way to take a few minutes to pause and recharge. When we make time for ourselves in this manner, my experience in my own life and with my patients suggests that it can often help us to be more productive and engaged when we return to what we were doing. For those who are interested in meditating for a longer amount of time, try out my longer audios (and come back often as I hope to be adding new ones soon).
The majority of these videos and audios are designed for adults, and can be very effective for teenagers as well. There are several meditations designed specifically for children (again check back as I hope to be adding new ones).
I hope you enjoy these meditations and find them helpful!