A Simple Meditation Exercise

Despite a popular myth, you don't need to contort your body into a cross-legged lotus position to meditate. A sitting or lying position will do just fine. (If you choose a sitting position, keep your spine straight but your shoulders relaxed.) It also helps to have a quiet place where you won't be distracted or disturbed.

Once you're situated, close your eyes and breathe slowly, feeling the air enter your lungs. Next, exhale slowly, feeling the air leave your body. Keep the focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders off, gently bring your focus back to your breathing. You want your attention to remain on your breathing to keep you in the present moment. This way you won't be distracted by past or future events that may carry your mind away and possibly bring anxiety.

Practice this for 15 minutes each day. It can be especially helpful right before bed if you notice your mind is racing.

Meditation and Sleep Disorders

Meditation can be an effective way to calm the mind before bedtime and to alleviate sleep disorders. Ever had a night, or a string of nights, when you couldn't sleep because of troublesome thoughts or worries? Of course, we all have. Meditation is an excellent way to control those thoughts and is a safe and simple way to balance your physical, emotional, and mental states. Meditation can help you pull your mind away from concerns about the past or future and focus on the present moment.

Meditation is not so much an emptying of the mind as it is a calming of the mind. One of the first things people realize when they begin meditating is how fast and furious their thoughts bombard them when they try to be still.

One novice meditator found this to be the case when he signed up for a local class on meditation. On the first night of instruction, he was told to lie on the floor and simply pay attention to his breathing for ten minutes. He thought to himself, "That's it? That'll be easy." He closed his eyes and, within seconds, it was like someone had pushed the play button on his mental VCR. Work hassles, bills, errands, plots from TV programs, and more ran through his mind like an old silent film set on fast-forward. By the time the ten minutes had elapsed, he felt more tense than when he started.

But the experience gave him a clue about why he was having so much trouble falling asleep at night and why he felt so uptight and hurried all the time. After several weeks of participating in the class and practicing what he learned, he was gradually able to start roping in some of his worrisome thoughts and found that he could fall asleep much easier when he slipped into bed at night.

During meditation, the pulse rate slows, blood pressure falls, blood supply to the arms and legs increases, levels of stress hormones drop, and brain waves resemble a state of relaxation found in the early stages of sleep. These are all physical changes that can be brought about by learning to clear your mind of clutter and focus your thoughts. You can use meditation to clear and refresh your mind during the day or help you relax at night in preparation for sleep.

Although meditation sounds easy, it takes some practice to be most effective. Perhaps the hardest part is being able to block out intruding thoughts that threaten the peacefulness you seek. But if you practice every day, it will become easier, and you're likely to find that you look forward to these respites from your busy life. You're also likely to discover that sleep comes much more easily to a quiet, relaxed mind.

On the next page, learn about how hypnosis works, along with the benefit of hypnosis on sleep.

For more information on sleep and sleep disorders, see: