Periodically, I’ve played with meditation as a way to relax, calm my busy mind, and support coping with my chronic rheumatoid arthritis pain. I’ve always found it helpful, but have somehow always dropped the practice—feeling too busy, not making the time, or just forgetting how useful it can be.
Recently I have taken up the practice again. While it isn’t always easy to remember or set myself down to do it, I have found about 10 minutes of meditation every day for a few weeks to be the start of something very good.
When I was taking yoga classes, my favorite part was usually the last few minutes of class when we sat or laid down to relax our bodies and focus on breathing. I event went to a Buddhist meditation meeting a few times, hoping to hone a more regular practice. But I found that, for me, it was difficult to be around the distraction of other people and that I preferred meditating alone.
Research supports the many benefits of meditation: more focused thinking, calmer mind, reduced anxiety and stress etc. And there’s evidence that it can change the structure of your brain, rewire it even. Other research indicates meditation can help with pain management.
I decided to explore a new meditation practice when I realized stressful cycles of thought were not helping my health. Additionally, I am experiencing trouble managing my rheumatoid arthritis. While I am adjusting medications and my treatment plan, it will take a while to see improvements so I need help coping with the uncertainty, the stress, and the pain.
Every meditation practice is a personal exploration and we all must find our own path and tools. Here’s a few websites that I have found helpful for practicing meditation, thinking about mindfulness, and exploring this world:
- Calm – A website and mobile app that provides guided meditations and also tracking a daily practice. There are a number of free guided meditations to get you started and the ability to subscribe for access to more that focus on different themes (such as anxiety, sleep, happiness, and others).
- Tara Brach – A psychologist and Buddhist, Brach blends Western and Eastern spiritual practices to explore mindfulness. She conducts workshops, talks, and guided meditations, many of which are available on her website.
- Shambhala – A global community of Buddhist meditation centers where people can meet, meditate, and learn about the traditions. In addition to in-person meetings, there is an online community and resources available for exploration.
- Headspace – A meditation app created by a former Tibetan Buddhist monk and connected to ongoing research about the benefits.
In many ways I feel that I have only just begun this exploration, but I am excited about the small amount of calm it has brought into my everyday life. I also see some benefits to pain management in that instead of feeling an immediate gripping panic when I feel a sudden escalation of my pain, I can breathe, observe it, and not fear it.
One of the thoughts that has been a focus of my approach is that while I cannot control my rheumatoid arthritis, I do have some choice about how I respond to it, think about it, and feel it. I can learn to observe it and not let it induce such fear and panic, which only seems to make me feel worse.
For me the goal of meditation is not to stop my thoughts and feelings, but to better understand them and manage them. It’s about not reacting immediately, but taking a breath to pause and understand, possibly even to let go of the thoughts and feelings that I don’t necessarily need.
Do others practice meditation? Any tips or suggestions on websites, talks, tools, books, or other resources?
Have you gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet?