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Exploring Meditation

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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Grammy4
    3 months ago

    I’ve been meditating for over a year with the app INSIGHT TIMER. It’s free, although it has a paid version too. But as long as you’re on WiFi, most of the features are available. I use a guided meditation at night with earphones to fall asleep, and again during the night if I wake from pain. I’ll use the timer feature in the am, before getting out of bed. It helps me set my intention for the day.
    Insight timer has thousands of guided meditations. If you prefer, there’s musical backgrounds, or nature or white noise sounds Something for everyone.
    Since starting meditation, I’ve been able to stop taking antidepressants. It’s made me understand that while I have Rheumatoid & osteo arthritis, djd, fibromyalgia & several other dxs. I’m still here. It’s removed the panic & anxiety that comes with the pain of these diseases, and helped me accept my reality now, and to acknowledge what I have & what I can do.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 months ago

    Grammy4, this is terrific! Thank so much for sharing. I am going to try it out! Glad that you have found meditation to be helpful. Keep on keeping on. Wishing you well. Best, Kelly (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 months ago

    So wonderful to hear that you’ve found such relief with meditation Grammy4! Thank you for sharing your experience and tips. We appreciate you being part of our community. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team member

  • sharoncookie57
    2 years ago

    I am going to start to meditation with GOD as my center. I just know GOD will help. Merry Christmas every one.

  • SydneyH
    3 years ago

    I was meditating before I was diagnosed with RA. It does help me mentally and physically. I tend to feel happier and calmer when I’m meditating regularly. Unfortunately, like you, I go through spells when I don’t meditate at all. Lately I’ve been trying to be a bit more regular about it.

    I don’t often do guided meditations. Usually I prefer meditating to quiet, background music, or nature sounds. I use an app called Insight Timer frequently. It’s more than just a timer. It also has a library of guided meditations and music for meditation and forums. I like the books by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He also has some CDs. I don’t have the CDs but I like the few guided meditations I’ve used.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi Sydney, thanks so much for sharing your meditation experience. I really appreciate the resource tips as well and will check them out. Hope you keep on meditating! 🙂

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