Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief #2

What do Americans need more than stress relief? With our busy days, it seems we are always working harder to just keep up. Meditation can help relieve some of that stress in just a few minutes a day. 

This is the second in a series of stress relief techniques through meditation. Please come back – or better yet, subscribe – to learn more through the weeks.

Petalsinpool2 Stress Relief Technique #2 – Guided Meditation

Guided meditations, like imagery meditations mentioned in Stress Relief Technique #1, are great for stress relief because any anticipation or anxiety you feel going into the session is often eased knowing that you yourself will not be responsible for directing the meditation. Less mental discipline is required. Guided meditations can be done in person with a meditation group, coach, minister, etc. Today, many guided meditations are done by listening to CDs that can be purchased in a variety of places. Your meditation guide will tell you how to breathe, where to focus your energies, and where to go behind your closed eyes. All you have to do is sit up straight, breathe, and listen! It doesn't get any easier.

 ~ Jillian Avey,


More Information/Sources:


You Can Move When You Meditate?

Moving meditations might seem foreign to those accustomed to sitting down/eyes closed meditations. Both Yoga and T'ai Chi are considered to be moving meditations. Like guided meditations, both Yoga and T'ai Chi allow you to experience a wonderful meditative state while having a guide or instructor to help you. (Although you can do Yoga and T'ai Chi alone, people tend to do them most often with an instructor.)

Tai chi How can you reach any sort of meditative state while moving and “exercising”? Both Yoga and T'ai Chi get to a similar result but through a completely different manner than sitting meditations. For example, in Yoga, you begin each session by closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing, and quieting the mind. Throughout the session focus on your breathing. Even though physically your body is holding different poses and flexing and reaching and so on, integrating mind and body can be highly meditative and transforming. At the end of each Yoga session is what's called “shavasana,” or corpse pose. This is a meditative, still, quiet period in which you simply lay down on your mat for about 5 minutes. If you doubt that anything meditative could be accomplished this way, give Yoga a try and see for yourself. “Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind field. Then the seer rests in its true nature,” according to Yoga Sutras.

T'ai Chi, like Yoga, quiets the mind and focuses on breathing. T'ai Chi is less physically demanding than Yoga in that very little flexibility and muscle strength is required. T'ai Chi, also unlike Yoga, involves constantly moving into and out of various poses (Yoga involves holding static poses mainly). Like Yoga, you will also be lead into a meditative mindset when your instructor says things like, “Allow your spine to hang down like a delicate necklace,” or “Allow the energy to flow through you as water passes  through a stream."

There are also other forms of “moving meditation” like Qi Gong, which involves activating different pressure points, loosening joints through movement, and breathing exercises. Victoria Anisman-Reiner writes, “In certain Sufi traditions, dervishes (or 'whirling dervishes') dance or spin to reach a meditative or ecstatic state. Native American medicine traditions speak of a spiral or frenzied energy associated with the animal guide, Quail, and meditative practices achieved through movement and dance.” Still another popular moving meditation is a walking meditation where you use all of your regular meditation principles (breathing, mindfulness) and walk around your neighborhood while doing it.

Whether moving or still meditation works best for you is something only you will know. Each type of meditation has a different benefit, some you may need and like more than others and at different times. Either way, trying new types of meditation, like moving meditation, will only make you a more versatile and adaptive meditator.

 ~ Jillian Avey,




Posture for Meditation

To get the most from your meditation, it is important to use the correct posture and positioning. Good posture is important because it allows for better energy flow and circulation in the body. When your posture is completely upright with your back straight, your lungs are more open and able to take those all-important breaths that are crucial for getting into a proper meditation mindset. So make sure that you keep your shoulders rolled back, your chin up, and your pelvis slightly tilted forward. If you are sitting on a cushion, try having the front of the cushion tilt a bit more forward than the back does—this will help you sit with appropriate meditation posture.

The traditional meditation pose or posture that you commonly see is called Vairochana’s posture. There are 7 features to this important pose:

  • Your legs should be crossed in front of you. says, “This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.”
  • There are two different positions for your hands: 
    1. Hands on legs: Let your arms drop to your side and place your hands where they fall when placing them on your legs from this position. The palms can face down or up depending on the type of energy you desire. Palms-up is a welcoming posture. Palms-down is a more closed, inward position.
    2. Hands folded: Alternately, place your right hand in your left with your palms facing upwards. The tips of your thumbs should barely be touching and slightly raised. Allow your hands to rest about 4 fingers below your belly button on your stomach. says, “This helps us to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom–the two together symbolize the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolize the blazing of inner fire.”
  • Posture - buddhaYour back, again, should be straight and upright without being strained or tense. “This helps us to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely,” writes
  • While your chin is slightly tucked as a part of your upright posture – creating a little space between your first and second vertebrae – also be sure to relax your jaw but keep the tip of your tongue touching the back of your front teeth. Apparently, this helps to prevent excessive salivation and/or cotton mouth during the meditation.
  • To help prevent mental excitement, says, keep your gaze pointed down a bit (whether your eyes are opened or closed).
  • While this step differs depending on the style of meditation you practice, the traditional Vairochana’s posture involves having your eyes neither completely closed or completely open. It is suggested to just look down and let your eyes get fuzzy. Closed eyes can lead to drowsiness, while fully open eyes can allow in too much distraction and mental stimulation.
  • The final step in the traditional Vairochana meditation pose is to keep your shoulders and elbows from not being pressed into your body to allow for good ventilation and air circulation.

While it might not seem terribly important how you sit or breathe or any of that tedious stuff, all of these little details can greatly effect the quality of your meditation. Doing an awesome meditation is much like an athlete preparing to compete. When every last detail is just so, there are no distractions so your attention can be completely on the meditation. An athlete does their pre-game ritual to better ensure they'll be competing “in the zone,” as Michael Jordan used to call it. The same applies to meditation—if you want to get into the zone, create the right conditions for success.

~ Jillian Avey,



more than one type of meditation


Top 5 Myths About Meditation

Meditation Myth #1 – You Don't Have Time to Meditate

We are busy Americans and pride ourselves on how much we can get done. We live in a country 
where a little more hard work can lead to a different situation for our lives. Self-made people are held in high regard. We are so very fortunate to live in a society where we have all this potential. However, it can lead us to feeling that no matter how much we do, it's never enough.

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Meditation Myth #2 – You Can't Change Your Brain

A popular myth about meditation is that it's just something to do for stress relief or to gain a higher spiritual connection, but few people actually realize that meditating can actually change your brain. There is an emerging new field of brain science in fact called “Contemplative Neuroscience,” or the study of meditation's effect on the brain.
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Meditation Myth #3 – You Just Sit There With a Clear Mind

Many people that I talk to say they can't meditate because they can't clear their mind. They say that their minds keep going from thought to thought when they try to sit still. The biggest myth about mediation is that to be good at meditation, thinking will stop. The truth is that no matter who you talk to, everyone has thoughts, all the time. Meditation helps to tame the mind but it doesn't stop thoughts from coming up. Ask a teacher who has been meditating for 30 years what their biggest challenge is in meditating and you will get the same answer: distraction.
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Meditation Myth #4 – You Have to Be Able to Sit Still

Meditation is a great place to learn how to manage discomfort and pain. By sitting through discomfort, we find a way to separate the feeling from the emotion that surrounds the physical signal. It can create quite a sense of accomplishment to watch that itch come and finally go away without responding.
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Meditation Myth #5 – Sitting On A Cushion Is Boring

When someone is meditating, it looks like they aren't doing anything. If they are just sitting there,isn't it boring? And if it is boring, isn't that a bad thing to be bored? Sitting still can be foreign to most people before they start meditating. While it might look like someone who is meditating is not doing anything, they are actually very active.

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Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief

Meditation is a great tool for stress relief. There are as many different ways to meditate as there are people meditating it seems. Which techniques are most effective for stress management? It would be easy to say that any meditation technique is appropriate to reduce stress; however, some techniques are more geared towards stress relief than others. People meditate for many different reasons. Some meditate in order to boost a certain personality trait they wish to strengthen, some desire to heal physical ailments, some seek athletic or financial success, some are reaching for a deeper spiritual connection. Each different motivation can be best served through the technique most conducive to that goal.

This is the first of a series of stress relief techniques through meditation. Please come back – or better yet subscribe – to learn more through the weeks.

Beach Stress Relief Technique #1 – Imagery

Imagery meditations involve using strong, specific images in your mind to help you tap into your relaxation. You might see yourself walking through a beautiful garden oasis. You might see yourself walking along a deserted beach at sunset. You might see yourself sitting on top of a mountain. Imagery meditations are particularly effective for stress relief because you don't have to have much of a meditation strategy or agenda. Often people get stressed out just thinking about having to do a meditation. They feel anxiety about how they are going to sit still for 20 whole minutes or how they are ever going to get their racing minds to be still. With imagery meditations, you give your mind something to do (creating and seeing the images), so it can be “less work” if that's how you choose to see it. The soothing, peaceful images also help create a relaxed, serene feeling.

 ~ Jillian Avey,




What is “Noting” Used For in Meditation?

What do you do when you are new to meditation and the idea of “not thinking” for 10 or 20 whole minutes is quite intimidating? Try the technique known as “noting” or “mental noting.” Noting is a popular technique for beginners (and even more advanced meditators when they have intrusive thoughts). It teaches the mindfulness and awareness that deep meditation requires. It helps to train the meditator to be able to see that all things, including intrusive thoughts, are fleeting and they are not really “us.” They are external and do not have to be identified with. This lesson in and of itself can transcend from your meditation practice into your life and work miracles.

Noting Noting means to merely name or label (i.e. “note”) any objects, thoughts, or feelings observed during a meditation. This does not mean to have an internal dialogue, to analyze, to judge, or any other such thing—just note. The very process implies acceptance, indeed requires it. Let's say, for example, in a particular meditation session, the voice in your head starts singing a song you had stuck in your head all day. Rather than thinking, “Focus, come on, get back into it,” you can merely observe or note, “singing.” 

Let me explain the process of noting in the example of walking through a zoo. Traditionally, our mental dialogue might be saying, “Oh, there are the snakes. Eeh, gross! Woa, that one is kind of looking at me. That really freaks me out…OK, there are the birds—that's better. Actually, the birds are kind of boring. But that buzzard is cleaning his feathers, that's neat.” Using the noting technique, one's same experience would sound like this in the mind, “Snakes. Snakes. Disgust. Discomfort. Birds. Birds. Buzzard. Feathers.” With noting there is merely a mindfulness and an awareness without the drama, the dialogue, and the mental chatter.

The Insight Meditation Workshop's Ven. Pannyavaro explains noting like this: 

“The noting is done by repeatedly making a mental note of whatever arises in your body/mind experience. For example, 'hearing, hearing', 'thinking, thinking', 'touching, touching', etc. And when focused on the abdominal movement, note 'rising, rising' and 'falling, falling'. This is a powerful aid to help establish the attention, especially at the beginning of the practice, when it is necessary to systematically note as much as possible to stabilize the attention. Otherwise, you are likely to get lost in unnoticed wanderings with long periods of inattention.”

Another great benefit of using the noting technique in your meditation is that it helps to see the transient nature of other far more perplexing issues, like broken hearts, physical suffering, bad news, and so on. Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth, “Nonresistance is the key to the greatest power in the universe. Through it, consciousness (spirit) is freed from its imprisonment in form. Inner nonresistance to form—whatever is or happens—is a denial of the absolute reality of form” (p. 208). With whatever record is playing in your life at the moment, simply note what it is with non-resistance and you will be freed from the drama and suffering that can eat away most of our lives.

 ~ Jillian Avey, 



Meditation Myth #1 – You Don’t Have Time to Meditate

We are busy Americans and pride ourselves on how much we can get done. We live in a country
where a little more hard work can lead to a different situation for our lives. Self-made people are held in high regard. We are so very fortunate to live in a society where we have all this potential. However, it can lead us to feeling that no matter how much we do, it's never enough. Americans are terribly sleep deprived because of how much they try to fit in a day. Now add on having kids, two-income families and the never ending litany of activities that kids are involved in to keep them active and out of trouble. Or maybe you are working two jobs or one that feels like two. Sometimes we get caught up in doing, doing, doing without thinking about giving back to ourselves and fueling the fire. 

Who has time to meditate with all that we have to do in a day? You do. 

Think of it as an investment in your sanity. Think of it as self esteem, self worth and confidence. Time Think of putting yourself first and giving yourself the gift of letting go. Think of it as the most important gift that you can give yourself each day.

How much time are we really talking about? Just 8 minutes per day. 

I remember listening to Deepak Chopra many years ago. While I regard him very highly, I just couldn't fathom what he was recommending. He said that people need to meditate for 1/2 hour twice a day. That kind of time commitment was completely out of reach for me so I put it out of my mind and moved on to other ideas. Even now that I completely understand the benefit of meditation and am a fervent advocate of the practice, I still don't have an hour a day to sit. 

There is a less-drastic approach for us busy Americans that is still completely beneficial. 8-10 minutes per day can change your life. The important part is to create a lasting practice, not how many minutes each session takes. Making the commitment to yourself is a powerful statement about self-worth. 

How do you find the time? 

  1. Get up 10 minutes earlier. Meditate before the day takes over. Does hitting the snooze button really give you more rest? 
  2. Take 10 minutes before you go to bed. It's a great way to wind down and prepare yourself for sleep. You may even find that you sleep better. 
  3. How much time do you spend watching TV? In the amount of time the commercials take in an hour-long show, you could have meditated. Watch your favorite show on DVD, On-demand or DVR. Skip the commercials and give yourself time to sit. 
  4. Schedule it in. If you don't put it on your schedule like any other priority, it won't get done. 
  5. Keep to your time allowance. If you let yourself go over time, then it will feel like it takes up more of your day. If you contain your sitting practice to 10 minutes per day or whatever you choose as your time allotment, it will feel like less of a burden. Sit, meditate, timer goes off, your are done. Easy. 
  6. Treat this time as an investment in yourself. Meditation is self-help at its very best. 
  7. Teach others to respect your time. Put a sign on the door and teach your family that this is your time, that it won't be long until you are done but that you are not to be interrupted. It will be a good lesson for everyone in making time for yourself, what a great skill to pass on to your kids. 
  8. Less e-mail, more time. Can you find 10 minutes of time by reducing the spam in your inbox? By unsubscribing to newsletters that haven't turned out to be valuable, creating rules or filters to automate organization or combining messages into daily digests or RSS feeds, you can save time each day and use your e-mail for communication, not a time-sink. 
  9. Meditate when you have insomnia. It's better than worrying and a great way to get back to sleep. 
  10. Take advantage of waiting. When your schedule fails you, find those few minutes to breathe when you are waiting to pick up the kids or see a doctor.  Do a walking meditation and practice mindfulness when you are walking the dog. 


 ~ Jillian Avey,



Do Nothing For Two Minutes?

A few years ago someone asked me if I ever did nothing. "NO!" was my answer. Of  course I never just sat around! I was the one that got things done. I had goals. I achieved them. I was a go-getter and proud of it. It was unfathomable to me to sit and do nothing, for any amount of time. 

Ok, that person was a therapist because my go-getter lifestyle was driving me crazy. All that running from one thing to another was really just a way for me to avoid dealing with the things that hurt me. I didn't know it at the time but deep down, I had a fear of stopping and looking at my life. Busyness gave me a way to feel good because I could list my accomplishments. But, I thought about what she said and I tried it. First, I just sat in a chair and enjoyed a sunny morning. Then, I slowly started to slow down.

Screen shot 2011-02-05 at 12.43.08 PM Everyone has to take that first step if they want to calm down their life and find that little bit of sanity. I found a great website to help: It's genius, just a simple timer that runs for two minutes with some relaxing music. You could make it your homepage. Try it out and pass on to your friends.

And, if you are scared that  doing nothing will take away your ambition, don't worry, it doesn't. Following a path of mindfulness fuels your ambition. It gives you more time and more creativity to do the things you want to do because you clear your life of all the junk that was sucking up your time and energy.

 ~ Jillian Avey,


The Way of Shambhala – Level 1 Class Review

When I signed up for the Level 1 class, I wondered how much I would get out of it since I had taken three classes already at the Shambhala center in Burlington, VT. I don't know what I was thinking because you don't master meditation in three classes. I had nothing to fear, there was plenty for me to learn. This is one of those activities that you don't master, it just keeps getting better. And, three classes is just scratching the surface of what the curriculum has to offer. 

IMG_0220 I had been in a bit of a slump with my meditation, struggling every day to focus and wondering when it was going to come together again.  While I know distraction is normal, often I couldn't get past one breath before I was on to another thought. It was a major accomplishment when I could count to 3 breaths. I thought that a class might get me back on track. Fortunately, I was right. 

The class started and ended with two separate evening sessions that were part teaching and part discussion. The first talk was on how laziness causes depression (not in the clinical sense but as far as loss of energy, feeling down, etc). 

In the middle was an all-day session on Saturday. It included a lot of meditation practice where we put the teaching into action. After lunch, we had individual interviews where we talked to the teachers in private about how it was going and got instruction on posture. In my interview, the teacher told me not to worry if my mind wandered, it is the coming back part that is most important. While I know this bit of information, it still made a big difference to have a master meditator tell me again that it's ok. 

During the interviews the rest of us meditated, alternating sitting and walking. The time went fast but it was almost two hours of meditation broken up only by the interview. Due to time constraints, I am a sprinter not a marathon runner when it comes to meditation so long sessions are a treat. While it was certainly challenging, I think it was the most powerful part of the class for me. Through that long meditation I ran the gambit going from total synchronicity to total scatterbrain. In the last half hour it was difficult for me to sit still. In the end, all the struggle of the session paid off. The next day, I had the best meditation in months and felt a new alignment of my mind and body that wasn't there before. It inspired me to step up my sitting to a half hour each day from 10 minutes. The half hour is enough time to go through a little struggle and it seems to be working my mind harder. 

  ~ Jillian Avey, 

Visit the Shambhala website for more information on Shambhala Training class Level I



What is Walking Meditation?

I was reading a book about adult ADHD yesterday and it said that meditation is helpful for people with the condition because it helps them to train their mind. The book mentioned that walking meditation, yoga or tai chi might be easier because the movement helps a person keep their attention longer. It said that walking meditation in nature can be particularly useful.

This sparked a discussion with my husband who had coincidentally been trying to do a walking meditation earlier that evening. He felt like it had been a failure because he hadn't been able to get to his zone that he reaches in sitting meditation. He said that he was too focused on his steps and how the ground felt under his feet to clear his mind. Actually, that is what walking meditation is about; he was doing it without knowing. The same exercises in concentration and returning the mind to one topic apply while walking. Outdoors all the senses can be used to smell the trees, see beautiful colors or hear each one of the birds sign in their chorus. 

 ~ Jillian Avey,

More information:

How to meditate while walking

Study on meditation helping ADHD