Meditation as a Tool to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Today, there are a growing number of studies that support the effect of meditation and its application on physiological and psychological well-being. At the same time, there is increasing agreement in the medical community, that stress related diseases are among the top causes of disease in modern life. Many people of various religions have been meditating for thousands of years as their main daily religious practice. This has encouraged many people to meditate without identifying with any specific religion or culture. They do it as a tool for self-understanding; for the purpose of improving their health, or as a method to reduce the level of stress and anxiety in their daily stressful life situation. Here is a simple set of instructions which you can learn in a few minutes to start meditating. For more detailed information and techniques, refer to the bottom of this page to see links to the local meditation centers.

  1. Set aside a quiet location in your home, or any other calming, soothing place for your meditation area.
     
  2. Set a regular time, at least 15 minutes a day, for your meditation.
     
  3. Sit on a comfortable cushion, or chair.
     
  4. Ideally, you want to sit upright, making sure your spine is straight, and your body is relaxed. However, in the beginning try to do your best, and gradually improve it.
     
  5. Slowly relax the big and small muscles in your whole body; starting from the muscles in your head and neck, arms and hands, upper back and lower back, the chest and abdominal, pelvis area, down to legs and feet.
     
  6. Now take seven deep breaths as follows: Slowly inhale, fill up your lungs; hold your breath for 2 or 3 seconds; then slowly exhale completely.
     
  7. Now close your eyes, and start the meditation while your spine is straight (as straight as possible), and your body is relaxed.
     
  8. Breathe in the way you naturally breathe, and allow your attention to be only on the inhale and exhale, in the area of your upper lip, below your nostrils.
     
  9. Allow yourself to be attentive and don't try to control or force your breathing. Gently push back any thought that comes to your mind and come back to this area again without judging yourself.
     
  10. As you gradually become calmer, move your attention to the top of your head, and slowly revisit all the muscles that you have already relaxed -- from head to feet. Focus on each area, sense the sensation of the specific muscle; count to four, and then move your attention to the next limb. Once you covered the whole body, repeat the process again. At the end of your meditation, take a few more deep breaths, and allow yourself to enjoy the rejuvenation, calmness for a few minutes before you do anything else.
     

For local meditation resources, please visit the following sites:

San Francisco Zen Center

Berkeley Zen Center

San Francisco Buddhist Center

East Bay Meditation Center

Vipassana Meditation Center

Golden Gate Sufi Center

San Francisco Spirit Rock

 

About the author: Taghi Amjadi, Ph.D., is a faculty member at San Francisco State University Counseling & Psychological Services. Taghi has been working with Bay Area's multicultural populations in his private practice, and variety of community based organizations since the mid 1990s. His concentration is in the areas of relationships, personal growth, trauma, and cross-cultural psychotherapy. Taghi's therapeutic work includes assisting students in accessing their inner strength in overcoming their stress and anxiety. Meditation is one of his therapeutic instruments for this purpose. Taghi is a recipient of two awards from Contra Costa County for "out standing community support and services". He is fluent in Persian.