Sunday, December 22, 2013

exSPIREment: Meditate, episode 2

It's been 2 weeks since I had my first post about this month's exSPIREment to meditate every day.  I've enjoyed this journey so far, though I do admit to skipping 5 days already.  I've been keeping an Excel file to log my pre- and post- meditation feelings and blood pressure/pulse in addition to the type and duration of meditation.  I've tried a variety of meditation styles.  Here are some examples: 

Each person will have a meditation style that suits him/her best.  For myself, I've learned that lying down does not work for me.  The one time I tried (while listening to a recording of a body scan), I fell asleep (rookie mistake!).  When I sit cross-legged on the floor, my legs and feet get tingly, so I switched to sitting onto 2 stacked pillows on the bed.  For part of my Christmas present (we exchanged gifts early), Nick got me a meditation cushion filled with buckwheat!  This is so much better than sitting on pillows!  I tried it last night for the first time- I feel more stable, have better posture, and am able to maintain the same position for a longer time without adjusting.  Through my practices, I've also learned that I focus better with my eyes closed.  The OnDemand Qi Gong video I tried did not fulfill my goal of relaxing, though I did like the concept of mindful movement in general.  When I set a timer and sit in silence, I find myself wondering how much time is left and then when the alarm goes off, it startles me (even when it is set to something soft like chimes).  I've typically been meditating in the evenings, but I did try one morning after exercising; I was tired.  Through my practices, I think I've been getting quicker at being able to settle into a meditation session.  My mood is generally more positive after a session; however, my blood pressure/pulse does not seem correlated.  

I put my skills to use this past week as I prepared for my thesis proposal (PhD candidacy exam) on Tuesday.  I was especially anxious on Monday.  That evening, I meditated for 20 minutes (seated, focusing on my breath and positive energy).  My pre-meditation blood pressure and pulse were especially high, likely because of my anxiety.  After my meditation session, my systolic pressure dropped by 10 mmHg, my diastolic dropped by 3, and my pulse dropped by 18 beats.  This was the one time I felt that my meditation had a significant influence on my blood pressure (though I was still anxious after my meditation session).  

A week prior to my thesis proposal, I had watched this TED Talk on body language and how it influences your feelings:

On Tuesday, the day of my proposal, I was fortunately not as nervous as the day before.  To ensure confidence for my afternoon's presentation, I periodically assumed a power pride position (arms in the air in a V-shape, as if I just crossed a finish line), which I had learned about from watching the TED talk.  I only held the pose for maybe 30 seconds each time, but I did it multiple times throughout the morning and one final time about 20 minutes before my presentation.  It sounds silly, but seeing myself in the mirror in this position did make me feel like I was strong, confident, and ready.  Something must have worked because in the end, my thesis proposal went well, and I am now a PhD candidate! 

As I continue my exSPIREment for the rest of this month, I'm going to try incorporating mindful moments into everyday activities rather than simply setting aside a specific time of day to be mindful.  

What's your favorite meditation style?  
How do you reduce anxiety and increase confidence?

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