How To Use Meditation In Any Situation
As a meditator for 14 years, a mindfulness teacher, and a clinical research collaborator studying meditation and mindfulness, if there is one thing I know for sure about meditation, it’s that meditation meets you exactly where you are in your life. Period.
No matter what the situation is, no matter what is happening in your life, no matter whether you have meditated for 10 minutes or 10 years, meditation has the capacity to support you.
We can learn to use meditation in daily life to grow our capacity to be with what is happening, strengthen our body and mind connection, gain new perspective, and find the ability to move through situations with more grace and ease.
Here is a list of meditation practices that you can use daily to help navigate trickier moments, cultivate calmness and balance, and increase your overall mindfulness.
Meditation for dealing with stress:
STOP: Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed.
STOP is a mindfulness practice that helps you pause, take in what is happening, and then act with more awareness and wisdom. Think of it as an immediate mindfulness intervention to help redirect how you are going to respond.
The practice involves these four simple steps:
- Stop what you are doing.
- Take a breath and pause.
- Observe what is happening in your mind and body and external environment. Notice any impulses to move into reaction instead of pausing and mindfully responding.
- Proceed with the mindful choice, decision, and action that results from this pause.
Meditation for wisdom:
RAIN: Recognize. Allow. Investigate. Nurture.
RAIN is a technique often used to meditate on challenging emotions, thoughts, or situations, to help us process and move through the density of difficulty. When we are in the middle of anxiety, heartbreak, fear, grief, doubt—you name it—RAIN is there for us on standby, ready to help us get through hard times.
When in the midst of difficulty and strong emotions the practice is to:
- Recognize what is happening. Give it a simple name: sadness, confusion, stress, anger, etc.
- Allow the emotion or thought to be there. When practicing mindfulness, you don’t try to push away the difficult situation or our feelings about it. You practice allowing all of your emotions to be here.
- Investigate the feelings and thoughts themselves as they are happening in the mind and body. Not the story, narrative, or judgments about the feelings and thoughts. Notice the sensations and effects of the emotions or thoughts in your body.
- Nurture the feelings and emotions. Can you meet them with kindness, warmth, or understanding? Can you not take them so personally? In this practice, we learn that thoughts and emotions are like weather patterns: They come, they go, some stay for a while, yet eventually the weather moves through.
Meditation for perspective and energy:
The Mindful Momentum Builder.
Most days we are out in the world at our place of work, or with friends and family, and we're in a constant stream of engaging and communication. Bringing mindfulness to these interactions throughout the day can become a daily meditation practice and builds the momentum and habit of mindfulness within us. This practice also helps us gain new perspective. For example, when we really listen or speak from the heart, we may be surprised at how we can reconsider our usual viewpoints, opinions, or ideas, and then communicate from a new authentic place.
- When listening: Keep bringing your attention back to your body if and when your mind begins to wander when someone is speaking to you. In mindful listening we practice putting our entire attention on the other person, and we offer them our full presence while bringing ourselves back to our bodies and back to the conversation again and again.
- When speaking, speak with intention, usefulness, and authenticity. You can also keep your attention in the body, noticing your feet on the floor, your breathing; you can pause and place a hand on your heart to find the right words to say when having a difficult conversation. In mindful speaking, we are connected to the words we are saying and not letting ourselves mindlessly chitchat.
Meditation when you need a quick hit of Zen:
The Back-Pocket Meditation.
For many meditators, having the aid and support of some meditation guidance can be helpful when we want to intentionally bring meditation into our current situations.
My favorite app for daily meditations that meet you where you are is Evenflow. On Evenflow there are meditation series for most of daily-life topics and specific areas we humans could use support in such as reframing your relationship to anxiety, stress, depression, sleep, body image, and eating.
My hope is that you can see how these four meditation practices can support you in daily life and how meditation can meet you wherever you are at regardless of the situations, challenges, or amazing life moments you find yourself in.
Amanda Gilbert is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor and has been a practitioner of meditation for over a decade. Her formal training is in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Primordial Sound Meditation; she is a qualified Mindfulness-based Eating Awareness instructor and is a trainee with UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Before dedicating herself to teaching full-time, Amanda was center director for The Aging Metabolism and Emotions Center at UCSF, conducting clinical research investigating the biological and psychological effects of mindfulness and meditation. Currently, she teaches publicly and in corporations across Los Angeles and San Francisco and collaborates on mindfulness-curriculum development for meditation in the workplace, mindful eating, and contemplative research. Amanda is a teacher of Evenflow.