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Hopewell Virtual Winter Summit

January 8, 2021

Meditation

What is Meditation? Simply put, meditation is an exercise used to help bring awareness and mindfulness into the present moment. Meditation practices have been used for thousands of years across cultures all over the world to facilitate clarity and observation of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and actions. In today’s mental health field, most evidence-based practices for treating mental illnesses utilize some form of meditation practice as a tool for strengthening one’s ability to be aware and present.

But what is it about the present moment? How does being aware help us in our daily lives?

When people hear the word “meditation”, they may conjure up the image of a peaceful, serene setting, a person sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, harmoniously still and one with their environment. In actuality, the practice of meditation is an opportunity to give attention to whatever we are experiencing in the moment. Sometimes what we are experiencing in the moment may, in fact, be quite disruptive or uncomfortable, overwhelming even. We are often running on “auto-pilot” if you will. We go about our days, avoiding the uncomfortable or painful things that may arise and remain unaware of our distress often until it is too overwhelming to ignore or deal with.

Meditation can be effectively used as a way for us to build tolerance toward all our experiences, regardless of whether they feel peaceful or not. It serves as a tool to help us de-clutter the messes of the moment, to notice our experiences as they are happening, and to invite us to take on an observer’s role so that we may better explore our options for dealing with the issues at hand. As we meditate, we build mindful awareness toward our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and actions without judgment or criticism. We simply notice what comes up as it arises and find ways to observe and describe our experiences based on our observation. From this observer’s role, we are then able to stay with the moment at hand and rationally formulate strategies for coping with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As we begin to build awareness to the present moment, we may also invoke a sense of spaciousness. This spaciousness gives us room to explore what is going on as we are experiencing it and uncover options for managing the moment. Often, when we become overwhelmed by our experiences, we are not only experiencing the moment at hand, but we are also drumming up unresolved issues from the past or concerning ourselves over future matters that have not occurred yet. Meditation allows us to parse out what is within our control for the moment and what we can let go of for the time being. It enables us to take notice of how our brains and bodies respond to both our internal and external stimuli. It connects us to our sensory channels of information so that we may provide ourselves with the comfort we need when we start to feel overwhelmed. Meditation does not always feel comfortable, harmonious, or peaceful. Instead, it instructs us on how to stay with the moment, even when the moment is threatening to overwhelm us. Meditation opens the doorway to our options for navigating in those moments.

At Hopewell, meditation is a practice that is woven into many aspects of our programming. In clinical groups, residents have an opportunity to be educated on and begin developing their own meditative practices. In our nature groups and eco-therapy, the environment is used as a powerful metaphor for our experiences and in observing nature, we equip our residents with tools to understand the power of awareness. In our equine therapy groups and engagement with the animals on the farm, mindfulness is a necessary component for remaining alert to the animal’s needs, teaching us how to utilize our five senses for observation. Yoga and exercise opportunities help residents learn to regulate and utilize the breath and how to build tolerance for temporary discomfort. In our art therapy and music groups, mindful engagement is paramount to the creative process. We are always looking for new ways to explore meditation here on the farm!

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