The Baby Boomers' Menopause Handbook

Making Your Own Choices through the Other End of Puberty

By Carolyn Agosta
Published by CA Publishing, Ink,

Take Five … or Ten … or Even 15 … or More

Lately, every time I pick up a periodical of almost any kind, there is an article touting the benefits of meditating. And I always read them. I'm looking for inspiration, guidance, encouragement … the answer to how I am supposed to meditate.

The first inspiration came to me in 1997 from Rebecca Latimer author of You're Not Old 'Till Your Ninety, Best to be Prepared, However. (This is a wonderful, motivating, helpful book to read at any age. She was a marvel - I say was because she died at 94.) She was 90 when she wrote the book - now that's what I call inspiration! She made self-healing a part of her life and teaches us how to begin to do the same. She made meditation sound simple and foolproof. There is no wrong or right way to do it - just take the time and do it.

Since then I have (on most days) taken the time to "just do it." Sometimes I feel more "successful" than others. Sometimes I feel "blown away" by the experience - moved to tears of joy. Sometimes I just feel calm and grounded - OK that's a good way to go through my day.

Now I'm jumping on the "writing about meditation" bandwagon for two reasons. First and foremost, because I always learn when I write and research an article - so this is a way to teach myself. Second, if I'm going through this, then probably most people are experiencing this need to learn to meditate too.

This is my slant on meditating … my attempt to simplify what is out there and make it "user friendly."

What does it mean to Meditate?

It's always interesting to me to know how Webster defines something and I usually agree with them. And here is a time that I totally disagree with them. They refer to meditate only as a time "to plan," "to engage in thought or contemplative reflection." If anything, it is a time to "un-think," "un-plan," "un-do" - as in don't think, don't plan, don't do. Sit, stand, walk, lie down, and let the mind go.

Even Cambridge doesn't get it. Their definition implies that it's a religious practice: "devout and continuous reflection on a religious theme…" And while there are religions that include the practice of meditation, it isn't just a religious practice.

Simply stated to meditate is to take time to quiet the mind, quiet the body, quiet all the senses, and let our entire Be-ing recharge. It is a time to empty one's self. And in emptying, make room for what you really require, really need in your life.

Why Meditate

Why you choose to meditate is up to each of us as individuals. There are as many reasons as there are people meditating. Doctors find that meditation helps people with chronic illness heal faster and more completely. Some choose to meditate to deepen spiritual insight or develop a connection with the Divine/Spirit/God/Goddess. Some meditate out of fear - you are in high stress jobs, over 45, and just discovered you have high blood pressure. Or perhaps a type A friend died recently and you see the "handwriting on the wall." Or you just want a time to find one moment of peace in this fast-paced, hectic world. Or you're going through menopause, feeling overwhelmed, slightly crazed, and looking for another way of Be-ing.

Whatever the reason, you will find a way to meditate that is right for you. It isn't a moment in time; it's a change in your life - a way of Be-ing that helps you to find you - your moment of grace, your moment with all of you and no one else.

Types of Meditation

There are many types of meditations. The key in meditating regularly and faithfully is finding the right fit - the one that resonates with you, the one you find most comfortable.

Guided Meditation

This requires a tape or CD of someone (perhaps you) talking through an experience that takes you away from your everyday world. The tape may walk you through a beautiful meadow where you swim in a lake or pond, fly on the back of a butterfly, become a butterfly. Any form of guidance that takes you into your inner world, that creates calm and a feeling of centeredness. There may be background music or songs of the humpback whales or other soothing sounds.

There are hundreds, no thousands, of tapes available. Check with your local bookstore, yoga center, Science of Mind Center, Church,, or search on-line for meditation tapes. They are easy to find. I do recommend listening to a sample of the tape ahead of time to ensure that the music and voice of the guide are actually soothing for you.

Mantra Meditation

A mantra is a chant, a word, or several syllables that "resonate" with you. In other words, when you say the sound(s), you feel calmed and soothed. "Om," a favorite among yogis, symbolizes the oneness that we are. You could use a combination of words, "I am peace," or "I am stillness," or "I am love." Repeat the words over and over again in a singsong way - almost as if you are singing the words. Do this softly aloud or silently - though I do recommend aloud, so your ears hear the words, the healing for you deepens. Try both ways and see for yourself.

Singular Focus Meditation

In this type of meditation, focus your attention on one thing. A lighted candle with its flickering flame, dripping candle wax, can hold your attention. Outside or inside follow the flow of the wind as you watch a tree or a flower bend and straighten. You can watch the breeze blowing thru the grass - try focusing on one blade of grass.

Mindful Meditation

This type of meditation guides the practitioner (that's you!) to focus on one part of your Be-ing or doing. You may focus attention on the rise and fall of your chest or your belly. Perhaps you'll choose to focus on your breathing. Try counting the length of your in-breath and matching the count with your out-breath. If you count to four as you breath in, then four is the number you use to complete your out-breath. So breath in - one, two, three, four. Breath out - one, two, three, four.

Author, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written dozens of books, wonderful guides to being "mindful." You can be mindful as you do anything - eat a meal, brush your teeth, wash the dishes, prepare a meal. Mindful simply means giving your full attention to what you are engaged in. This practice grounds you and puts you back in your body. It's very powerful and very healing.

"Rules" for Meditating

OK. There are no rules for meditation. There are some important notes to be aware of as you begin to plan your meditation time.

  1. Start small. - Begin with a shorter amount of time - something you know you will do. Even five minutes a day makes a difference in how you feel, how you approach the day. And know that once you let go, the time will seem to fly by.
  2. Be Gentle on Yourself - When a thought or feeling surfaces, simply acknowledge it and return to your meditation. Come back to your breath and continue your practice.
  3. The Perfect Meditation - There is no such thing as doing it perfectly because there is no right and wrong way of meditating. It's called the practice of meditation for a good reason - you are practicing to meditate, learning something new each time you practice. You are a student of meditation, as we all are.
  4. Make it part of your life throughout the day - Every chance you have to "practice" meditation, do so. Make meditation part of your life. As you eat, prepare meals, vacuum the floor, change the baby's diaper, drive your car across town in rush hour traffic … do it "mindfully." Be in the moment, aware of what you are doing, aware of the people around you, aware of how you feel. When distractions surface, simply acknowledge them and return to your mindfulness.

And Finally

Life really is short… too short to miss. As a gift to yourself, take time to "stop and smell the flowers." You'll begin to find that you like yourself more, and the people around you. You become more forgiving, more understanding, and tend to take life less seriously. The joy you begin to feel not only fills you, but also fills those around you.

A Few References

  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace, and The Miracle of Mindfulness, and any of his books, Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA

    These books are simple to read, yet powerful and touching guides to mindfulness.

  • Jules Hoyt, Let Yourself In, Straightforward Publishing, Carmichael, CA, 2002

    Quotes and wonderful guided visualizations for making change in your life. She's written the visualizations, all you have to do is read them, very slowly on tape or CD.

  • Rebecca Latimer, You're Not Old Until You're Ninety…, Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1997

    Rebecca guides the beginner of meditation through how to meditate. Plus she has wonderful words of wisdom for living your life and becoming your own healer.

  • Sean O'Reilly, James O'Reilly, and Tim O'Reilly editors, The Road Within, Traveler's Tales, San Francisco, CA 2002

    These travels describe inner travels to transformation and healing. Beautiful written by a variety of authors. Worthy of your time.

  • Hugh Prather, Spiritual Notes to Myself, Conari Press, Berkeley, CA 1998

    Prather's book is filled with beautiful, gentle spiritual wisdom - a guide to how to live with an open and loving heart in a world of chaos.

  • Rubin L. F. Habito, Healing Breath: Zen Spirituality for a Wounded Earth, Orbis books, Maryknoll, NY 1993

    Habito's vision draws from the traditions of both east and west to heal ourselve and our world.

    --- May 4, 2004