Greater New York Council of the Blind
A chapter of the American Council of the Blind of New York;
An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
Meditation and You
As we all find ourselves living in a strange new world during the pandemic, cut off in many ways from friends and family as we shelter in place, it is
helpful to find as many resources as possible to comfort us. The various digital means of communication, audio books, the old-fashioned telephone call
are among the ways in which we are able to keep in touch with the outside world and to relax. Another means of relaxation is to engage in meditation.
by Audrey Schading and Rich Laine
This article is meant to introduce the reader to this ancient art of meditation. It is divided into two parts. In Part One, we share some basic breathing techniques that serve as an introduction to meditation. In Part Two, various resources are highlighted to which the reader can refer for a more detailed exploration
of this topic.
Part One: The Breath
I am certainly no expert in meditation, only becoming somewhat familiar with the practice during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts spend years developing the skills that enable them to achieve the greatest benefits meditation can provide. However, since it has been helpful to me, I was glad to contribute what I have learned to this article in order to introduce some of the basic techniques of meditation to the ACB community.
By Rich Laine
There are various aspects to meditation that contribute to its overall effectiveness. The control of the breath, positioning of the body, and the control of the mind all play important roles in the process.
Starting with the Breath:
Here are some of the breathing basics.
The most important thing to remember is that you must use your diaphragm, not the muscles in your rib cage, to inhale and exhale. When doing this correctly, your stomach will rise and fall as you take in and exhale air. This method of breathing requires the least expenditure of energy on your part to inhale the amount of oxygen necessary for meditation. Pulmonary patients are also taught this method of breathing as a means of exercising the lungs.
The next important thing to remember is that your goal is to fill your lungs only up to the level of your solar plexus, at the level where the two plates
of your ribs meet in the center of your chest. To gauge this, place a hand at the top of your stomach across the solar plexus, palm down with the thumb closest to the area where the two plates of the rib cage meet. As your stomach rises, feel the air below your hand filling your lungs only to the level of your thumb. Your stomach will rise and fall, and your chest will feel as though it barely rises. Again, the reason for not filling your lungs to full capacity is that the widest part of your lungs is at this point, not at the top of your lungs. This method of inhalation takes the least amount of energy to inhale the necessary amount of oxygen.
There are many different techniques regarding how you take in air through your nose and expel it. The basic method is to breathe in to the count of four and
exhale, either through your nose or mouth, to the count of seven. If you can only breathe in to a count of less than four, reduce the count you exhale to about
twice that of the number you can count when inhaling.
You can vary this technique in several ways:
By consulting some of the meditation methods described below, you will discover many other breathing techniques. All of these techniques should be done in a setting as quiet as possible, and can be done either sitting or lying down. Utilizing these techniques for only a few minutes a few times a day can bring you relaxation and a feeling of tranquility.
- Count from two to four seconds between inhalations and exhalations while holding your breath.
- Do the same as in #1, but also hold your breath at the end of your exhalation before breathing in again.
- Use your index finger to close one of your nostrils. Breathe in through the open nostril to the count of four, then exhale through that same nostril to
the count of four. Do the same closing the other nostril.
- Breathe in by sniffing in a staccato fashion three or four times, then exhale to a count of seven. This technique is especially good for reducing a sudden feeling of anxiety or an overall feeling of tension.
Part Two: Resources
Below are provided apps, and other ideas, for meditation.
By Audrey Schading
When visiting the App Store, or the Google Play Store, it can be very daunting while looking up specific meditation apps and deciding what the best ones would be to download. Often, before you actually get to the particular app you're looking for, you may run into many ads and other misleading apps, some
of which may look very much like the app you are looking for. Be careful!
Let me make the following two app suggestions:
- FitMind: This app comes with extremely high recommendations from Jonathan Mosen, a blind New Zealander who operates a web-based radio station called Mushroom FM. He hosts a live program called the Mosen Explosion that airs twice daily on the station and puts out a podcast called Mosen at Large. Jonathan is
the CEO of a New Zealand organization that aids the disabled and is the author of several books.
FitMind is one hundred per cent accessible. I've downloaded the app with no problems and have completed the first level which is FitMind's free trial introduction. As I found the lessons, explanations and trainings to be very clear, and informative, I decided to sign up for a full-year membership.
Because Liam McClellan, the creator of FitMind, is aware that many people may have financial difficulties at this time, he is willing to waive the subscription fee for anyone who expresses such difficulties when emailing him to sign up at
. You can listen to an excellent detailed interview with Liam on Jonathan Mosen's "Mosen At Large" podcast, Episode 28. Although there is presently no FitMind app for Android users, there is an online FitMind course which is also discussed in this interview.
- Headspace: This has been a very popular app which is available for iPhone and Android users. I recently heard an ad that the app is free right now and that we can listen to meditations in six different languages! I've downloaded this app, but have yet to try it.
Other Suggested Resources
Deepak Chopra has a very nice, short meditation podcast called "Our Daily Breath." Most of his excellent books are on BARD and Bookshare. His website is
Our Google and Amazon (Alexa) robots: The Google and Amazon robots are capable of playing various meditations, and once we start looking, can guide us to find many more.
One trick I learned to find meditations is to simply ask the robot to play songs by a particular person. This actually works even though these are not
actual songs. You can listen to parts of many popular meditation CDs in this way. I inadvertently found a sleep meditation by Deepak Chopra as I listened to various meditation "songs." There was a great sleep meditation playing, and I asked, "What is this?" I found out the title is "Sleep Meditation" by Deepak Chopra and am thus able to hear it whenever I choose just by
Yoga from Our Robots:
I'm sure the Google and Amazon robots can offer many different yoga choices. One day, when just for fun, I asked my robot to play "songs by Beth Bierko" (a friend of mine who is a musician/yoga teacher), I was very surprised and delighted to hear a piece of her CD "Time for You, Time for Yoga". The CD is excellent, well-described, and easy to follow. Try it! To move through different parts of the CD, just address the robot by its wake word and say "next."
Another Meditation Technique:
Minute Mind Vacations: I learned this relaxing mental exercise from one of Jean Houston's classes, and the possibilities are endless! Jean Houston is, among other things, an author, teacher and motivational speaker.
To engage in this exercise, put on a timer for one minute, and take a one-minute mind trip. It's amazing to see how far you can go in your thoughts during
that one-minute segment! Try it! So far, I've traveled many places worldwide, including taking a taxi to the airport, flying, deplaning and visiting so
many different locales.
Minute Mind has also enabled me to keep up my travel skills while sheltering in place. As an example, my guide dog Keith and I in some of my Minute Mind excursions have traveled to work on the MetroNorth. We transferred to the S and 1 trains, walked to 64th and West End in Manhattan, where I used to work, and completed a workday. Then I came back home, had dinner, slept, and began the same trip again the next morning. When the minute ended, I was on the subway
These are just a few ideas! Many more are being shared on various ACB Zoom conferences and other places. Explore and let us know what works for you!
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