The power of meditation

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on September 27, 2016

My last blog introduced Ayurveda and focused on the importance of finding balance with yoga and meditation. For those that do not meditate, I thought it appropriate to expand on this particular topic to bring to light the significance of such practice, and more importantly teach how to sit in silence and go within. I received my yoga energetics teacher training in Bali, a mere few weeks before my injury, and even with my current paralysis, I perform yoga internally in my mind and have continued to practice daily meditation. The benefits of both practices are remarkable and I hope to inspire others to follow this beneficial mental exercise.

Meditation is an activity utilized by dozens of cultures over thousands of years into the present day to bring quiet solitude to the over active mind, providing an inner vacation from the hectic turmoil of our external environments. Especially from the perspective of the paralyzed community, quieting the mind is paramount as our population often has painstakingly numerous thoughts running through our minds at all times. Managing these topics can be overwhelming and exhausting and therefore it is important to take the time to clear the banter, quiet the mind and go inward.

Our external environmental issues include worrisome thoughts about bowel and bladder issues, skin breakdown, cold intolerance, proper nutrition, chronic pain issues, autonomic dysreflexia, depression, wheelchair positioning, caregivers attention to our needs, attending numerous doctors appointments, socialization with friends and family, and finding ways to integrate successfully and joyfully into our respective communities. The list is long and these may only scratch the surface of issues concerning our daily experience; it is overwhelming and exhausting to say the least. Hence, the extreme importance of taking 5 or 10 minutes every day to meditate and clear these thoughts so as to have the mental and physical strength to enjoy life as it may be now.

So how does one meditate? It requires practice and patience and is not easy, but the benefit is life altering for the positive. My practice is simple and easy yet requires dedication and attention that I imbibe in every morning before the day begins. In silence, I close my eyes and begin to focus on the breath, as this is the key to meditation. The key to the breath is to equal the inhalation with the exhalation, counting helps. I slowly inhale counting internally 1 to 4, pausing briefly at the 4th count and then slowly exhaling at the same rate again 1 to 4 counts. Novice meditators may use less counts just as respectively more advanced meditators may count even up to 10. No matter the count, the importance is merely to slow the mind, breathe and focus on nothing but counting. Focusing on the breath using this counting exercise pushes aside the hurried thoughts within our minds and a sense of calmness appears. This helps the concentration level of meditation, and this supports the practice of attaining quiet solitude. This is the path to meditation.

Another powerful aspect of meditation is using calming imagery and visualization to help keep the mind clear and calm. One effective visualization technique that I use is to imagine an internal gold ball of brilliant light smoothly gliding up and down my spine, starting from the base of my spine moving vertically to my neck where it pauses in coordination with my breath and then begins to slide downward back to the root of the spine. Incorporating this movement with my breathing technique, I imagine this gold light bathing my spinal cord scar tissue with spiritual and mental nutrition, healing it from within. The resultant effect is improved physical posture, increased internal awareness and a quiet mental calmness. This is mindfulness. There is no judgment and one's attention is on the present moment.

This practice of meditation undoubtedly will decrease stress, anxiety and help improve overall health, both mentally and physically. A skill that needs to be practiced daily and patiently can provide as a powerful internal medicine to the many throws of living a life seated from a chair. I encourage you all to try....Namaste!

Keep on keeping on… EB

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.