Week One of Stress Less Holiday Challenge –– Try Meditation

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Can you believe it’s already November and the holidays are just around the corner? Have you figured out your plans, visitors, meals, events, and gifts? Do you feel stressed just thinking about it, even though the holidays are supposed to be fun and memorable?

One way to get through various stressful situations throughout the holiday season is to try meditation. On Thursday, November 13 at noon, The Whole U invites you to meet UW expert Anil Coumar and learn the tools to mediate. Register now.

According to Anil Coumar, true meditation is not something we do while sitting on a cushion for “x” minutes a day– true meditation is simply being open to the moment-by-moment experience of being alive. He explains: Meditation is a direct experience of the uninterrupted moment we commonly call the NOW. In true meditation, we are not trying to get rid of or modify the experience. Instead we remain, as best as we can, open to the experience without separation from the movement of life itself. If we meditate in order to get somewhere or be someone, we may be setting ourselves up for frustration and failure. When we turn our attention to its source, all sense of doing something or being someone fades away and only a sense of living in the moment remains. We realize how nothing can distract us, including thoughts and feelings, because everything is part of meditation. There is no one there controlling the experience, no goal or destination. We see clearly how life is, what it is in the moment, and how it is changing from moment to moment. The whole world appears and dissolves in the “witnessing presence”. Sitting quietly, we observe thoughts, emotions, sensations, sounds, image, and smells, appearing and disappearing as it has always done. We remain in the boundless open space which allows everything without any resistance.

So how do we meditate?

Three-minute Breathing Space meditation

Provided by: Anil Coumar

Step 1: Becoming aware

Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?

What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.

What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.

What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.

Step 2: Gathering and focusing attention

Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath. 

Step 3: Expanding attention

Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations. In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.

The hourglass shape of the Breathing Space

It is helpful to view your awareness during the Breathing Space as forming the shape of an hourglass. The wide opening at the top of an hourglass is like the first step of the Breathing Space. In this, you open your attention and gently acknowledge whatever is entering and leaving awareness.

The second step of the Breathing Space is like the narrowing of the hourglass’s neck. It’s where you focus your attention on the breath in the lower abdomen. You focus on the physical sensations of breathing, gently coaxing the mind back to the breath when it wanders away. This helps to anchor the mind – grounding you back in the present moment.

The third step of the Breathing Space is like the broadening base of an hourglass. In this, you open your awareness. In this opening, you are opening to life as it is, preparing yourself for the next moments of your day. Here you are, gently but firmly, reaffirming a sense that you have a place in the world – your whole mind–body, just as it is, in all its peace, dignity and completeness.


Thank you to Anil for sharing meditation with us! This is just the first week of The Whole U Stress Less Challenge. Want to join us as we get ahead of the holidays? Register now to receive the link to the article each week, a 300 calorie workout, and a healthy recipe!