I consider myself lucky to be married to a wonderful man who does not subscribe to the mandates of toxic masculinity. While I’ve never seen “real men don’t meditate” as one of the aforementioned dictates, our forays into meditation, chanting, and similar centering practices have been overwhelmingly attended by women and my husband. I’ve wondered why many men stay at home, safe within the confines of cultural expectations for dominance, competitiveness, and logic when they could be relaxed and blissed out. Can we put aside the idea that men do not need such pursuits, and begin to see how much they are missing out on, not to mention how beneficial it could be.
In a world that is stressful, to put it mildly, meditation can make all the difference, regardless of your sex or gender. Meditation and centering practices allow mind and body to reach a point of stillness that we rarely feel in the midst of other pursuits. One step in allowing men to move away from toxic norms is to begin to experience a “center” of stillness, calm and balance. This respite is also present-focused, a great break from worrying about the past or future.
If managing stress is not enough of a sell, consider the impact on other facets of mental health. As a psychologist, I’ve seen that men who are open to trying some basic meditation or breathing practices fare better not only with anxiety but with depression and reducing anger. These observations are backed by research. Meditation can also help people to feel emotions without needing to act on them, it can increase self-awareness and relatedness to others, it can help with age-related memory loss and can reduce addictive behaviors. All great therapist-endorsed benefits.
I’d like to share some simple meditation practices that have worked for many doubters. These quick practices can be done with minimal effort; you can do them in the amount of time it would take to grab a cup of coffee, without a caffeine rush.
1. Sensory Awareness.
When was the last time you consciously used your senses? This entire sequence can be very quick, and help you feel restored. With eyes closed, place your feet firmly on the ground and hands on your lap. Close your eyes. Now, just notice. What sounds can you hear? Are there any smells you are aware of? Are you aware of any sights, even with eyes closed, such as the sunlight or shifting shadows? Any lingering tastes? Now, notice the feeling of your feet on the ground. With a deep breath open your eyes to the feeling of groundedness.
2. Counting Breaths.
Where ever we are, and whatever the circumstance, our breath is a constant. Breath is a way to slow down, and connect with your body. The following sounds simple, but can be a challenge. With eyes closed, breathe in and out. That is breath one. Take another breath in and out. That is breath two. Repeat this cycle until you reach five. If you lose count, begin again. Repeat the cycle of five several times for maximum benefit. This simple form of meditation is a great basis to build upon.
3. Four Square Breathing.
There are many types of calming breaths. One technique I especially like is 4 square breathing: breathe in deeply to a count of 4, pause for 4, breathe out for 4, pause for 4. Repeat as many times as you would like.
Simple, beneficial, and quick. What are you waiting for?
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