Some relaxation and meditation exercises
Counting your breaths -
Find a quiet place without too many distractions. Allow yourself enough time; about ten minutes. Pick a time of day when you will not be interrupted and try to keep to the same time each day.
Sit in a comfortable position, with your back straight, head up, chin tucked in and your hands resting gently in your lap or on your knees. Close your eyes if you like; if you don't close your eyes, try not to focus your eyes on anything interesting ! 'Scan' through your body, slowly and systematically searching for any tension in the muscles. -Start with your toes and work your way up. If you find tension just relax that part of your body, or even have stretch and get comfortable again. Pay particular attention to the shoulders, neck and face. Don't rush.
Now bring your attention to your breathing. Just breath normally, don't take extra deep breaths, don't try to change the natural rhythm. Focus your attention on the out-breath, and count the number of times you breath out. Count from one to nine. If you loose count or get to nine, just go back to one again. If you find your mind wandering, don't worry or get cross and don't get caught up in the train of thought, just gently bring your attention back to counting the out-breaths.
You will probably be hear sounds of things going on outside the room, don't get distracted by them by trying to follow what is happening outside or by getting irritated; acknowledge them and let them pass by. You may become aware of body sensations, such as itches, don't let them distract you.
To end the session take five deeper breaths. Bring your attention from the breathing back to the body. Once again 'scan' through the body looking for any signs of tension. Then become aware of your posture, sitting in a stable position. Slowly open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings. Have a stretch and get up slowly, trying to keep hold of the feeling of relaxation.
Being aware of your breathing -
Sit quietly, without interruptions, close your eyes if you like, pay attention to your body and check that it is relaxed. Try to sit up straight - not slumping but not too stiff. Bring your attention to you breathing. Be aware of the air flowing in and out through your nostrils. Or the rise and fall of your chest. Do this for five to ten minutes and then gently bring your attention back to your body and to your surroundings.
Breathing meditations are easy to do, and because you are always breathing you can do them anytime and anywhere, without the need of any accessories.
Desert Island -
Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are sitting on the sandy beach of a desert island. It is warm. There is a blue sky, with a few wispy white clouds. You are sitting in the shade of a palm tree. You can hear the waves gently lapping on the shore. Gently breaking on the beach with a whoosh and then drawing some sand and pebbles back into the sea. You see some birds flying over and hear their cries. They fly off slowly into the distance. It is rely relaxing just sitting here in the warmth, with all your worries a long way away. It is really enjoyable to be here just listening to the waves.... (after about 10 minutes) It is time to return from the island. Slowly bring your attention back to your surroundings and focus on the next task of the day.
You can create your own favourite relaxation fantasies. Perhaps relive an enjoyable holiday, mentally visit a favourite location or 'watch' fish swimming in an aquarium. Anything that you find relaxing. But don't make it too complicated - it is not an adventure. The one problem with this type of meditation is timing how long it is - so why not try recording your fantasy on a tape, leaving gaps in the speech, and then play it back to guide you through the meditation?
Note - I discovered these techniques through my religious practice - but it is not my intention to try to convert you to Buddhism. I hope they will be useful also for anyone who is interested in using meditation as a relaxation technique. You can find out more about Buddhist mediation here.