By Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC, CMHIMP

As a therapist, I oftentimes will encourage my clients to learn and use meditation. Like many of my clients, you may have no idea what that truly means. So many people mistaken it for "just breathings" or "having extreme focus" - I know this because they tell me, "I can't sit still that long" and "I don't know how to have nothing on my mind." It's a common mistake. One that even I made, years ago, before I became a therapist.

When it comes to meditation, there are thousands of different ways to do it. And, to be honest, none of them are the right way. You have to decide what is right for you. There is breathing-focused meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, body scans, spiritual mediations, visualizations, and so much more. How could someone decide what works best for them? Well, by giving them a try, that's how. 

Like a lot of skills learned in therapy, after the client walks out of the door, they forget about them, or they remember them but "can't find that time" to fit it into their busy schedules. What is interesting about this is, if any person wants to learn something new, they have to practice. On a regular basis. Just like when we learn sports, an instrument, dance, and sing. We aren't naturals at meditation, either. 

Meditation has been studied for years by researchers, attempting to understand the amazing benefits of it. I am not going to bore you with an exhaustive list of the benefits of meditation, but what I will do is provide you with a meditative script and a recording found here, so that you can either create your own recording, follow along, or just listen to the meditation while you practice being mindful. Take it or leave it, it's up to you. 

I encourage you to give it a try. And if you don't like it, try another one that I have listed. And If you aren't in love with any of them, try them again, anyway. Don't forget practice makes perfect, or, which I tend to encourage, it just makes us more aware and shift our mindsets - we don't need perfection.

This is a guided meditation that will take you through a visualization of a beach scene. It will help transport you into a situation where you can feel as though you are experiencing the beach, in the moment. I will be asking you to take time to use all of your senses to assist you in making your visualization seem real. 

First, we are going to start out with some deep breaths. I tend to practice 4-4-6 breathing, where we breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, then breathe out for six seconds. I am going to do this with you in a moment, but what I will ask you to do, now, is to start to focus on your breath. Notice where the air enters your nose, goes down into your throat, and fills your lungs. Pay attention as it makes your abdomen rise before exhaling out your breath. Continue to pay attention to your breathing. I will leave you there for a moment. (Pause for about 10-15 seconds)

Get comfortable in your chair. It's best to sit with your back supported and your feet on the floor, with your hands in your lap. If you prefer to lay down, you can do that also, but be sure your back is straight and supported, and your airway free of obstruction or twisting. Feel the surface below you - the chair on your back, your bottom on the chair, and your feet on the floor. 

Next, we are going to practice that 4-4-6 breathing. When you are ready, I want you to breathe in for four (2, 3, 4), hold for four (2, 3 , 4) , and breathing out for six (2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Again, breathe in for four (2, 3, 4), hold for four (2, 3 , 4) , and breathing out for six (2, 3, 4, 5, 6). And again breathe in for four (2, 3, 4), hold for four (2, 3 , 4) , and breathing out for six (2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Lastly, breathe in for four (2, 3, 4), hold for four (2, 3 , 4) , and breathing out for six (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).


Now, I am going to ask you to pay attention to the visualization I am going to describe. I will reference various sensations and it will help for you to picture them while they are described. Also, it is perfectly natural, and you can expect your mind to wander during this time. If it does, when you notice, just simply bring it back to the visualization that I am providing you. Not big deal at all. Also, if you happen to fall asleep during the meditation, that is quite alright - it just means that you are relaxed.

Here we go. You wake in a large, open room, minimally filled with the warm sunlight, streaming in through the window. You gently smile as you remember that you are staying just off of the beach in an expansive home. You look around you and take in the sights. You take a deep breath and stretch all of the way from your toes to your finger tips, feeling rested and relaxed. You feel the soft, buttery sheets below you as you run your fingers across the surface of the bed. You can't be sure of the thread count, but you are certain that they are the most comfortable sheets you have ever felt.

You slide your way over to the edge of the bed and place your feet on the floor. You dig your toes into the fuzzy carpet and the tendrils twirl up in between your toes. You push your feet down into the carpet and glide over to the window where the light is streaming in. In one felt swoop, you draw the curtains to reveal a spectacular view of the beach. The sun is so bright that you squint and shield your eyes while they get adjusted to the influx of the sun's rays. 

You smile as you keep your eyes closed and take a big, deep breath. Your smile widens and excitement begins to build in your chest. It's time to get down to the beach. 

After getting changed, you make your way to the back door, which leads directly to a path that reaches the beach. 

When you open the door, the salty smell of the ocean instantly hits you, as the light breeze brings it to your nose. You take another deep breath and are reminded of why you enjoy the beach so much. You begin to walk down the path, your flip flops hitting off of the bottom of your feet. You reach a short set of steps and begin your decline to the beach. At the bottom of the steps is the sand. You remove your flip flops and burry your feet in the sand. You feel the warmth of the sand push up through your toes. You lightly drag your feet along the sand for a moment, feeling the rush of the millions of grains of sand brush by your feet. 

As you approach the water, you pause and look out to the deep blue sea. There are a few whips of clouds off in the distance and the sky is a calming blue. You can hear the small waves crashing upon the beach and see the points of white foam where the waves peak. 

For the first time today, you notice the warmth of the sun on your skin. It feels as though it is gently warming every inch of your body, from the outside into your core. You stand up a little straighter as you get a small smirk on your face. The beach brings you such joyous feelings. 

As you move along the beach, you walk a bit closer to the water line, where the sand is harder and damp. You look behind you and your feet are leaving impressions in the sand that are quickly washed away with each pass of the ocean onto the shore. You notice that the pier is closer than you had imagined. This is now your destination.

The beach is private this early in the morning, so your stroll to the pier is a fairly quiet one except for the sound of the passing gulls and the crash of the waves on the shore. When you make it to the pier, you approach the steps and make your ascent after placing your flip flops back on your feet. 

You can feel the grains of sand make friction between your sandal and your foot. You lightly shake each of your feet to rid them of the sand. Once you reach the top of the pier, you recognize a whole new view of the ocean. The white and tan stain of the wood guides you to the end of the pier and you can hear the gritty sound of your flip flops move along the wooded surface. 

Once you reach the end of the pier, you look out into the ocean, once again. It is bigger this time. A deeper blue that is unparalleled by any color in a crayon box. You feel the wind brushing past your skin, hitting your face, and whipping around your hair. You turn toward the direction of the wind and let it rush past your entire body. You can even feel it moving the small hairs along your arms and face, as sensation only found at the beach. You point your face in the direction of the sun, gently closing your eyes. You can feel the warmth on your face and can see its brightness through your eyelids. Although you cannot look directly at the sun, you can see it's shine as a pinkish-red through your eye lids. You take a deep breath. You want to remember this moment. 

After a brief pause, you decide you are going to make your way back to the house. You head back toward the beach, and notice a sea gull landing on the edge of the pier, making a squawk sound, indigenous to sea gulls. It quickly takes flight as you approach it and it takes off into the sky.

Once you are back onto the beach, you get closer to the water. You get close enough that the waves are able to wash over your bare feet. The cool liquid is refreshing and washes off the bits of sand on your feet. You watch as the water rushes back into the depths of the ocean. 

Making your way back to the path that leads to your home, you turn and face the ocean one more time. Looking out to where the ocean meets the sky, you smile. The sun continues to warm your skin, the gentle breeze flows past you, and the smell of the oceans takes over you, once again. 

When you reenter the home, you remove your flip flops, dusting the remaining sand off of your feet and walk into the living room, which also faces the ocean. You plop yourself down in the giant armchair that is pointed toward the window. The softness of the chair absorbs you as you sink deeper and deeper into its cushions. You peer out the window and rest your head on the pillow behind you. You take in the view of the beach, the ocean, and the sky. You are totally relaxed.

Remember this moment. This moment of total relaxation. Where you are rested, peaceful, and calm. You close your eyes and feel these feelings throughout your whole body.

(Pause for a few moments)

Now, when you are ready, I want you to bring yourself back to the here-and-now. Begin to notice your feet on the floor, your back on the chair, and your hands in your lap. When you feel it is right, open your eyes and bring movement back into your hands and feet. 

Pause a moment and think about this visualization. I want you to take with you all of the feelings of calmness, relaxation, and peace that you gained from transporting yourself, visually, to another place and time. Remember this throughout the day and tomorrow when you need a reminder of the beauty that surrounds you.

You may do this visualization at any point in time, but I recommend doing this, or another type on a regular basis.

Thank you for joining me today. May you be happy, healthy, and whole.