Meditation 101

By Joe Nelson | November 15, 2006 10:28 am

This week, I was struggling to figure out what to write for my blog entry. I’ve written about emotions, support, dealing with depression, and the process of change. These are just some of the issues I consider vital aspects of living well with diabetes. As I was meditating on a subject for this week, it occurred to me that what I was doing was a great idea for the entry: meditation.

Meditation has been a practice of mine for the past 35 years. During some of this time I have made it a daily practice, and some of the time I have fallen off the cushion and done it only on occasion. But all of the time I have learned that it makes a difference in how I feel and certainly in how I react in stressful situations.


Most of the stress we encounter in life is related to our perception of an event and the beliefs we have about our own capability to deal with it. Sometimes we can change the situation to lower our stress level—and if we can, by all means we should. More often, though, we can only alter our perception of the stress or work on our reaction to it. I have found meditation to be an extremely helpful tool for working on both of these areas.

If you think of meditation as a practice only for New Age junkies, it may help to know that, over the past few years, we have seen both research studies and articles printed in major publications such as Newsweek and Time touting the physical and psychological benefits of meditation. Classes in meditation are also being offered in hospitals, health-care centers, and institutions of higher learning such as Harvard University. If you are one of the many people who have been able to associate changes in blood glucose levels with stressful events, meditation may offer you an alternative to feeling overcome with anxiety—or to smothering the anxiety with a pint of ice cream.

The process of meditation is simple, but it is not easy to do. The following are some basic instructions to get you started:

That’s all there is to it, but you will quickly become aware of how challenging it is to pay attention only to your breathing. This is a normal challenge that everyone experiences, so don’t get discouraged too quickly. With practice, it is likely to become easier, and the depth of your meditation is also likely to improve.

This process will help you calm the reactions you have to stressful situations. It can also actually engage a creative thinking process to help you see the stress differently.

For some additional resources on meditation, including books and meditation CDs and tapes by myself and others, click here.

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Joe Nelson: Joe is a psychotherapist in private practice in Minnesota, where he specializes in the psychology of chronic disease and sexual problems and works with couples, families, children, and teens. He has been a Licensed Psychologist since 1985 and has earned a master’s degree from St. Mary’s College Winona, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and an associate’s degree in human services from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Joe has worked with troubled youth in Chicago and Minnesota and on a special project on Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. He was the first social worker hired by an affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. He worked at the International Diabetes Center for 20 years, directing psychological services there for 12 years. A Certified Sex Therapist, Joe co-developed the Sexual Health Center at Park Nicollet Clinic.

Having practiced meditation for over 30 years, Joe offers instruction in mindfulness-based meditation to patients in groups and as individuals. Joe is married, has a 23-year-old daughter, and enjoys scuba diving, motorcycling, golf, and being outdoors doing almost anything.

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