Madonna Gauding, author ofA  The Meditation Bible, gives you a beginnera€™s guide to serenity. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Throughout my years as a meditation teacher, I've encountered many students who come to meditation from a place of acute anxiety.
When we meditate, we are strengthening our "letting go" muscles, which we are not frequently conditioned to train in our competitive, work-focused culture. Another one of my students developed a particular lovingkindness meditation practice for sleeplessness. Sure, meditation requires discipline, but the practice is more meaningful when we can find a sense of spaciousness in it. This week, a meditation to relax youA  before bedtimea€¦BENEFITS: Sleep deprivation is a serious health problem in our overly busy, stress-filled world. Meditation, and mindfulness practices in general, are scientifically proven antidotes to anxiety and stress, as they are about focusing the mind on what is rather than allowing the anxiety or stress itself to take over, and lead the mind into labyrinths of self-judgment, comparison, regret and other rumination. When I first came to meditation when I was 18, I was experiencing a lot of suffering, and I was seeking a spiritual practice to "fix" my life.

First, we can't sleep, which is often the result of anxiety or stress--having endured a tough conversation that day, anticipating a big meeting coming up at work, enumerating your to-do list. In traditional lovingkindness meditation, we silently state phrases of lovingkindness to ourselves first, then to another individual-- first a loved one, and then someone who we find difficult. I often say that tuning into the breath, or phrases of lovingkindness, or whatever your object of mindfulness may be, is like noticing a friend in a crowd. Experts suggest that we need a minimum of eight to nine hours to be at our best physically and mentally. I imagined becoming an instantaneously skilled meditator, and becoming filled with white light and bliss during my formal sittings. Just because we are focusing on our friend doesn't mean the other individuals in the crowd must be eradicated. Realistically, though, we tend to get more like seven hours sleep a night.This meditation will help clear your head and induce relaxation and sleep, thereby strengthening your immune system.
Of course, what ended up happening was quite different: my meditation practice gave me the space to see the extent to which my mind was causing my suffering, and I began to practice letting go.
Needless to say, this student tells me that she feels tremendous gratitude for her meditation practice, and the space it has created for her to learn to rest, even when it feels difficult.

Thoughts, self-critiques, comparisons to others and so on would still arise--but rather than "inviting the thoughts in for tea," I acknowledged them, ushered them out of my mind, and returned to my breath.
This helps her mind release its grip on the fact that she is alone, ostensibly the only person awake, and her anxieties around wakefulness dissipate as her focus becomes directed on a more positive, restful thought. Ensure that your curtains or shades are closed to keep out any lights from the outside world. Focus may require energy, but it's an energy characterized by expansion, rather than constriction. Rather than simply recognizing what is--the fact that we're awake in the present moment--the mind's stories, judgments, questions and worries enter the scene.
STEP THREE: Now, with each in-breath, breathe in peace, and with eachA  out-breath, breathe out all the cares of your day.

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