There are several qualities of the sauna experience that are conducive to meditation and that make the combination, especially intense. Think Extreme Meditation.
The intense physical experience pushes the person to naturally bring thinking inwards to become more introspective as one appreciates their personal reactions to the heat. The effects of heat on muscle relaxation help the person to get into a deep state of relaxation. Introspection and deep relaxation characterize the altered state of consciousness one gains while sweating. As time passes, one’s reactions to the heat become more intense and create a challenge. One can allow negative thoughts and feelings related to the heat become the focus of their experience. Alternatively, one can engage in a process of disidentification, by which awareness (mindfulness) precisely observes, and therefore ceases to identify with, mental content such as thoughts, feelings, and images. Disidentification opens the person to then also observe positive mental content – thoughts and feelings that help one to adapt, cope, and thrive when faced with adversity. This can grow to include the development of other mental qualities such as concentration, love, or wisdom.
As is true with any discipline, to become skilled in meditation takes time and practice. Yet anyone can meditate.
One of the most intense ways to meditate in a sauna is to simply sit in silence and focus on your breathing. Alternatively, it is also very pleasant to have some chill-out meditation music playing in the background. A guided meditation I designed specifically for sauna can be purchased through CD Baby and soon Itunes for $0.99. See Sauna Meditation. This track is taken from the album, Sweat Therapy Audio. The Sauna Meditation track starts with guided meditation followed by several minutes of silence and then incorporates meditation music.
Here are some thoughts and reflections to consider for a sauna meditation:
Sitting erect but not rigid, lean against the back of the sauna, placing your hands comfortably in your lap. Let your body and mind rest and relax and get into the heat.
When you feel comfortable with it, allow your eyes to gently close. Tune in to the feeling of the breath moving in and out of your body, allowing yourself to breathe mostly through your mouth as the hot air stings the nostrils. Focus on the sensation of the hot air moving in and out of your mouth.
Let your body relax and as you sweat, think about the stress leaving your body. Negative energy leaves your body as you sweat. As the sweat leaves the pores of your skin so does anger, frustration, and tension. Relax and enjoy the heat.
Just become as comfortable as possible. The intense heat of the sauna is gentle at first, providing a very warm, relaxing feeling.
Some people sweat immediately and others take longer. Notice how your body reacts to the heat. As the sweat begins coming to the surface of your skin. Notice the feeling of your body.
Feeling relaxed and calm, the intensity of the heat grows. You may begin to struggle slightly as the heat works its way through your body. As the heat intensifies, so does the amount of stress and anxiety that is released.
Each time that you find your mind wandering off, simply bring it back to your breathing.