These days we’re all trying to stay healthy. We know we should eat well and exercise, but recent studies also show that reducing stress will make us healthier. Of course, exercising releases stress, as do hobbies and activities we do for pleasure. Another way to release stress is through meditation. But have you ever tried to sit still and not think a single thought?
Guess what? Meditating doesn’t have to be perfect. There are very few people who can empty their minds easily of everyday cares and worries. In fact, there is no right way or wrong way to meditate. The goal is to slow down the chaotic pace of your thoughts and learn to center yourself and be calm.
Easier said than done, right? But I bet there’s an activity you enjoy that brings you calmness and peace. Perhaps it’s walking in the woods or reading. Maybe it’s riding your bike or baking a pie. In fact, you are experiencing meditation whenever you turn off the “monkey mind” and focus on a pleasant activity.
Someone once shared a way to start down the path toward meditating, and it works for me. He said, “When you do find yourself not thinking about anything, focus on that empty moment. A thought will come to your mind, and when it’s gone, focus again on that empty space. Try to make the empty space in between your thoughts lengthen.” This simple exercise helps me slow down the chatter in my brain.
Some people choose to take classes in meditation to help them become more disciplined at the practice. You can also attend guided meditations or chanting events. These can help you come to a place of peace and calm. One day I hope to try these things.
In the meantime, I enjoy my yoga practice. It’s actually a very good way to let go of your worries and focus on the moment. Take the balance poses, for example, like Tree and Eagle. Anyone who’s tried to hold these poses knows that you have to stay very focused on what you’re doing in order to maintain your balance. Guess what? While you are focusing on doing the pose, you are completely in the moment. It’s so refreshing to be on my mat, feeling strong and stable and balanced, and not thinking about anything beyond the classroom door.
OK, I admit it. My mind wanders sometimes. But when I do yoga, I’m more in the moment than usual—and that helps me keep stress at bay.
There are other ways: when I write, I’m absorbed by putting my thoughts into words that mean something and then shaping those words into a cohesive whole. Sometimes, like at deadline—in other words, now—cohesion can be elusive, but I keep trying, nevertheless.
I’ve recently discovered how much fun it is to paint, especially when you don’t care so much about the end result. I’ve taken a couple of Paint and Wine classes at d’ART Center, and it’s quite relaxing. Painting—like writing and yoga—requires you to be in the moment. When it’s over, there’s a sense that you have escaped somewhere and returned, different somehow.
And you are. Every day we change. We find our own ways to meditate and ponder and grow. As 2014 draws to a close, I hope you can find time to pursue an activity that brings you calmness and peace. We’re all on a journey, and it helps to stop sometimes and meditate about where we are going.