It’s a new year, and around this time people make resolutions to go to the gym, try to lose weight, eat healthy, be nicer, make a change or begin something new – in order to make the present year better than the last.
I am no different – as usual, the holidays took its toll on me – too much poor eating & drinking, not enough exercise and all-around busyness that made my mind spin.
So, I am happy to get back into some sort of “normal” routine – getting up at the same time every day and being a little less busy so I have time to get back to exercising in the mornings and time to make a healthy meal once a week that I can eat multiple times as left-overs.
I don’t necessarily do things as a “resolution” though – it is more about getting back to the ideals I normally keep. Resolutions often fail by February or March – as I’ve mentioned in the past, the key to lasting change is to make it part of your everyday routine.
I DO take stock once a year by doing an organized, timed activity to figure out things that I would like to begin doing (or something new to try), keep doing (if I think they are still working) or what I want to get rid of or not have in my life any more. The subject itself is actually very similar to something we have often done in the past at work, called “Start, Stop, Continue.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but my activity takes it to the next level.
In doing this, I have already begun to exercise in the morning again, but there is a new interest I had been pursuing… when someone very close to me mentioned something she heard about the benefits of meditation, I was like, “Hey! I have actually been searching into that recently!”
What started me off was a podcast named “Buddhism, Bravery, Love and the Good Life”, Released Nov 03, 2015, where there was an interview with a guy named Lodro Rinzler.
It was on a great podcast series that I have listened to for awhile now, called “Good Life Project“. (You can find the podcasts here.) Like most things, it took me an episode or two before I could get into it… but once I did, I was hooked! Jonathan Fields interviews many current self-improvement guru’s, book authors and all-around successful people. Even if I hadn’t seemed interested in 1 or 2 of the interviewees, I listened to them and I have to say I get something positive from EVERY episode.
Getting back on track… Fields interviewed Lodro Rinzler, who seemed like a regular guy who was into Buddhism and wrote some books on Meditation. Two of the books are “Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation” and “The Buddha Walks into a Bar…: A Guide to Life for a New Generation.”
Right after that I went to a Barnes & Noble store, saw the books and took a pic of the covers with my phone, so I could come back when I got a 20% off coupon.
About a week later (around the holidays) I happened to be on Audible.com (if you sign up, mention my email and I get a free book!) and saw the “Sit like a Buddha” audio book for some crazy low price like $2.99! I bought it and listened to it in just 2 hours. I totally suggest this one if you want to get started right away on meditation. It is a very short “pocket guide” on how to meditate and it gets you to think about WHY you want to even try meditation.
Crazily enough, not even 2 days after I finished that book, the “Audible book of the day” (they choose 1 discounted book every day) happened to be “The Buddha Walks into a Bar…” book, for I think the same $2.99 price! I thought that was pretty serendipitous! I felt that this one wasn’t quite as good a starter book as “Sit…” plus, it had some of the same info in it.
Well, since then, I have tried practicing meditation 4 out of 5 days now!
Do I think it is helping me in any way? I’m not sure yet. As everyone says, it is a practice, so it takes a while to get used to it. What I CAN say is that since it is on my mind, when I’m in a situation, like when someone cuts me off in traffic… initially, when I want to scream profanity at them (like I normally do), there is some “cue” that brings meditation to my attention.. and instead of screaming and waving only 1 finger at them, I calmly say “They are just stupid.”
OK, I’m not proud of that – I’m honest in my posts – but when someone cuts you off and there is literally NO ONE behind you… you have to question the mental capacity of that person. (Oh well… I never said I was perfect).
I have to say that it IS very calming and clears my head while I’m doing it.
At this point, I want it to be known that meditation comes from the first Buddha (which means “enlightened one”) – it is NOT a scary religion you need to join – ANYONE can enjoy the benefits of meditation. There are many forms of meditation, but some common themes are for gratitude, being present, joy, compassion, relaxation, falling asleep and healing anxiety.
There is much talk out there about meditation being able to reduce stress and help tame that little chatter in your head that sometimes doesn’t say the most positive things about yourself (am I the only one who hears that?!!!).
According to the Mayo Clinic “The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions”
Good enough for me!
I also downloaded 2 apps that I’ve been trying too, the best of which is called “Stop, Breathe & Think.” It has you rate how you feel (mentally & physically) daily and then provides a few meditations you can choose from. Most seem to be around 6 minutes, which is perfect! The woman’s voice is calming and it is very specific for what you are feeling… it is almost like a “Psychotherapist-in-a-box!”
I really recommend this app.
Also, I have come across a 5 minute a quick-start guide to meditation at meditationmojo.com. Follow the link for instructions.
Now here are the general steps that seem to be common in meditation practice as well as my tips about it:
- Find a place you can go that is quiet and dark. I’m not sure I want to tell you exactly where I meditate, but I have a dog that gets “separation anxiety” if I even walk out of the room and his whining makes it VERY difficult and distracting to meditate! So, there is only one room in my house that I can close the door from him that he will remain calm.
- Sit upright in a chair (or on a large pillow with your legs crossed if you are limber and prefer it), with your feet flat on the ground and let your hands flop onto your lap in a natural and comfortable way. You don’t need to be palms-up, with your back at a perfect 90-degree angle to your legs or anything ( you’re watching too many movies! lol)
- Set an alarm for 10 minutes. (or more if you have more time)
- Begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Once you’re in it for a few minutes you can just breathe through your nose.
- Close your eyes and try to clear your mind of everything. Close your eyes and focus on the visual of air coming in your nose, going into your lungs and out through your mouth. You can even count 1-10 with every inhale and exhale to keep your mind on your breathing.
- Know that your mind WILL wander. A LOT! Seriously, this is totally normal – that’s why meditation is called a practice. Don’t beat yourself up. Calmly direct your mind back to your breathing by accepting the thoughts and saying in your mind, “Thinking…”.
- Don’t try to force sounds or other stimulus out of your mind. Simply accept them, try not to have any opinion on them and then redirect to your breathing.
- Try to meditate at least 10 minutes every day, at the same time of day. The routine may help you keep to it. I have also heard that first thing in the morning is the best way to start off your day. For me, it is right when I get home from work – it is a good transition. However, I was super-busy on one of the days, so at lunch time I went into my car and did it. It wasn’t as good, but I kept my streak up.
- Bring your mind back to your physical body and the feeling of it sitting.
- That’s it! Well, mostly.
Personally, I don’t have any “mantra” or anything that I chant. There is a lot of info out there, so just Google-search meditation if you get into it and do what you are comfortable with.
I could go on and on about what I have come across so far, but I’ll just say to give it a chance if you would like to learn to relax or just calm your mind in certain situations.
Just like anything else, meditation may not work for you or you may not have enough patience for it. I like to try new things to share with you all, and this is one more item for your health arsenal!
Please share your opinions, thoughts or practices on meditation with all of us. We might all benefit from it!