Meditation, meditation, meditation. It’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. You’ve heard them say how wonderful it is. You want to give it a try, but it seems a little mysterious and “out there” to you; and you don’t know where to begin, or why you even should.
Let’s start with what it is. Meditation could be defined as a process: At first, it is the act of focused attention on a single subject. Eventually (and I do mean eventually), it is merging with the Infinite. You only need to be concerned with the first part, which is the discipline itself.
Before you jump into the discipline, it is important to know why you are doing it. What are the benefits of meditation? Surely they are innumerable, and outcomes can be different for you than your friend who meditates. You are a unique soul that will receive unique benefits from your practice!
There are, however, a few given benefits from a consistent meditation practice:
Does it sound worth it now? Excellent! Next month I’ll walk you through some steps and methods to support your meditation practice. In the meantime, explore some times of day that would work best for your meditation practice. Look into a space in your home that would serve as a spiritual refuge for you. Get ready to commit to your soul!
Take Time Apart
Lately there has been much talk about how busy a society we are, the evils of technology, and what a shame it is that we connect online more than in person.
Yet there is another practice that is emerging simultaneously with our busyness: Realizing the importance of taking time away from it all! Meditation, yoga, sitting by the beach, and other forms of quiet time are finding their way into many people’s routine.
Sometimes clients share their involved story with me, then say, “I just don’t feel I am handling it well.” In most cases, they are handling the situation beautifully, but forgetting to handle themselves as conscientiously as they are the other people and events. I will gently reflect that perhaps instead of needing to do more, it is time to do less, to take time apart from the situation and renew themselves.
What are some ways you renew yourself? Having a list of three or four things can help your renewal time feel fresh. Other people like their standby of one or two activities (or inactivities!). Taking a walk, listening to music, relaxing in a hammock, reading a book are other ways to take a vacation from busyness for a while.
I love riding my bike around a lake near our house. Biking has always been a refreshing activity for me—feeling the wind cooling me as I ride, looking at natural surroundings or pretty neighborhoods, and enjoying the exercise-induced invigoration when I’m done. My favorite trail is in Busse Woods, passing the elk as I ride; but even shorter rides near home can feel like I was gone for hours!
If these activities still seem too time-consuming in your busy day, try taking two minutes two or three times throughout your day to breathe. Stop what you are doing and do some diaphragmatic breathing—breathing from your belly—in and out for two minutes. Try it right now…Refreshing, right?
There is always time to take time apart--and there is always the need to do so!
Decluttering Your Consciousness
Every summer at our house, we go through the entire house, top to bottom, and get rid of things that are no longer necessary to us. The kids go through their toys, papers, dvds, clothing--everything! And we do the same. When we are done, our home is lighter and delightfully decluttered! Then we are better able to tackle the daily clutter more easily.
Did you know we have to declutter our consciousness, too? We certainly do! There are things coming up every day for us to look at, understand, forgive and release! As we do this decluttering, we are lighter on the inside and better able to make choices that are clear and support us.
Here are five tools for your inner de-cluttering that you can use daily, and enjoy the fresh air that peace of mind brings!
1. Meditate. For five minutes a day (at a consistent time and location), observe the thoughts that go through your mind. Don’t push them away, judge them, or feel ashamed; just notice what they are saying to you and let them pass.
2. Journal. Write about the time during the day when you felt frustrated, hurt, sad or angry. What were you feeling and thinking? Get to know your reactions and look for a pattern in them. Writing about your feelings can help you understand when to back off, and when to stand up for yourself.
3. Forgive. Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions is an excellent forgiveness method. Unforgiveness balls you up in body, mind and expression, while forgiveness frees you to experience more overall joy.
4. Use difficult people to learn about your hidden issues. Take that guy at the office that grinds you like fingers down a chalkboard. Get your journal and list all the qualities and behaviors about him that bug you. Ask yourself who this person represents to you. You can learn a lot about what is blocking you from your potential by embracing those you find difficult to be around. Forgive them even if you don’t know what it is that you don’t like. The health benefits of this action alone will be worth your effort.
5. Trust yourself above all others. The best spiritual teachers out there will encourage you to listen to your own inner promptings. As you watch your own thinking and journal out your feelings, you will begin to understand more about who you are. This is a wonderful and scary thing! Trust that your inner wisdom will reveal itself and support you as you work to resolve fear and false beliefs.
How Are Smokers like Buddhists?
Do smokers have the right idea?
Note: This article is in no way intending to encourage smoking. Smoking is hazardous to your physical health in many ways. It also tends to cover up emotional issues, instead of dealing with them head on in healthier ways.
That said, let’s look at some of the Buddhist-like ways that smokers handle their day…
While introducing a mindfulness breathing exercise to a client, she brought to my attention how smokers do “that breathing” all throughout the day. Well, you know, aside from the nicotine addiction and what they are putting their lungs through one breath at a time…They are committed to some serious mindful practices at regular intervals:
1. Take a break from the day’s agenda, or walk away from a stressful situation
2. Inhale deeply, to the count of five
3. Hold your breath for the count of three
4. Exhale to the count of five
5. Repeat for, oh, about five minutes
Taking five minutes a day, several times each day, to breathe and focus can make a huge difference to your attitude, serenity and attention. Step out of your agenda, away from a stressful situation. Breathe. Listen to your breathing. Observe it going in. Observe it going out. Focus on your breath rather than on what you just left or have waiting for you. Note how calm you feel as you return to your activities: Lighter, clearer, more alert.
Don’t smoke. Do breathe.
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.