You have only to pick up a self-help book or glance at a magazine cover to be blasted with the idea that you should MEDITATE NOW. Now, I will be the first one to tell you that having a calm and peaceful mind is very helpful. It enables you to listen to that wise “still, quiet, inner voice” we all want to hear. I will also tell you that I, personally, find meditation is like trying to herd cats. In other words, it’s not easy!
Here are my top five favorite alternatives when I’m anxious, moody or simply need to slow down and tune in to Divine wisdom. (And most don’t require sitting still!)
Remember to Just Breathe
When did it become a badge of honor to be “crazy busy?” Life just seems to move at a faster pace than it did a decade or so ago. When and where do you find yourself most stressed out? Is it in traffic driving to or from work? Getting the kids out the door to go to school? Sitting through endless meetings? You know your anxiety zones better than anyone. In any of the above examples, you simply can’t just meditate…so breathe. Stop what you’re doing for just a moment and focus on taking one or two slow, deep breaths. It will calm you down, help you to refocus on what’s important, and allow you to tune into your spirit.
Listen to Calming Sounds
Think about the sounds that make you feel at peace. For some, it might be birds chirping. Or a stream bubbling. For others, classical or New Age music is their thing. What’s yours? Consider creating a special play list on your computer, phone or other device. When you have a free moment, take the time to listen.
Move (dance, walk, run or…)
Here again, this is totally up to you and your own likes and dislikes. One person’s daily run is a Zen moment. For another, the thought of running sounds like torture! What do you love to do that brings you peace and puts you in the zone? It can be as simple as taking a walk during your lunch break. You could practice Tai Chi or yoga. My latest fave is swimming. If you love to dance, think about putting some great tunes one of the aforementioned devices and get your groove on.
I like writing in my journal with colored pens and pencils. It just feels more creative that way. One of my favorite techniques is to ask an open-ended question at the top of the page, and then just begin to brainstorm whatever comes to my mind. Doodles, word fragments, images and full sentences flow forth in response to the question. Some good questions? “What do I need to know right now?” “What would bring me peace?” “What could I do to resolve the situation I’m currently struggling with?” Usually by the end of five or ten minutes, I or my intuition have come up with an answer and that makes me feel better.
What are you doing when life slows down for you? Again, this is highly individual. Is knitting your thing? Do you love to do crossword puzzles? Coloring, especially mandalas, is an activity that has gained popularity in recent years. You could also just sit and stare out the window. Or simply close your eyes. You could make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and sit in your backyard or in a nearby park. One technique I like is simply to rest my head on a pillow and imagine that all my worries and fears are being absorbed. Think about a time in the recent past that you felt relaxed. What were you doing? I recommend doing more of that in the near future!
I know I only said “five tips” at the beginning of this column. But if you really do want to meditate and are having a tough time with it, consider downloading one of the many guided meditation apps. I find it much easier when there’s a soothing voice helping me keep my focus. Try it for five minutes at a time. Work up to more if you feel like it. However, there’s a lot of research that shows just a few minutes each day of deliberately slowing down does wonders for depression, anxiety and insomnia. Not to mention that it’s good for your intuition, too!
Here are the three I like:
What are YOUR favorite techniques? I’d love to hear about them!