Meditation

The benefits of meditation are well known. Everyone talks about trying it. The New York Times has covered it. There are apps you can download to help you meditate. Meditation is not reserved for wealthy yoga retreat goers any longer. But as accessible as the practice has now become for many beginners it can still seem daunting. Sitting alone with your thoughts while trying to silent the mind and focus on your breath is not easy for many of us. In fact, it’s the opposite of how we have been conditioned to function.

When you start meditating you will quickly notice just how unruly the mind is. Most people assume that to meditate you have to think about nothing, or “clear your mind”. But when you have it in your head that you have to DO anything when the goal is to quiet the mind, it’s totally counterproductive. So don’t think about thinking about nothing, simply “think neutral”.

When you begin practicing meditation do not be hard on yourself. Some days you will ease into it and other days you may get frustrated with yourself and be unable to defuse the non stop thoughts from coming in. When I first started, I would be bombarded with thoughts , to do lists that I had to get to, work tasks to be completed, an itch on my nose etc. We are so used to moving and thinking and working that when we stop to be still our brains don’t know what to do. It’s like all of a sudden you are tuning into 20 different crappy mind cable channels that click through rapid fire. Click – I should get that mole checked out,  Click – should I get bangs again?, Click – can’t forget to call mom back, Click – am I a good daughter? And on and on.

Tune out, think neutral, focus on your breathe, hold a comfortable posture, and if you are still having trouble I suggest coming up with imagery that helps you. I like to picture a lotus emerging from the mud and slowly blooming. If imagery isn’t your thing maybe focus on a body part. I sometimes will pick a body part, like the top of my forehead or my hands to focus on.

If all else fails, take a seat, and smile. Smile to yourself and think about the things you are grateful for. Take 10 minutes and just dwell in that warm, cozy feeling of gratitude.

The human mind is an infinite journey. We possess the power to go anywhere and do anything but in order to do so, we must learn to tap into the depths hidden beneath our messy thoughts and meditation is a wonderful tool that can help us get there.

Letter from Fear

Dear You,

I know that I get unruly sometimes and that I may have held you back from jumping into exciting and dangerous experiences but know that I did it to keep you safe and sane. I have evolved over the years but there are a few things that will never change. Fear of mediocrity, fear of stagnation and fear of losing control.

Death doesn’t really spook me as much anymore. Violent thunderstorms no longer keep me up at night working overtime. Nightlights have not been necessary for practically 20 years! Yes, indeed, I have evolved in many ways and in doing so I’ve become complex and harder to shake, like a gob of sidewalk gum on the bottom of your shoe that with each step becomes grittier picking up filth along the way, becoming more solid, thicker and stronger with each step.

You’ve done a great job of keeping me in check but sometimes I get pushy and take over. I can linger for days and months keeping you second guessing, unsure and uneasy. I have a knack of sneaking up on you like a trench coated stranger coming up around the corner, keeping pace with you but just far away enough that you can’t make me out to be anything but a shadow cast over your quickening footsteps. For the times I have consumed you and made you obsess over thoughts that tormented you, I’m sorry. I’m intrinsically weak you see, I’m Fear and that’s just how I function. I can be motivating or stifling; I can be logical or irrational. My real purpose is to test you, to make sure that no matter how dark or overwhelming I become you don’t lose yourself in me and can tell me “no” and say “you are wrong”. I’m usually wrong and I like being wrong, please keep proving me wrong.

yours truly, like it or not,

Fear

What You Make of It

We have all met countless individuals who have been born into situations that one would deem “unlucky” (poor health, tragic family situations…). The knee jerk instinct to categorize the circumstances of life that are unpleasant or difficult as “unlucky” is absurd and unfair to the so called unlucky individuals. We summarize what we assume to know of their life to be unlucky based on what we see on the surface or what we THINK is some impossible hardship because we are narrow minded and have grown too comfortable with the ideas we believe make up a good life.

We think that in contrast we are much better off when in truth those who haven’t ever endured serious difficulties lack a strength that can only be obtained by at one time or another being “unlucky”.Those individuals I have met who in some way lack certain things that are part of the conventional modern idea of a decent life are often happy, tough, optimistic people who make the best out of hard times and keep persevering without harping on said hard times. It’s humbling to be in the presence of such people.

So often we are fixated on a shallow idea of what is needed for a happy life and disregard the fact that difficult periods are essential in moving our lives forward and making changes. Falling on hard times makes you appreciative of all the good around you. It gives you grit and courage and the ability to trust that things will turn around because you will find a way to make it so.

What I have taken away from the “unlucky” is that Life is what we make of it.

Ignoring Negativity

“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook” – Philosopher William James 
William James had it right. It’s rather amazing how other individuals can cast clouds over your mood just by being negative. Negativity can be so easily absorbed if one allows it via what I like to call “a-hole osmosis”.
Rude strangers who bump into you without apologizing, a friend who cancels plans last minute, or a crabby coworker who gives you dagger eyes when you bump into each other in the elevator. If you do not manage to overlook these grievances that you so despise and are on the receiving end of you may end up sending out that same nasty energy to those around you.

I’m certainly not advocating that you ignore when people seriously mistreat you! But letting the smaller stuff constantly get to you can create toxic anger. When someone does you wrong we must remember: Most people aren’t mean as much as they are weak. Weak people do bad things, selfish things, and reckless things because more often than not it’s just easier for them. So next time you are up in arms over someone being an absolute jerk to you or to others, remember how incredibly weak they truly are and take the oft ignored high road. This is something I’ve put into practice over the past several months and I aim to continue zigzagging my way through life to stay on the sunny side of the street.

In summary, ignore the haters and do you!