Friday, January 20, 2012

I’m Alive (Today) and (Mindfully) Well


There have been a couple of posts on meditation lately, and I am thankful for that.  In its most basic form, meditation is the practice of sitting quietly.  The point is to clear your mind of all thoughts.  If you’ve ever tried to do this, you know how extremely difficult it is, especially in the beginning. 

Many yoga instructors include some form of meditation into the practice.  My yoga instructor tells us to sit quietly and just notice—without judgment—the thoughts that come into our minds.  I think this is a great way to introduce meditation.  One can sit quietly, but to clear one’s mind is so difficult.  I often find myself letting go of my mind, allowing it to move from one thought to another.  My thoughts are so controlled throughout the day, focusing on this or that task, that just letting it go where it will is meditation enough.  But just observing those thoughts without really attaching yourself to them takes the meditation to a deeper level.  I can sit quietly, notice what I think about without really thinking too much about it, let it go, and move on.  This is the point where my yoga instructor would tell us to come back to the breath—concentrate on your breath and when you find your mind wandering, just bring it gently back to the breath.  This is one way of training your mind to meditate.

While I enjoy meditation in yoga class, I don’t do it at home.  Since I get to yoga class only once or twice a week (three times if I’m lucky), I really should start doing more of it on my own.  It can be anywhere at any time.  I could do it first thing in the morning, during my lunch hour, or when I come home in the evenings.  I could just be mindful and present while doing everyday tasks.  The point is I need to make more time to quietly reflect on my thoughts and feelings, whether when I’m alone or when I’m doing laundry.

I have often thought of meditation as a form of spirituality, as a way to connect with something bigger than myself.  True, the point is to reflect on my thoughts and feelings, but more importantly, it’s also about connecting those thoughts and feelings to something greater.

I have some great fears of the world.  Most of what I fear comes from the unknown.  I also have issues with perfectionism which stem from the “need” to be in control of my life.  And the unknown is uncontrollable.  I need to make peace with the unknown and uncontrollable.  I need to accept that what is unknown and uncontrollable is not always a bad thing.  One way to do that is to focus on why I feel the need to be in control and know all possible outcomes for every scenario.  This is where meditation comes in.  While sitting quietly and focusing on my thoughts and feelings, perhaps I can understand more of the “why” while letting go of the “need.”  After all, there are so many unknowns in life and it’s impossible to control many of them.  Why waste the time and energy trying to force something that was never planned for me?

I was raised to believe in God.  And I do.  I don’t go to church on a regular basis for many reasons but that doesn’t mean that I can’t worship in my own way.  I often think of meditation as a way to get in touch with Him, to reflect on what He has in store for me, to accept His plan for me.  Part of that is letting go and accepting what is without a fight or a plea for it to be different.  But that’s very hard for me, especially since I’m not the one in control. 

What’s harder though is losing faith that things will all work out in the end, losing faith in God, losing faith in myself.  A recent post from My Little Rabbit sums up how I have felt over the last year or so.  I have often lost faith in myself, which makes me doubt everything else in life, God’s plan included.  Where I lost that faith I don’t know, but somewhere along the line I did.  Getting it back isn’t easy.  I would say that I’ve come a long way from where I was.  But there are still many more miles to go.

One of the things I need to focus on more is living in the moment.  I waste too many precious hours worrying about what might happen rather than focusing on what is happening now.  Meditation can help me get there.  In my quiet moment I can focus on my thoughts and feelings about a lot of things.  But I can do so in that moment.  “How do I feel right now?”  “What is bothering me at this moment?”  “How can I plan for the future while not letting it dictate how I live my life today?” 

One of the best lessons I had in answering those questions was my trip to Turks and Caicos.  It may sound silly but that trip was the only week in my adult life where there was nothing for me to do—no tasks to get done, no chores staring me in the face, no meals to be made.  The only thing I had to focus on was where I was and I what I wanted at any given moment.  Nothing stood in the way of enjoying my day, really seeing the bright colors of the sky, really tasting the sweetness of the strawberry daiquiri.  I need to bring those moments with me to today.

Going forward, I hope to live one moment to the next, to focus on one day at a time.  GCM’s latest photo really struck a chord with me.  Life isn’t about what gets thrown at you—we have no control over that.  What matters is how we handle those things—that’s the only thing we truly can control.

Someone once asked me what song represents me.  It’s so hard to choose, as there are so many great songs that resonate with me for so many reasons.  But for my life as a whole and to help me mindfully focus on today in order to be prepared for the things that happen tomorrow, I would say that the following song is a good place to start:

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars
As for me I’d like to thank my lucky stars that
I’m alive and well

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me, I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathing in and out's a blessing can’t you see
Today's the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive and well
I’m alive and well

Stars are dancing on the water here tonight
It’s good for the soul when there’s not a soul in sight
But this boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life
Now I’m alive and well

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathing in and out's a blessing can’t you see
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
Now I’m alive and well
Yeah I’m alive and well

9 comments:

  1. Beautiful and inspiring post.. we all have our moments of anxiety and I try for 15 minutes every morning during the week just to meditate quietly - it's hard but it works!

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  2. May I recommend Eknath Easwaran and his book "Meditation"? He has written many books, but this is an excellent place to start.

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  3. Michele - Thanks. It is difficult, but something I must start incorporating into my day.

    Crofter - Thanks for the recommendation. It's now on my list. I have so many books I want to read on happiness, anxiety, mediation and well-being. Hopefully I'll get to them all some day!

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  4. I love that song...I suck at living in the moment--constantly worried about money (the lack thereof, actually)Ugh.

    Good luck finding something that works for you! The book "How God Changes Your Brain" is an interesting read about how beneficial meditation is to your brain.

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  5. Rori - That book is definitely going on my list! Thanks for the recommendation.

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  6. While I cant say that I set out a specified time of the day or number of minutes, I do have a bit of a ritual. I never put much thought into it before reading your post... Saturday mornings, I am sure to take my time having my morning coffee. I only have one cup each day, and between the ahhh of the caffeine and having a few spare minutes, I do take stock in what is happening *right now.* It helps that I am thankfully quite happy where I am right now, so I take that time to reflect upon what is making me so happy. If necessary, I do also use that time for what is bothering me, but I always make sure to remember all of the good in life too. Now if I could only win the lottery, I could have that time every day. :-)

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  7. Oh, that morning cup of coffee. It's a good time to reflect. In fact, whenever I write in my journal, I have to have a cup of coffee (or decaf) at the same time. And yes, the lottery would help with so many things. ;)

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  8. Lovely, lovely post. Thank you.

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