Do you ever feel like you’re at the limit of your ability to cope? To handle what life has thrown at you? We have lots of ways of expressing this feeling, and most of us are familiar with it: “I’m about to lose my mind.” “I’m at my wit’s end.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “I can’t get focused on anything.” “I just can’t take it anymore.” Sometimes when we feel that way, we just “suck it up”, of just “deal with it.” Other times, that just doesn’t seem to help, and the feelings persist.
Then we start to feel hopeless and ask, “Is that all there is?” “Can I expect more from my life?” “Will I ever feel happy?” No one is exempt from feelings of deep disappointment, regret, longing, guilt, anger and fear. So, what are some strategies to quiet the mind, calm our worst fears, or help us see solutions to problems?
If we have access to mental health care, that is an important step to take. Some find relief in their practice of religion, or seeking help from the clergy. These efforts to find balance between our stress and our hopes for happiness are valuable, and I recommend them based on my own experience. I’ve also found that we’re able to increase the likelihood of success if we learn ways to help ourselves. There are many well-documented studies that support the practice of mindfulness or meditation, and I have experienced the benefits, along with many of my clients.
Dr. Henry Emmons, a recognized expert in the field of psychiatry, has an exciting book, The Chemistry of Joy, in which he explains the benefits of mindfulness for mental and physical health. In his psychiatry practice, (http://www.partnersinresilience.com), he regularly prescribes mindfulness exercises to counteract the depression, stress, and anxiety so commonly felt in modern life.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
If you’re already practicing, the following may remind you of the benefits to be realized. If you’re new to this, I hope you enjoy it and begin to realize benefits almost immediately. There are so many ways to do this, and most of them don’t involve shaving your head and staring at a wall. So, be yourself, and make the practice do-able for you and your lifestyle.
First, start paying attention to something simple, like a leaf or a raisin or a cloud, or even your own hand. Notice what you see about that and take note of its shape, color, texture, even taste. As you do this, you may notice that suddenly you’re not thinking about what’s bugging you. That’s the idea: to still the mind and stop it from trying to figure everything out. By clearing the mind this way, you’re unblocking the lens of the mind, seeing in a new way. Do this for a whole minute or two at a time, trying to clear your mind from things you’re to do or figure out or solve.
Then take note of the time, and determine to sit quietly for a minute or two. It’s this intention to be mindful that’s important, and it distinguishes the experience from, say, watching a movie quietly for 2-3 minutes! Sit up straight, in a posture of reverence. Either close your eyes, or keep them half-closed to close out distractions. Breathe normally and put your hands on your lap where they’ll be still. Now comes the fun part!
When a thought arises, visualize it as passing away, like a leaf floating downstream. Or say to it in your mind, “Not now.” In other words, remind the thought that you’ll attend to it later, but, just now you’re busy clearing things out of your mind. Trust me, you WILL have thoughts! But the more you practice gently reminding them to come back later, the more your brain will build the power to control your fears, anxieties and depressions. You will find your body relaxing and a feeling of calm will come to you that you can carry into your day.
When so many experts are turning to the practice of mindfulness/meditation, isn’t it time for you to start or resume this simple and powerful technique? For me, it’s the basis of creativity, satisfaction, and abundance. May it be for you, too.