Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Simplify: Try Meditation (it's not just for kooks)

In my quest to live more simply, I decided to give meditation a try. You might wonder what meditation has to do with simplifying... isn't it just another "to-do", something else to get done in the run of a day? Who has the time?

meditating momAlso - isn't that for people who are a little... you know... kooky??

Let me tell you: it's not just for kooks. And it really DOES help with the quest to simplify, because for a short period of time the mind clutter is cleared away, like a breath of fresh air for your brain. It's actually pretty amazing.

I know, I know - it still sounds a little kooky. But, for someone who really doesn't know what they are doing and is just starting out, I can tell you it really does change your life. Or, at least your day.

Turns out all you really need for a few minutes of peace and brain refreshment is to be quiet, and alone. You can even be alone on the train or in a public place packed with people: you just need to be on your own without obligation to serve any little minions for a few minutes.

Here's what I've been doing... I encourage everyone to give it a try for one week. I promise you, it WILL have an impact on your stress levels, and perspective. (Well, it can't hurt anyway!)

  • Work meditation into your regular routine, wherever and whenever you can.
    I've been meditating (I use this term loosely, mind you, since I'm nowhere near enlightenment) on my commute to and from work. I have about a 20 minute drive where I can't go anywhere but in my car, by myself. It's actually the perfect time and place for me.
  • You don't need cushions or candles or chiming bells.
    It doesn't have to be all serenity and mojo and what have you. You don't have to sit cross-legged on the floor saying "OMMMM"... you don't even need a dedicated space or time - you can be in your car, or on a walk to the store, or waiting in the line at the bank. You just need a few minutes, and some quiet time where you don't have to interact with anyone. If you want to light a candle and sit cross-legged on a fancy cushion and say OM, by all means, do it... but you don't need all that.
  • Dedicate just 5 minutes to start.
    You might not have time for an all-day meditation retreat, or even 20 minutes to yourself... but you can find five minutes. Oh you can't? Yes, you can. If you have to meditate on the toilet, do it. Do it in the shower, or when you first get to work before booting up your computer, or even when you get ready for bed. All you need is five minutes.
  • Quiet.
    Turn off the radio, set your phone to silent (or off!), turn off your monitor. Shut it all down.
  • Breathe.
    For me the best part is the breathing... slowwwww intake of breath for a count of 6-8, slow exhale for a count of 6-8. That's it. Slow, deep cleansing breaths. Fill your lungs slowly... exhale fully. After five or six of these breaths, I promise you will feel more at peace, calmer, less stressed.
  • Get present, stay in this moment.
    This is by far the hardest part for me, but I'm told it takes practice. Start by getting yourself HERE. Where are you right now? How are you feeling? What are you feeling? What do you hear? Then... when the various thoughts come rushing in: hear them, then put them aside and come back to now. Bring yourself back to HERE, NOW. Right now... my neck is itchy. The sun feels warm on my face. That bird sounds like a crying baby. Breathe. IN 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, OUT 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
That's really all there is to it. Mindfulness, being present, being quiet and breathing fully for a few minutes a day, every day. Clear the clutter from your mind for a few minutes. Get the oxygen in. Be quiet.

Then, go about your crazy day, and come back to do it all again tomorrow. Try it for a week and come back and tell me it didn't help...