Focus on: Time Out

Look Within

look within and you will find
a way to calm the restless mind
seek a place where all is still
and in the quiet find the will
to silence the insistent sounds
to loosen all the earthly bounds
to banish the anxiety
and embrace joyful harmony
look within and you will find
a way to calm the restless mind
– pc 2005

Well, we have reached the dog days of August.  It’s still hot here in North Carolina and I want to go back to Alaska.   Each time I see my suitcases, I get this incredible urge to start packing,. but since it is not financially realistic to return to Alaska right now, we decided to go to our fallback plan – a week up north in our Pocono mountain haven and a visit with the family in New Jersey this fall. In between running away every now and then, I handle the stresses of life with meditation.  Meditation is like a time-out for grown-ups.  When we find ourselves moody or grumpy, overwhelmed by stress and the evening news, there is a place we can go to reset ourselves – our time-out spot  We don’t have to have a physical space set aside  for this,  although it is nice to have one.  I have a spot in my bedroom where I placed a lovely little table I picked up at a rescue mission,.I sanded it down,  painted it and placed on it some of my favorite things – framed quotes, special gifts from friends, a bowl of potpourri, a book of poetry, a candle and my i-Pod on which I have loaded guided meditations and music.  Underneath the table  I stow my cushion.

my meditation spot

My grandchildren tend to view the time-out spot as punishment as they are sent there  to reconsider their recent behavior but, in fact, even for them it is a positive thing – a little time to  de-stress, reconsider their actions, and move on.  And I know many adults who would look upon a period of time-out as punishment.  But it can be so much more a positive experience.

Meditation isn’t hard to do. I simply take a few deep breaths and gaze at the candle or close my eyes and try to clear my mind.  Concentrating on my breathing helps to bring me back if my chatterbox mind starts up again.  There are mantras we chant, (the famous “om”) and more involved types of breathing, but the important thing is  that you take a little time to connect with yourself. Don’t give up if you find yourself redirecting your mind back to  your breath ten times in ten minutes.  At first it is challenging, but the more you do it, the less you find you have to bring your focus back..  When the thoughts arise, just acknowledge them and let them go.  The nature of these thoughts may be an insight for you as to what is most on your mind, but for now shelve them and later examine what  your sitting time brought to mind and journal about it as  a way to put it in perspective.  Perhaps you’ve neglected calling your mom, or are worried about a current relationship.  Meditation can bring up these situations that you may have buried deep or put off dealing with.  It’s a message from your mind that some of your fatigue and stress may be related to unresolved conflict, and that maybe it is time to deal with them.

According to a recent article in Shambhala Sun magazine several studies have taken place i n a variety of universities, including Wake Forest, UCLA , The University of Massachusetts Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Results include reductions in pain intensity, a range of brain area with stronger neural connections and less atrophy than the control group, which could aid in the prevention of dementia, subjects completing mindfulness programs were less stressed and anxious, and those experiencing menopause found symptoms, including hot flashes reduced and after completing a meditation program there was increased gray matter density in the hippocampus, important in learning and memory and associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.

And that brings me back to  a recent post in which I  wrote about an awakened society being an enlightened one, and an awakened society recognizes the goodness within themselves and others.  And meditation plays a big part in this, as it is our chance to recognize that we and most people are basically good. The more time you spend getting to know yourself, the better you will like yourself.   (In the event you find out you really do not like yourself, then meditation can provide a path to fixing this, too) .And this improves our worldview, counters the constant barrage of bad news from the media and returns to us a sense of hope and a positive future for us all.

I think this is a pretty powerful payoff for taking  a few minutes out of each day to just sit and quiet your mind. We have a nice long weekend ahead. In between picnics and tail-gate parties, try to slip in a few minutes just for you.  If you have several months on your hands, try a walkabout. But if not, take a time-out, and give your mind a rest.  Namaste..

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