Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lessons from a Month of Getting Quiet

I have mixed feelings about leaving March and my theme of mindfulness behind. The month spent trying to get quiet, calm,  and focused while paying attention to my inner voice and uncovering heart's desires has been both frustrating and enlightening. The first week I was sleepy, the second week I was cranky, the third week I began to make progress, and the fourth week was kind of magical.

Here's a quick summary of what I learned from the experience and then - on to April, when I am switching it up big time!

1. Quiet feels strange. At the beginning of March I banished TV, news and excessive internet use from my life and then I didn't know what to do with myself.  I knew my life was noisy and cluttered, but I was surprised to find how uncomfortable the peace and quiet felt at first.

2. Sleep is a beautiful thing. If you find you can't keep your eyes open when you first try to get centered and calm, it's probably because you're exhausted. Our minds are so chock full of to-do lists and fretting, it's no surprise that when we finally stop to take a breath, all we really want to do is take a nap. Don't fight it - get the Z's you need.

3. Meditation - Just Do it. For all you skeptics out there that think meditation is a new-age, touchy-feely, mumbo-jumbo, slacker waste of time, I say this - just try it. After just a month, I feel calmer, more confident, and happier! The benefits don't stop there. According to the Mayo Clinic,
"Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and improve certain medical conditions."
4. Meditation takes practice. If meditation makes you feel bored, frustrated, scattered, or stupid - don't get discouraged. I've found it takes time and repetition to get into rhythm; just keep at it for a few minutes each day. And don't think you have to just sit there with your legs crossed, chanting "ohm." There are lots of ways to be mindful including yoga or going for a walk. The point is to fully experience the present moment, take a break from all the planning, guilt and worry, and relax.

5. Tip - Use a Playlist as a Timer. One of my biggest blocks to meditating was that I constantly worried about what time it was. Had 5 minutes passed? Had 30? I couldn't relax unless I knew. I tried setting a timer, but I'd finally get settled and it would beep and ruin the whole thing. Finally, I made a playlist of calming music, and now I just select the number of songs I have time for (usually 5-6 songs, or 20 minutes.) When the music stops playing, I can stop or continue in silence.

6. Pictures are Powerful. If you read my last entry, you know that my vision board workshop has already produced real events in my life. I'm still blown away that I ending up swimming in a cave only days after putting a similar picture on my vision board. But we humans are visual creatures, and being specific about what we want and picturing that thing in our life is much more powerful than writing a goal on a piece of paper. But you have to decide what you want! ( I'm still working on that part.)

Make sure you visualize what you really want, not what someone else wants for you."

- Jerry Gillies

7. Write it Out. I spent a lot of time writing in my journal this month. I've kept a journal since I was 15 and I still have each and every volume I've ever written in a box in my closet. Every once in a while I'll pull them out and frankly, it's awful reading. I'm a sniveling whiner, I'm horribly self-absorbed, I use terrible grammar. But the power of my journal lies in the act of writing it - the finished product is irrelevant. I work out all my problems on the page and venting there never fails to cheer me up. I'm sure it has saved thousands of dollars in psychiatry fees!

I'm not sure how profound all these realizations are - I know I'm just scratching the surface - but that's what I've learned this month. Now, I'm already a week into April and it's time to switch gears. Check back in a couple days, because now that I'm all centered and in touch with myself, I am getting out of the house and into the world, and honey, I'm looking for some inspiration!

No comments: