Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not THAT Kind of Yogi! 5 Easy Steps to Meditate your Troubles Away

Sometimes it is tough to get ourselves centered. You know what I am talking about; we start the day out behind the ball and find that we are chasing our tails all day long. Trust me; I lived a lot of years of my life like this. One of the best “things” that happened to me, was working in the Loop in Chicago. This is the busy business district. I could drive to work, get stuck on the Eisenhower, search for parking (lots of money) and then walk a couple of blocks to my building. Or, I could take the train. I had several offices while living in Chi-town. For a while I was really lucky, when the train had a stop right in the building I was working. Taking the train is an exercise in powerlessness. You are stuck, trapped, there is no way you can change lanes or take an alternate route to get where you want to go faster. It is taking the controls and handing them over to the conductor. And it is marvelous. Suddenly, delays are not your problem, you get to read, listen to music, or hang out with the regulars as you transition from work to home.

Why is this relevant to the yogi? When I think of the yogi, I think of a person, withered, sitting cross legged on the mountain top meditating. NOT ME! But you know what? All those years of taking the train gave me a built in “center time.” No matter if I caught the train in the last second before the doors closed – yeah, I was “that” girl for a while, or if I was organized and waiting patiently on the platform. One thing was certain, I was stuck doing nothing for a while once I stepped through those gliding doors. I was stuck getting centered. And it was great. Forced to slow down, stare out the window, mellow out, ponder. It was like having my own meditation moment. And it allowed me to be centered when I started my day and to unwind and re-center myself at the end of the day. Great.

Now, there are no trains in Jacksonville, where I teach college. So, I am stuck on the road. But I have learned taking 5 minutes before I start the day to do the following gives me the same sense of balance those train rides did.

1. Crawl back into bed – good start, right?
2. Keep the lights dimmed or off.
3. I light a couple of candles. Yes, I have remote controlled battery operated candles – this is due to my very sad penchant for accidentally burning things. Do not even ask about my fireplace mishaps.
4. Take a deep breath, hold it and blow it out. Repeat.
5. Try my very, very hardest to empty my mind… whatever, I have to try, right? One way to do this is to repeat a word or phrase. I like “All is well.” Pick one. It is hard to have racing thoughts when you are practicing repeating a word or phrase.

That’s it. Then I check the schedule, write out a few goals for the day, nothing too dramatic, and get on with it. Those few moments center me as well as those train rides used to, perhaps even more so because I am focused on emptying my mind. For me, I feel calmer and I obsess less on days when I meditate.

Researchers tell us that deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, our mellow, rest and digest system. This lowers heart rate, improves digestion, and improves the immune system. According to Psychology Today, meditation has been found to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. This is because meditation alters brain function. It moves your brain activity from your right frontal cortex to the left, which is calmer. This is not just psycho-mumbo-jumbo. It is science.

So, take the yogi challenge and try it. 5 minutes a day. And see how much better your day goes.