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Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

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    I was a sporadic meditator at best for years, only to really commit to meditation when, just after turning 39, I discovered a mass in my right breast.

    From the point of discovery of the mass to getting the necessary tests, waiting for results, waiting for surgery, waiting to see if the newly diagnosed cancer had spread to lymph nodes, waiting to see what treatment I would have, and so much more, there were times that I didn’t think I could physically tolerate much more anxiety. I knew I had to do something to manage the stress and that I would need to make it a way of life. One of the weapons I chose was meditation.

    Now before this, my thoughts about meditation followed the lines of, Everybody says that this is a healthy thing. I probably should be doing it. Some of the people who talk about meditation seem a little flaky. I guess I sit here and watch my breathing. Am I doing this right? Is this doing anything at all? Oh, look, there’s another article on the benefits of meditation. I guess I should give it another try.

    After the diagnosis of cancer, I began meditating regularly. Sometimes I missed a day or two, but I kept returning to the practice. What I found was that, while I didn’t notice results overnight, eventually I noticed a few improvements:

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    • A calmer mind. If my mind was frantically hopping from thought-to-thought (“monkey mind” or “wild mind”) at the beginning of a meditation session, by the end, it was always at least slightly calmer.
    • A brief rest from being anywhere other than the present. When my mind was filled with anxiety, it was always about that moment of time in the future that I might die or hear that I’d lost my job or something else. While in meditation, time and thought ceased.
    • Increased awareness of mental and physical state. I became more aware of my emotional reactions. A benefit of meditation is that it can help you almost step outside of yourself during a crisis and note things like “my stomach feels tight” or “my agitation over my boss’s email is really escalating.” Meditation seems to make you more aware of the choice to slow down and choose your reaction rather than just be helplessly tossed by patterned waves of emotion.

    Fear and the Unknown

    I had the opportunity to speak with spiritual counselor and meditation teacher Don Simmons about meditation, and he echoed my findings about meditation and fear. “Meditation can help someone move through fear. When you deal with the unknown, meditation helps you observe everything that takes place without judgment. Then you move from reaction to action.”

    Right now, most of us are dealing with a great deal of the “unknown.” With ubiquitous reports of a failing economy, layoffs, and families in despair, we may wonder if we’re going to be the next casualty.

    As Don told me, meditation enables you to tell yourself what is real and what is not. When you focus on breathing, you are focusing on one of the most basic ingredients of life. You are silently reminded that “My fears are not reality. I am here, right now. This is what truly matters–that I am alive, that I have wellness, that I feel good.” A wise friend once told me, “any time you worry, you are living someplace other than the present.”

    Surprise: Meditation Helps with Productivity!

    I would wager that many interested in productivity don’t immediately think of meditation. After all, you’re just sitting there, aren’t you? How is that productive?

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    What I have found is that there can be as much false economy with time and energy as there can be with money. If I work four, 16-hour days in an attempt to get ahead, I’ll ultimately wind up more tired and less productive than if I maintain balanced days.

    In discussing this phenomena with Don Simmons, he described humans as having a masculine and feminine side. “It’s not about being straight or gay; it’s about listening and talking, hearing and creation.” Your feminine side is that which dreams, incubates, and expands. Your masculine side is the action and manifestation. Don illustrated this with a boat: The rudder (feminine) guides the boat and asks the question “where do I want to go?” whereas the  engine (masculine) follows through with the physical action to get you to your destination.

    The key, says Don, is to be in perfect harmony.

    And surely you’ve experienced harmony. Do you remember a time in which everything just seemed to click? You were “in flow.” You seemed to have the Midas touch. You were on top of the world! This balance, this flow, is necessary for continued productivity without exhaustion.

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    So How Do I Meditate?

    I have a few techniques that I use, but the most basic is simply to sit in a chair or on the floor and focus on my breathing. I use a digital timer that I set for 10 or 15 minutes. What does it mean to focus on your breathing? Literally, focus on each breath as it enters your nose, slowly expands your lungs, and then leaves your body. Breathe naturally. If you wish, you can tailor this to your desires, such as saying silently, “I breathe in peace; I exhale stress.” This is a simple technique but very effective. Later you can become more advanced and read about hand positions (mudras), sitting positions, etc., but they are unnecessary for a successful beginning meditation practice.

    What is absolutely necessary to meditate:

    1. Choose a position that will respect your practice and keep you from falling asleep. Honor your body and bring integrity to your practice. Don says that “when you are in meditation, you are meeting yourself.” If you were meeting someone you respect, you would likely make sure your body is clean and neat and dressed in clean clothes. You wouldn’t slouch.
    2. Try to meditate daily. Meditation, like learning a language, isn’t for the weekend warrior. It is better to have short sessions of 5-10 minutes daily than sporadic, long sessions.

    How Do I Know I’m Doing it Right?

    Did you fall asleep? Did you get up before your time was up? Do you feel at least slightly better after meditation than you did before? You’re doing it right. The goal is to simply focus on your breathing, releasing thoughts as they come. Attempt to stay in a state of compassion and nonjudgment.

    Don shared an interesting illustration of work he has done as an animal trainer. As soon as the dog finally performed the trick, he was rewarded, and the training for the day abruptly ended. Why? Because the dog “got” it. You want to end on a positive note. Essentially, “you are training your mind for success,” says Don.

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    Training your mind for success–an idea that’s absolutely in harmony with productivity! And If you still feel meditation is a little too “out there” for you, then consider the recent research that reveals actual physical changes in the brains of those who meditate compared with those who don’t. Here are a few supportive articles and sites that may help convince you that meditation is a worthwhile habit:

    The Benefits of Meditation – Psychology Today

    For Stress Reduction, Just Say Ommm – CNN

    How Monks Find Their Happy Groove – CNN

    The Mystic Path – Don Simmons

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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