Now that the season dedicated to Saint Spend-A-Lot is over, most of us could really use some psychological refreshment. The easiest, cheapest and safest way to take that chill pill is to meditate. Who wouldn’t like a little serenity, clarity and bliss?
Sounds good on paper. However, if you’re like me, the idea of meditation stresses you out—you picture having to find some deafeningly quiet place, fold your body into a pretzel and then spend at least an hour with your eyes closed repeating nonsensical words like “Om” while forcing yourself to let go of any extraneous thoughts like “Should I have bacon for breakfast?” or “Why is college basketball so much better than the NBA?”
But in truth, there are no real rules to quality, helpful meditation, and it isn’t hard—all you need is a few minutes, a reasonably mellow environment and a desire to release stress and feel calm and centered.
While “meditation” describes a variety of practices with a variety of goals, it usually involves turning the attention inward, or contemplation of the self. Our world is constantly screaming at us to work harder, work faster, look better, spend more, make more, do more, change, achieve, go, go, go. In meditation, nothing is expected of you, no one else is telling you what to do. The goal is to exit the frantic freeways of the outside world and take a leisurely stroll through the back roads of ourselves.
Begin by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Next, think about what you want to accomplish. Maybe you need to clear your head. Try closing your eyes and taking a few minutes to direct your attention to the rhythm of your breath, or repeat a statement like “It’s okay to relax.” It’s also perfectly okay if you need more of a focus. With the New Year fast approaching, why not meditate on the accomplishments you’ve made over the past 12 months? Or, after the high-fat holidays, maybe you need a body image booster. Spend a moment focusing on each body part and what you like about it (its shape, its strength, how it moves), flexing and releasing the object of attention as you move up from toes to scalp. Don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders—the point is allowing yourself the freedom to not expect anything of yourself. Dedicate three minutes, or an hour, whatever feels complete.
Many websites offer guided meditations (written or audio directions, sometimes combined with soothing music), such as Self-Image, Peace and Serenity, Healing or Fulfill Your Own Potential. Check out www.meditationsociety.com, www.learningmeditation.com or www.meditationcenter.com.
Clear out the mental clutter and start this New Year fresh and clean.