By Deb Avery
So many people today are angry, sad, frightened and anxious.
Simply listening to or reading the news is enough to cause intense feelings that wreck havoc with our minds, body and spirit. When you are introverted and deeply emphatic, as I am, it can sometimes be enough to push you over the edge.
Over the years I have had to find ways to cope with these intense feelings of sadness, grief and anger that sometimes flood my mind. I had to find a way to calm myself not only during personal crises, but also for when the issues of today, the disasters, hatred, violence and injustice are almost overwhelming.
The technique I use is very simple and available to anyone—simple, but not easy (and certainly not at first). Even to this day I sometimes struggle depending on the extremity of the situations that life can bring.
But one thing I have found is that no matter what, if I can quiet my mind, I can find peace and a mindful way of dealing with life’s issues and the distressing emotions that come with them.
What is this thing—this technique I have found? It is simply sitting with what is in silence.
When I feel lost, saddened, overwhelmed or angry, I sit alone in some place quiet. Somewhere that will give me the space I need to just be for however long, for ever how many deep, long breaths it takes, to find a place of peace in my heart.
We all need a scared, quiet space. A place where we feel safe and can breathe easier. My favorite two places are either out in nature or in my combination bedroom/study. There are good, restorative vibes in either place for me. And often, depending on the situation and the time frame I have to work within, I will stay for an hour—or longer.
I stay until the emotions and feelings have passed, or at least somewhat eased. I stay until I feel the pressure lifting from my chest and in my heart and mind. I stay as long as it takes.
It took a long time for me to be able to figure out how to do this—this alchemy of the mind, breath, emotions and sitting. And even after all these years, something will rock me to the core and the beginner inside me cries for relief. It is then that I have to go back to the basics once more.
But that’s the beauty of this simple practice. We can always go back to the beginning—the basics.
It took me a couple of years of struggling to finally get this simplistic, yet effective practice to come second nature to me. Even after many, many years, I can still lose it. My emotions can get the better of me and I find myself struggling again.
But now, after much practice, it isn’t long before I go to my quiet place and get things balanced out once more. At least for awhile.
Most of you are familiar with, or adept at, meditation. And this is basically the same. The difference is this is not necessarily Buddhist, Zen or any other form of meditation. It doesn’t have a Sanskrit name or any special language. It’s simply a way to self-calm. It’s available for everyone and requires no special knowledge, symbols or fancy rituals.
However we can customize it to suit our and our beliefs, customs and way of life.
First of all, find a place in your home, your yard or simply sitting outside, where you feel most at peace. Any space can be sacred. It is our intentions that make it so. Even a closet or a patch of earth can be turned into a sacred space.
My bedroom/study is not a large room, but there is space there. And I have made that space sacred by rituals, thoughts, intentions and not allowing negative vibes to accumulate.
Only during extreme heat or cold is my window closed. I love the open window and the flowing of air to clear out stagnant energy. There is an “altar” in my room with things that mean a lot to me. I am eclectic in my practice and you can find Buddha sitting right beside a statue of a female deity/goddess. And next to that are all kinds of stones, rocks and other objects I’ve found in nature.
What you have on your “altar” (or table if you’re not comfortable with the word altar) doesn’t matter as long as it has meaning to you. A simple candle or flower will do. Experiment and choose what makes you feel peaceful and sacred.
It can also be a completely unfurnished room. This will be YOUR sacred space. You get to decide what makes it sacred for you.
If you are outside—the world is your altar/sacred space. A plant, tree or rock can be a source of peace and help your mind to settle and calm itself. Or if you prefer, you can bring something special outside with you. This is not a one size fits all. Do what makes you feel comfortable, safe and calm.
Secondly, dress comfortably. There is no need for robes, yoga pants or any “special” clothing unless it has meaning to you. Still, it needs to be comfortable. We cannot breathe deeply and relax our minds and bodies in uncomfortable clothing. Loose and breathable is best, but anything that allows you move and breath deeply is fine.
Thirdly, if you are not used to meditating, don’t expect any big changes for awhile. It may even feel uncomfortable for the first few times. This is completely normal. Just sit quietly and patiently with your feelings, thoughts and emotions without judging yourself, or anyone else.
Just be. Just feel. Just flow.
Learn to let the intense emotions flow through you, out and away from you, just like a leaf flows gently in the wind. Take deep, calming breaths. We can follow a simple little formula to help us relax by breathing in to the count of seven, exhaling to the count of eight, and then inhaling once more to the count of seven. Do this as often as you need to still your mind, open up your heart and calm yourself. After that breathe deeply and stay with your breath. Breathing in, breathing out. In and out.
Find what works for you. We are all unique. Some people are great at going longer. Some of us actually find ourselves getting anxious when we breathe too deeply or hold an exhale too long. Work with your breath until you find what works for you.
Lastly, find the time. Even if at first we only sit for five minutes—sit for five minutes. Then, as you become comfortable with five minutes—go for eight, then 10, then 30—and then longer. Sit until you feel better, calmer and more at peace.
This simple little practice will not change the world, but it will change us and how we react to things in the world.
And that is how we can find peace and remain compassionate and kind beings in a world gone mad.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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