I recently completed a 21-day, guided meditation provided by Deepak Chopra and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). As I opened my eyes on the last day, I felt empty, almost let down. I asked myself: “Why?” The answer came very quickly. It was the first time, in a long time, I had allowed myself to really relax and let go. I actually had set aside half an hour each day to just be quiet and listen.
It wasn’t easy at the start. Thoughts would swirl up like a swarm of bees. I had to gently brush them away.
It wasn’t until 10 minutes or so into it that I could feel the tightening in my arms and legs begin to give way. As I followed my breath, I noticed it became more regular. As the air flowed in and out, I began to realize how out of sync I had been with my own existence. Eventually I jump-started the practice on my own, and it has recharged my life.
We are bombarded on a daily basis by sounds, requests, demands, obligations and news. These ever-present stimuli can be extremely stress-producing. It is easy to not only become distracted, but to become used to the negative feelings all this bombardment produces. Adrenaline and cortisol begin to run our lives. Stress becomes less of a motivator and more of a curse.
With these daily meditations I realized I was barely getting things done while playing catch up all the time. It was like sitting at a red light with my internal engine in overdrive. I knew if I continued in this manner, I would eventually burn out.
I think sometimes we forget that stress is an energy created from many sources: our thoughts, our assumptions, our environment, the weight of our responsibilities and our relationships. If we don’t take the time to occasionally examine these sources, we run the risk of becoming addicted to the stress they create or, worse, losing ourselves and a sense of purpose.
Ask yourself, “Do I have a safe place in my home to unwind? Do I take time during the workday to unplug from the noise and hectic schedule? Am I able to say 'no?' Are my expectations of myself and others causing me to feel a constant sense of disappointment and/or frustration? Have I lost interest in things that I love or that used to matter?” Your answers should tell you a lot about what you need to do next.
Years ago, my husband, formerly a photo-journalist, decided to take up landscape painting. With his photographer’s eye it wasn’t long before he was sharing his views of the Ashland rolling foothills in beiges, browns, violets and greens. My favorite still hangs in our bedroom. It is a simple painting off Eagle Mill Road looking towards Mount Ashland. At the base of the painting sits a familiar octagonal sign. It reads STOP — sending a bright red message with a sense of urgency. And then you see the hills rising above the sign and suddenly — there you are — in the present.
Find your now. It is in the afternoon pauses, the short walks, music in the headphones, a half-hour comedy, maybe dinner with good friends. Don’t forget to play. Run with the dog. Play hide and seek with the cat. Read to your children. Make s’mores. And, on a daily basis, don’t forget to put the work away and, if you can, learn how to meditate.
As the mountains reach up into the clouds gathering water from the sky to send
down to the lakes and rivers
to flow into streams
thank the mountains and the heavens
thank the clouds for their benevolence
earth molds and forms according to the laws of the universe
as do we
Lucie K. Scheuer is a writer, substance abuse counselor, and owns a consulting business for nonprofits in the Rogue Valley, “Silver Lining Solutions.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.