Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oh, The Stress! Get A Jump On 2013.

Stress affects everything in our bodies. Not only do stressful events affect our blood pressure, but the chemicals released in extremely stressful situations keep a body on guard and always ready to run. This response, if engaged often and long term, can affect our heart, circulatory system, and the health of our organs.

Many people go on antidepressants or sedatives for chronic stress which can make you less prone to meltdowns, but meditation, or put more simply, a 10 minute “timeout” can be just as beneficial without the side effects of drugs.

There are all kinds of meditation practices that can be performed with accompanying mantras, positive visualizations or music, but Zen Meditation (also called Zazen) is simple and beneficial. It takes absolutely no effort but to sit and clear your thoughts. That’s it. Breathe.

Zen meditation can be practiced sitting, standing, or even walking and the point is to focus on nothing but breathing and stillness. The Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains in New York offers free Zazen instructions on their website 

If you aren’t inclined to meditate Buddhist style, that’s not a problem. Find a place, preferably a quiet place in nature, and focus on 10 minutes of silence. When you first start out, you might find the 10 minutes to drag while you shift and cough and scratch your nose or anything else that you can distract yourself with. This is the exact reason that you need 10 minutes of silence. You will sleep better, bring down blood pressure, and have a clearer sense of being. Each day, sit and let the random thoughts float through, but learn to let them flow by, at least for that 10 minutes. That time is all yours. Don’t let anything distract you.

If you absolutely can’t sit still for 10 minutes, you might consider some type of moving meditation. I do better with movement. My knees bug me when I sit for too long, so I’ve chosen to practice qigong. It’s a slow movement choreographed with breathing that keeps me occupied while clearing the junk from my head. After trying all types of traditional meditation, and not being able to stop my “monkey mind,” qigong has really slowed me down for the mere fact that I can move around while being silent.

There are lots of qigong DVD’s available, but for free you can watch your choice of hundreds of  clips on youtube. Checkout the 8 silk brocades, a short and simple group of exercises known to move vital energy through the meridians bringing better health. This is a great place to start your qigong practice. 

My message here is that if you’re stressed out, it is affecting your body. I dodged meditation for years because I said that I couldn’t relax, but I just got more and more jacked up in the meantime. After focusing on learning to let go, my demeanor got calmer, and I even stopped drinking coffee! Life is calmer, my blood pressure is normal, and I sleep like a baby. It all began with just 10 minutes a day. 

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