This column is the final in a series of lessons on health and reaching your optimum you!
Meditation: Get in touch with yourself.
Although I’m going to devote the least amount of space to this part of the triad – diet, exercise and meditation – that doesn’t diminish its importance.
For you, it may be the most important of the three.
The Judeo-Christian tradition may define meditation as seeking the mind of God or searching for the presence of Spirit. It is a personal practice for me, and I encourage you to do it.
But, unlike those who say you can pray anywhere, you cannot meditate while driving the car, or golfing, or fishing or throwing a baseball with your kids.
You must set yourself apart from the demands of your life. Jerk yourself from the gravitational pull of every little planet that insists you orbit around it.
Meditation can be, and sometimes is, silent prayer for me. I’m not verbalizing thoughts, but waiting for whatever the Spirit impresses on me.
Take a moment, catch your breath, hear yourself breathe. Inhale slowly and hold the breath, then exhale slowly.
I use a phone app that creates relaxing background noise for me. “Noise” is an insufficient word to describe the relaxing, centering effectiveness of the sounds of a mountain brook, or rain on a roof, or breezes over grasslands. But it’s not music. It is broad and indistinct enough that my mind does not focus on it, but rather it brushes out other distractions.
Recently when my anxiety was through the roof, I dialed up the sounds of rain on leaves. I let it play while I just relaxed.
Before, I might have roamed the kitchen in search of something to eat. I don’t use food to calm me much anymore.
I’m not totally sugar celibate, but now I’m the one in control, not the little sirens singing from Sugar Island.
Beyond spiritual life, meditation includes more of an intentional mindfulness of your moments. We rush through life to get to the next thing.
In the rush, we gobble food, slight relationships and relinquish to the insignificant more command of our life than it deserves.
Mindfulness doesn’t just mean slowing down. It means cultivating awareness to a higher degree, being mindful of your environment and your activity. Tell yourself to walk down the sidewalk and not step on a crack. Suddenly, you’re mindful that the sidewalk is made of sections. It is hard beneath your feet. You see the sections are not perfectly level and might even be upended where a tree’s roots grew beneath them.
If you are eating mindfully, you taste, savor and enjoy each bite. You’re not just eating lunch; you’re eating a salad. The salad has individual elements. The arugula tastes different from the spinach. The peas are overcooked, and the carrots could have used a little more steam.
You don’t drown all the elements with a dressing so that everything tastes “ranch.”
The concept of mindfulness is mainstream now. It’s everywhere you look. Be aware, slow down, move away from the frantic pace.
Taste your food. Feel its texture and temperature.
I don’t do fast food anymore, unless it’s a potato and chili at Wendy’s. If I wanted a French fry, I could have one. But I’d be happy with one and savor it.
Think of life in terms of savoring it. Each meal is a gift, each day an adventure, each moment a treasure. When you race through life, you race through meals; you miss moments, days, entire weeks. You devour your precious allocation of time with no appreciation.
Mindfulness allows me actually to enjoy and celebrate what I’m eating. This meal is sufficient. This meal provides me the nutrients and energy
I need to get to my next task or next meal.
If you eat beyond that, that’s probably the excess that becomes fat. If you eat slowly, you really do fill up with less food. It takes 20 minutes for your body to register “full” to your brain. So you can be beyond full before you’re aware you need to stop eating.
Think of all those holiday meals where we push away from the table barely able to stumble to the sofa and feel miserable all afternoon.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is an early and prominent writer in the field of mindfulness. He created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health and Society.
To him, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
When you begin to live with mindfulness, your moments will count.
Together, they will build a life.