Sunday, January 1, 2012
Turn, Turn, Turn
Will get back on the scale tomorrow. Honest. Today is the back half of “Glutton Days”, the first step in HCG protocol. I don’t think I need to eat another cheeseburger for a while. Which is good.
Happy New Year, may 2012 be YOUR year (we’ll ignore the Mayan “it all ends on Dec. 21” crap for the moment because, I’m thinking, they taught Harold Camping the method for calculating the end of the world (Harold Camping – 2 missed Rapture dates in 2011. Probably forget to carry the 1).
What I’m about to say is not a news flash: we live in stressful times. As an American, I know a LOT of people taking anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs. I listen to my friends talk about the challenges of their lives: increasing prices for food, gas, housing and paychecks are not rising as fast. Jobs going overseas or just disappearing. I’m of an age where I have friends caring not only for a growing/maturing family, but also for parents. I have a couple of friends who are the top of 3 (or 4) generations in their household. Granted, we’re Americans and as such, we are in better shape than most of the world: we have ready access to shelter (well, most of us), an abundance of nutritious food (and Cheetohs) and clean, safe drinking water without sweating it too hard. We have first world stresses.
But we do have stress. There are more and more studies linking stress to health issues (not just anxiety and depression) such as coronary heart disease, elevated blood pressure and even some cancers. We’re sleeping less (and sleep, 8 hours of it, is basically a wonder drug as far as improving health) and worrying more. Adrenaline and cortisol, which stress produces, are hard on the system: if you’re in fight or flight mode all the time, it’s going to wear you down. Your mind gets to be like a hamster on Red Bull running on his little wheel: you just can’t shut it down.
It’s okay. This can be fixed.
Okay, so, we’re in the first 24 hours of a brand-new year (unless you’re on the other side of the International Date Line and it’s already 2 January. G’day. 30 years ago, I visited you for 6 months. What I won’t do to escape winter). I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions (memories of my Dad telling me what I was going to do for the year), but I know a lot of people promise themselves that they will take steps to improve their health: quitting smoking, exercising more, losing weight, basically the Holy Trinity of resolutions.
Let’s add a sidekick to them: a Robin to their Batman. Or Kato to their Green Hornet (the Bruce Lee version of Kato): Meditation.
Mediation has the effect of quieting the mind. It has also been shown to decrease respiratory rate, increase blood flow and slow the heart rate, lead to a deeper level of relaxation, enhance energy and 96 other benefits (see http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/100-benefits-of-meditation/ from where I got those benefits listed). It’s a really good tool to have in your health toolbox.
Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary defines meditation this way:
“: the act or process of spending time in quiet thought : the act or process of meditating. “
The term usually brings to mind a group of Buddhist monks in full lotus poses and saffron robes, eyes closed and chanting. However, there are different ways to practice meditation that do not involve shaving one’s head and renouncing worldly things.
I have difficulty sitting, clearing my mind and keeping thoughts from running through. It’s like this: My brain is a Mom with a five year old child and twin 3 year olds (gender is not important). Meditating is that Mom on the phone and the thoughts that keeping intruding and won’t stop are the kids who constantly interrupt the phone call despite being told not to. And the interruptions are all random issues. I can sit down to meditate and find myself wondering whether I have peanut butter in the house or what the name of that guy was that I saw on “Law & Order” and then on some other TV show and whether I need to do laundry. When I took acting class in college, meditation was part of the training. The professor described clearing the mind as visualizing a windshield wiper in action. I can clear it, but those damned twins start tugging on my sleeve asking for cookies (thank God, they’re potty trained).
Meditation can also take an active form: undertaking an activity, focusing on that and allowing the mind to clear. Reciting the Rosary, for example. Okay. I’m not Catholic.
No, this is not a maze. Mazes are puzzles. The labyrinth is a meditation tool that’s been in existence for centuries. If you’ve studied Greek mythology, you’ve probably heard of the Minotaur who lived in a labyrinth. I don’t think he was praying BUT the Cathedral of Chartres has a very famous labyrinth as part of its floor.
A few years ago, when I was in Portland, OR for a while, I came across labyrinths. The New Renaissance Center had a lady bring in a large canvas with a five circuit course painted on it. As I walked the course, I found myself breathing in time to my steps and focusing on the path. Those pesky thoughts about peanut butter, Ron Leibman and dirty socks stayed far away. When I got to the center, I closed my eyes, mentally recited the Lord’s Prayer and followed the path back out.
Like I said, today is New Year’s Day and I’m about to undertake a whole new year. Think of an Olympic diver on the platform. You’ll see him (or her) stop for a moment before beginning the dive. He’s mentally preparing himself for the task . To me, starting 2012 by taking some time to clear, calm and visualize where I want the year to go seemed a great idea. I went to the beach (too many noisy people today, but the rhythm of the waves and the smell of the air are very soothing to the soul). I still wanted to meditate. Unable to sleep at 4:30 this morning (the joy of hot flashes), I came across Joel Osteen. I’m not a fan of televangelists, but he has an appealing message about visualizing where you want to go and how your path and intentions will follow the course blazed by your thoughts and words. “Declare victory over your life.” He was speaking specifically of a man who lost a lot of weight (naturally, my attention was caught) and who had affirmed “I weigh what I should weigh.” This seemed like something good to focus on in meditation.
Through www.veriditas.org, I found a labyrinth close to where I live (Prince of Peace Church on Rudnick Ave in West Hills) that was open to the public.
(Cell phone picture. I don’t have the hotsie totsie fish eye lens kit for IPhone. I also don’t have an IPhone). This is a beautiful, peaceful location.
As I walked in, I mentally recited “I weigh what I should weigh” and “I am thin, successful and fit.” On the way out, I found myself thinking “Thank” with every step of the left foot and “you” with every step of the right. And I was at peace as I walked out.
It’s not necessary to actually walk a labyrinth. You can print one off the internet from the Google images, like the first picture, and trace the course with your finger. There is no “right” method: I’ve walked them mentally reciting the Lord’s Prayer, saying “thank you”, thinking “clear and calm” with each step or just focusing on steps and breathing.
I also find it beneficial for problem solving. In addition to this enchanting blog, I write fiction and there are times I have trouble figuring out the next step or what a character is going to say in order to move the story forward or to unjam the flow of things. Putting that on the back burner, then hitting a labyrinth (even tracing on paper) will help me come up with a solution.
Through ITunes, Amazon MP3 and Zune (which will be going extinct. DAMMIT), you can find guided meditation, self-hypnosis, ocean wave sounds, rainstorms (if that’s what calms you…), music for meditation from classical to drumming. Something’s bound to fit.
A lot of folks believe they don’t have time to meditate or the ability to sit still for long periods (Yo). 5, 10 minutes, that’s all you need. Nothing living can run non-stop; dropping dead is a certainty. Pausing to refuel, to cool off, to rest is essential. Meditation helps with that. For those of us who have trouble down-shifting enough to clear and calm, a labyrinth will act as a mental clutch, helping to disengage and then re-engage the gears without tearing up the transmission.
Put it to you this way: if one of your stressors is the increasing cost of Zoloft and a small, free activity could help you shed the need for the prescription, isn’t it worth 5 or 10 minutes to try it out? You’ve got nothing to lose, except $86.00 a month to Pfizer.
Happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful New Year to you.
Posted by Susan Thatcher at 4:15 PM