Saturday, December 22, 2012

Take Time for Meditation, by my Uncle Gene

People often talk about how "stress-full" the holidays are. How can that be? Holidays are days off from the serious business of making a living and getting things done, supposedly giving us time to think about the things that really matter. We are all caught in the grind of trying to get more and more done in less and less time, and there are never enough days in any week to get done all the things on your "To Do" list for that week. 

The best time management technique I know is also the best stress buster. Set aside ten minutes every day where you will not be disturbed or easily distracted. Find a quiet place, and sit and meditate. Think first about your breathing: breathe deeply, and for a few minutes, count your breaths. You may want to spend a few minutes deliberately relaxing each part of your body, beginning with your toes, and progressing to the top of your head. You may want to focus on a plant that you can see, or a blank wall. You may find a mantra helpful, something as simple as: "There is nothing I have to do right now, there is no place I have to be right now." Whatever trials and tribulations your life has brought you, right now is a moment of tranquillity, when you are neither concerned about the past or the future. Devote ten minutes a day for a week to this simple practice, and you may find you want to make it a permanent part of your day, and you may find you want another ten minutes in the evening, or some other time when you can get away from it all, and focus simply on the joy of being alive.

As Gail Sheehy wrote many years ago, "there are predictable crises in adult life." There are also unpredictable crises, and concerns that may become more serious as you age. Every time you have a doctor's appointment, you may hear something you would prefer not to hear, maybe something you thought only happened to other people. We have our lives parceled out to us one day at a time, and each day is something of a little life, an entity complete to itself. It may be helpful to reflect that as long as we exist we are in motion towards something, but that we should also "delight" in what we have, what we have accomplished, and what we hope to do.

One of my meditating friends of fifty years passed away last week. His dying words were: "I am ready to go, but I am not eager to go." There have been giants of the spiritual life who have looked upon life and death with equanimity, and written words like these: "Let nothing disturb thee, nothing terrify thee: all things are passing, God never changes." While atheists might ask what God has to do with it, and theologians might debate the unchangingness of God, there is a point to having an anchor somewhere where nothing will disorient or overcome you, and the daily practice of meditation may help you reach that point. 

Even in these busy weeks, set aside ten minutes where you will not be disturbed. Take stock of your life: do you do some things that aren't really necessary? Are there things you know you should do that you have not taken time for? Do you set aside some time each day for yourself, for your own mental and emotional health? Meditation may do more than any other practice to put you on the path to taking control of your time and your life. Don't wait. Your life, and the meaningfulness of your life,  depends on it...

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