“Like too many of us, I mistook a busy life for a rich one.” ~ Anne D. LeClaire
In 2011, I read the book Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire and it impacted me greatly because she took time to be silent and go within. When I was retired, I thought I would have to time to do everything I wanted, but I was wrong. I quickly realized that I was stressed running from one activity to the next. I was just as busy, if not busier than when I worked full time and I realized it was not the ideal situation for leading a balanced life. So, I created a plan and took the month of April off from social engagements and activities. I used the time to get grounded, go slower, spend more time in silence, connect to nature and focused on answering the questions who I am and what do I want.
During the month of April, I didn’t schedule any activities – no yoga classes, no art classes, no lunches with friends, no meetings, no doctor’s appointments, no gatherings with friends, etc. It sounds just like what we are all having to do now, but I did it on purpose. It usually takes me a week to decompress and mindfully accomplish the things on my to do list and then for the next 3 weeks I focus on getting centered, being creative, reading spiritually, and cleansing my body, mind and spirit. After the month, I am rejuvenated and ready to tackle the world again from a calmer and more peaceful mindset.
Each of us has to determine how to wisely spend our time in quarantine. Here are the things that help me stay engaged and allow me to get grounded and at peace with myself. These might not work for you, but may give you ideas for things you can do to make the most out of this time.
How are you making the most of your time in quarantine?
Share ideas of things you are doing?
"The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” ~ Ajay Puri
Do you have a daily meditation practice? If you do great, keep it up, as the calm you bring to the world is contagious.
Are you a crisis meditator? A crisis meditator only meditates when life gets crazy. If you are a crisis meditator, now might be the time to get back into a meditation practice.
Are you a person who has never meditated, but are interested? Now might be a great time to start a mediation practice. In this blog, I will share some of my insights and a few meditation resources.
Meditation changed my life. I had never meditated when a friend sent me an email about a free 21-day meditation challenge. I ignored the email and said to myself, “I have a Type A personality, I am goal oriented and an ‘achiever’ and always on the go, there is no way I could sit still for a minute let alone thirty minutes.” I saw the friend again and she asked me if I had tried the meditation challenge and I said that I had not. So, I went home and said to myself, “I will listen to one day of the meditation challenge and then I can tell my friend it didn’t work for me.” I plugged in my headphones and listened to a man named davidji lead me in a guided meditation and I was hooked. I went back and listened to the series from the beginning, it was like coming home to a place of peace. Then, I signed up for a 3-day meditation retreat. I drank the Kool-aid as they say (No, meditation is not a religion or a cult, it way to live mindfully and more at peace).
Meditation changed my life; I became calmer, more grounded, less reactive, I learned to go with the flow. Meditation lowered my blood pressure and I went off all daily prescription medicines. That was 9 years ago and I have meditated every day since my first session. I took my meditation practice deeper and became a Certified Chopra Center Primordial Sound Meditation Instructor.
Do I still get angry, anxious and depressed? You bet, I am a human being and doing the best I can when life’s challenges arise. Meditation doesn’t take stress away; it helps you respond differently to the stressors in life. We will all have challenges in life and we are facing huge challenges now, but meditation helps me respond from a calmer place. I am now mindful and aware when I am letting my anxiety spin out of control and I recover much faster. I start each day with 30 minutes of mediation and it sets a peaceful tone for the rest of the day.
Many people who have tried meditation feel that they are doing it wrong. There are four things that can happen during a meditation.
People believe that when they meditate that thoughts will stop. I have NEVER had a meditation without thoughts. We have 60,000 thoughts a day, they just keep coming and they don’t stop during meditation. The thoughts slow down and the more I practice the better I get at having fewer thoughts during meditation, but everyone has thoughts during meditation. So, if you have thoughts during meditation, then give yourself a pat on the back because you are meditating correctly. We suggest that you repeat your mantra until you realize you are no longer repeating it and then GENTLY return to repeating your mantra – we do not berate ourselves during meditation. This is a time to be nice to yourself and give that Inner Critic a time-out.
It is easy to judge a meditation as good or bad, but that is not the point, nor what you should do. As Deepak Chopra says, “the only bad meditation is the one you don’t show up for.” The purpose is to show up daily for the meditation practice and you will see the benefits in how you react to the challenges in life during the rest of your day.
Let’s all find time each day to go to a place of silence and stillness with meditation so that peace and compassion spread throughout the planet.
Do you have a daily meditation practice?
“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.” ~Susan Sontag
I wish I had a magic wand and could tell you what will happen with the coronavirus and how it will impact each of us, but I don’t. What I plan to do with this blog and future blogs is share techniques that have worked for me during other challenging times. I hope they offer you some ideas, practices and ways to cope. Plus, I hope that after each blog post, you click on Comment and share your ideas on the topic, so we can all learn and grow because we are all in this together.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a child, I thought that if I just controlled everything at home, then things would be fine and my parents wouldn’t be angry, drink or give me the “silent treatment.” I tried to be the perfect child, kept the house clean, cooked the meals, stayed quiet and didn’t make a mess. I falsely believed that I had control over life situations and their outcome. However, as I have matured (okay at least aged), I have come to understand that I didn’t have any control over my home life as a child and I don’t have control over anything in my life now except my reaction to what is happening. We are living in uncertain times, no one knows what is going to happen. Even if you didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family, most of us try to control life and we plan and think if we do X, Y, and Z then everything will be fine and we will be secure and happy. Covid-19 is teaching all of us that we are not in control.
One of the ways I have dealt with uncertain times in my life is through journaling. Daily journaling is the best, but the reality is that I only get to it a few days a week. Journaling allows me to express exactly what I am feeling, without filters, as I know that no one else is going to read what I write. I can express my anger, rage, fears, depression, anxiety or any other emotion I am experiencing. My cousin, Ashley Updegraff, just wrote a passionate Pandemic blog entry about how mad, sad and worried she is about the current situation. Ashley shares, "It’s okay for you to voice your frustration and your anger and your grief. It’s okay for you to share your worries and concerns. It’s more than okay—it’s necessary." You don’t have to share what you are writing with anyone like she did, but the point is that she authentically expressed what she is feeling and so should you.
Expressing emotions is very important, because as I child I learned that we should stuff our emotions. As an adult, I know that stuffing emotions is bad for our health and it invalidates our feelings. Suppressing emotions puts physical stress on the body that can lead to issues with memory, aggression, anxiety and depression. Journaling helps me to validate my feelings and express them so I get them out and they do not become trapped in my body. Many times, just expressing my emotions in the journaling process makes me feel better. I also use journaling to express positive emotions and all I am grateful for in life.
A journal is a listening device. It is our friend. Mina Murray states, “Journaling is like whispering to one's self and listening at the same time.” As I journal, answers or ideas about ways to deal with my anger or worries come to me through the pen. I don’t always get the answers right away, but if I pay attention and am open to listening for answers they appear in unique ways. I might get an email message or text that has just what I need to hear, or I am with a friend who shares something they learned and it was just what I was writing about in my journal. The more often I journal, the more easily the answers come to me.
If you don’t currently have a journaling practice, you might want to know how to start. I just simply start free-flow writing. I set a minimum limit of two pages of college-ruled paper or you can set a time limit. You can set a 10-minute timer if that works better as a minimum – I usually write longer than that, but if you are just beginning you want to make sure you don’t give up too soon. I don’t judge what I am writing, I just let it flow. In the beginning, I would write things like “I don’t know why I am writing. I don’t have anything to say.” But, as I continued to write the thoughts that popped into my head, the deeper issues, fears, concerns or gratitude would start to come out. As with anything in life, it takes practice. I know some people find it difficult, but I think it is worth giving it a chance to see the benefits. Now is the perfect time to try journaling if you are quarantined. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Share your journaling process and how it helps you process the uncertainties of life.
"Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness" ~ Anni Albers
The hardship that the Corona Virus has on you, your family, friends and our community is not like anything we have seen before. We all have to process these uncertain times in our own way. We each have the responsibility to be conscious in our decision-making and our responses. We also have to understand we each process things differently and have compassion for one another.
Since most of us are on self-quarantine, I am challenging you to be creative. After you are tired of binge-watching television shows and movies and playing computer games, you can do something creative. Doing something creative takes you to place where you can lose track of time and gives your mind a rest from your worries.
If you already like to do something creative, then do it. I started painting in my 30’s with a cheap set of Crayola watercolors - search your home for any art supplies you may have, all you need is a pencil. You can draw or doodle, quilt, knit, play music, dance, sing or whatever brings you happiness.
If you say “I’m not an artist” or “I can’t draw a stick figure” then be creative with photography. Most of you have a cell phone that has a great camera. If the weather is nice, go outside and take pictures. The sun can give you healing energy and change your mindset too.
If you can’t go outside, then scroll through the thousands of pictures you already have on your camera roll and use the photo editing on your cell phone to enhance them and make them artistic. If you don’t know how to use the editing features on your phone then perform a Google search and you will find lots of free tutorials and YouTube videos on how to use the tools.
My favorite editing app for both iPhone and Android is Snapseed and it is FREE. The app itself has tutorials – simply click on the three dots and there is a link to tutorials to teach you how to use many of the tools to enhance your photography. And there are lots of great tutorials and YouTube videos on the Internet if you perform another Google search. I have posted some of the images I created in Snapseed on this blog post.
I challenge you to engage the right side of your brain and share your creativity with the rest of us, so we can see and hear something fun from you during these challenging times.
Stay safe and healthy and be creative and share your creativity with the rest of us!
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.