"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet." -James Oppenheim
Today is very special. Besides being your "un-birthday", it's the first day of the rest of your life.
We've all heard that one. We acknowledge the wisdom and move on --- checking our watches and calendars to see how long before the "good stuff" starts happening.
Our impatience and anxiety prevent us from focusing our awareness on "now". As a result we never discover it's full potential or give ourselves permission to enjoy it.
We recognize many important holidays on the calendar; Christmas, New Years etc...and these are the times when we have permission to celebrate.
Surprisingly, many people report having "depression" around the holidays. Could it be that our enjoyment muscles have grown flabby or that we've been driving ourselves nuts to get there.
Just as we don't have permission to enjoy "now", we also don't have permission to enjoy "here". We can't wait to go on vacations to visit the "good places"
We're certainly not allowed to enjoy our jobs. We want to move on so that we get to be with the "smart people".
Within any given day, certain places and times are more important than others: --- getting to work --- and once we're there --- getting home. Meal times are "biggies" --- important events. Is it any wonder that many of us have weight problems.
Where am I going with this? We shouldn't go to work? We shouldn't eat?
No. Go ahead and do all those things. You'll do them much better when you learn to slow down and connect. The difference is that you'll feel better about things.
Connect to what?
To "here" and "now": Our immediate experience separated from what the Zen masters call "the monkey mind" --- our obsessive conceptualizing and labeling of things.
The ability to practice "non-thinking" and focus on immediate experience is called "mindfulness". In other words, when you're washing the dishes, you're washing the dishes.
Non-thinking is not easy. It's a habit which has to be learned. The key is attention to our breathing. It provides something on which to focus.
Starting your day with a daily "non-thinking" exercise or meditation is the best thing you can do if you want to connect. It provides a fresh image of what it feels like to relax. You can accomplish this in as little as ten minutes or even less once you're used to it.
Just find a comfortable spot and relax. Clear your mind of all thoughts --- even the one's you think are important. Pay attention to your breathing. Don't force it. Your body knows how to breathe without you telling it to. Just go along for the ride. But, breathe through you nose. For some reason it helps. If thoughts intrude (and they will!), simply redirect your attention to your breathing.
If you're unsure about how long you should do this, just set an egg timer for ten or fifteen minutes.
If you'd like more detailed instructions and some good tips, try Christopher Calder's excellent site, The Meditation Handbook.
Many schools of thought hold that what you are connecting to when you meditate is much, much, more than just relaxation. I tend to agree. But, expectations can be very distracting when you're getting started. It's important that while you're meditating you feel whatever it is you feel. Not, what someone tells you you're going to feel.
Once you get the hang of it, you'll have a wonderful way to start your day. You'll also learn eventually how to "re-connect" throughout your day --- take little "vacations" --- any time you want. They won't cost a dime and you'll feel better about things.
Bob Steinman (AKA 'Feelbetterman') resides in Orlando, Fl. with his wife, 13 year old son, and a totally spoiled female Shih-Tzu. He is retired following consecutive careers in academics and human services. Presently he aspires to write a definitive self-help book which will present his unique perspective on how to live in harmony with ourselves and our life situations. His web site, www.feelbetteraboutthings.com/">Feel Better about Things provides a means to fine-tune his writing and also communicate with those who have interest in his work.