Thursday, June 10, 2010

T2C: Losing Our Minds

A photo from Olivia's old apartment in Philly.

Your two favorite (wink wink) green health junkies are at it again. I’m teaming up with Olivia to launch a new weekly feature, A Tale from Two Cities (T2C), which will document various health and food adventures from our respective corners of the world: Philadelphia, PA, and Seoul, South Korea.

Our first blog title is not meant to announce an onset of psychosis or to imply that we have indeed gone bonkers. It’s true that our lives have gotten pretty darn busy (but extremely exciting) in recent months –an engagement and long-distance wedding planning from Seoul and a part-time gig with an awesome nutritionist in Philadelphia – and with such events naturally comes some stress and a need to unwind and just “be.” With that said, we’re focusing our first post on the very important topic of meditation and relaxation.

Jen ~ Philadelphia

I have always been a fidgety person. I still can’t manage to, well, sit still. My mind easily wanders and is cluttered with to-do lists, worries, thoughts of the future, and more menial wonderment of things like what’s going to happen on the next season of Dexter. And I imagine it’s this way for a lot of people. How can it not be? We live in a fast-paced culture with never-ending workdays, fast food at every corner, 24-hour news cycles, incessant tweeting and facebooking, and an urge to bring our blackberries with us on vacation. Oy! Where does all of this get us and what kind of world do we create for ourselves in the process? We need some room to breathe, people! And the only person who can help you is you.

Everyone will choose a different path to get to that breathing space. I’m not one for traditional meditation on a regular basis…not yet. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t appeal to me right now. In the meantime, yoga is serving quite nicely as my meditation and “me” time. I deem twenty minutes of it a day to be an accomplishment. My other current “go-to” inspirations for centeredness are passages from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and Kris Carr’s recent vlog on taking mini-vacations every day.

I highly recommend Tolle’s chapter “Freeing Yourself from Your Mind.” Newsflash! You are not your mind! He recommends monitoring your thoughts as an outsider (without judgment) to observe thought patterns, especially those that are repetitive, negative, and subsequently destructive. In doing so, you can practice being fully present in the “now.” When I last did this exercise I felt as if a weight had been lifted…no worries…just happiness…just being. As for the mini-vacation exercise – that starts tomorrow. Got to start planning. Might simply entail a 15-minute break/walk during the workday or a 30-minute “check-out” at Starbucks with a girly magazine. How do you unwind? How do you get centered?

Olivia ~ Seoul

If someone told you they knew of something that would help you be more productive at work, sleep more soundly at night, and improve your overall happiness, you’d probably be clamoring to find out their secret. Especially when you found out it was free, could be done anytime, anywhere.

Meditation, of course, is all of this, and more. So why don’t we all sit down and let go every day? Or, more precisely: why don’t I have a daily meditation practice yet, even though I’ve been practicing off and on for over five years and love love love the benefits?

The honest truth? I don’t know. So I’m letting this little write-up serve as a reminder for some of my favorite meditation tidbits. With any luck, this will inspire you to take five or ten minutes in your day to check in—or check out.

• Even five minutes a day can make a big difference

• If you exist, you can do it. You don’t need any props or special knowledge. You don’t even need a secluded space (though it can be nice).

• When in doubt, close your eyes and focus on the breath as it passes through your nose. If your mind is being particularly uncooperative, go ahead and count to a given series of numbers as you inhale and exhale. (For example, inhale to 5, exhale to 7.)

• If you do it before bed, it will help calm what I call “hamster brain”—that incessant racing of thoughts that you don’t want to be thinking.

• If (when) a thought keeps popping up, go ahead and acknowledge it, thank it for coming to the party, and tell it you’ll give it your full attention to learn from it later. But now is not the time.

• It provides many of the same benefits of a glass of vino (relaxation, a ritual for letting go of the work day, an increased likelihood of cracking a smile) without those pesky price tags/calories/toxicity.

Check Green Junkie Living next week for more resources and techniques to take your meditation practice to the next level.



Ed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed said...

This may come as a surprise, but running keeps me grounded and gets the stress out whenever I can get a few miles in. I can't recommend it highly enough. During times when I've been unable to run due to injury or whatever, my center goes wildly out of balance. Just a couple days ago, I was travelling to the West Coast and got stuck at an airport overnight. A poor nights sleep left me drained the next day and I crashed early. The next morning, I got eight miles runnning in and felt great again. When the running is going well, as it is at the moment, everything else feels easy. And there's no problem that can't be sorted out during a run.