With this tenth chapter we’ve built a solid foundation. After this, I’ll begin to share how to begin structuring your personal meditation practice.
Short Term Stress Busters
Sometimes there’s no way to escape the stress monster. I refer to it as “the stress monster” because these moments of stress can pop up in our lives at any moment and wreak havoc without warning. No matter how far you advance in your meditation practice, it’s impossible to always shield yourself from stressful situations. Stress can occur anywhere: at work; while driving in traffic; when we’re immersed in family drama; or experiencing financial problems.
The fastest way to recover from the stress monsters that we haven’t prepared for is to be present. What I mean by being present is to take your attention away from the memory of the stressful experience that occurred a few seconds or a few minutes in the past and refocus your attention solely and completely on the present moment.
The following are some quick and great ways to quickly be present and find your calm center again.
Focus all of your attention on your inhalation and your exhalation. Take deep, full inhalations. It’s important to feel the belly expand with each breath. Shallow, rapid breathing is unhealthy and a byproduct of stress. Most people adopt a very bad habit of breathing too shallowly all of the time.
Apply pressure to the side of your index finger with your thumb. If you pay attention to speakers giving presentations you will see them doing this quite often. It’s a quick way to calm you during times of high anxiety.
Gently massage the back of your neck at the base of your skull in small circles. This is helpful to relieve current stress as well as the accumulative effects of past stress.
Reconnect With Nature
A walk in nature has a way of quickly putting things back into their proper perspective.
Simple Physical Activity
Walk. Cycle. Practice yoga or qi-gong. If you’re at work, climb as many stairs as you’re able throughout the day and park as far away as your schedule allows.
Long Term Stress-Busters
Short term stress-busters serve as a sort of triage for stress you’ve already suffered. Long term stress-reducers are activities that add more joy and satisfaction into your life thereby reducing the negative effects of future stress.
I think of hobbies as a positive and healthy way to counterbalance stress and negativity. If you don’t already have a hobby, the best way to discover what it should be is ask yourself, “What activities or things am I naturally drawn to?” With the answer to that question, think about ways you can turn it into a hobby. Ideally a hobby should be something you enjoy immersing yourself in so much that when you’re doing it you lose track of time.
“Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” - Dale Carnegie
The most common excuse as to why people don’t have hobbies today is lack of time. Ironically, most of us spend hours each day watching television or staring at our mobile devices. It hasn’t always been that way. Decades ago, it was very common for people to have one or two real hobbies.
I collect vintage watches and have restored and ride a vintage English 3-speed bicycle. These hobbies have enhanced my life through what I’ve learned about them and through connecting with other enthusiasts online who share these same interests.
A hobby pays unforeseen dividends: it’s good for your brain to geek out on the minute details of something and it's great for your soul because it sparks curiosity and provides meaning and purpose. It will even expand your circle of friends by connecting you with other like-minded individuals.
Connect With Nature
Nature is a sure fire reset for your body, mind, and soul but making it part of your routine will have longer term benefits. If you ever feel anxious, unbalanced, or depressed try taking a walk in the woods and spending time alone reconnecting with nature. Science is proving that spending just twenty minutes per day in nature can help lower blood pressure and has a positive impact on our health.
“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” –Alice Walker
Alice was a wise woman. Nature is a perfect reflection of us. In us, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.
Remember earlier in the book I explained that in this physical world like attracts like? Recognizing the gifts you already have and being grateful for them not only will make you happier and more satisfied but it will also attract more good things into your life.
In my opinion traveling and learning about how other people think and live is one of the best education we can give ourselves. It’s very difficult to view someone else as different or hold prejudiced beliefs once you truly spend time with them and get to know what makes them tick. I believe humanity needs to do much more of this to realize at our core we’re all very much alike. At our core we all have the same wants, needs, and wishes.
Furthering your knowledge could involve anything from adult classes at your community education center to listening to podcasts. We have access to literally ninety-percent of all of the knowledge in this world for free on the internet. There's no longer any excuses to not make learning a lifelong pursuit.
Do we stop having fun because we age or age because we stop having fun? I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: the world has become far too serious and people don’t laugh nearly as much as they used to. Let’s change that.
“Sometimes you just have to jump in a mud puddle because it’s there. Never get so old that you forget about having fun.” ― Tom Giaquinto (Be A Good Human)
Do silly things on a regular basis. Learn a joke and share it, buy a whoopee cushion (whether they admit it or not most everyone thinks farts are funny), swing on a swing, watch live stand-up comedy. Laughter reduces stress, increases your quality of life, and is good for the soul. Animals provide a good example for us, most of them still want to play no matter what their age.
All for now.
Eric Vance Walton
Poetry should move us, it should change us, it should glitch our brains, shift our moods to another frequency. Poetry should evoke feelings of melancholy, whimsy, it should remind us what it feels like to be in love, or cause us to think about something in a completely different way. I view poetry, and all art really, as a temporary and fragile bridge between our world and a more pure and refined one. This is a world we could bring into creation if enough of us believed in it. This book is ephemera, destined to end up forgotten, lingering on some dusty shelf or tucked away in a dark attic. Yet the words, they will live on in memory. I hope these words become a part of you, bubble up into your memory when you least expect them to and make you feel a little more alive.
Most of us have experienced a moment of perfect peace at least once in our lives. In these moments we lose ourselves and feel connected to everything. I call these mindful moments. Words can’t describe how complete they make us feel.
These moments are usually fragile, evaporating in seconds. What if there was a way to train your mind to experience more of them? It’s deceptively easy and requires nothing more than a subtle shift in mindset. My new book, Mindful Moments, will teach you to be much more content despite the chaos and imperfect circumstances continuing to unfold around you. Upgrade your life experience today for only $15.99 on Amazon.com.