Truth 2: we are living in a very compressed world at the moment. And as I've said in prior posts, our central nervous systems (CNS) are on overload (guaranteed). Physiologically speaking, a taxed CNS means lower immunity, and a much higher susceptibility to disease. Of course, one's mental health and overall well being is drastically effected, impacting one's personal life and work performance. Personal and cultural interventions are required.
Meditation in the last 15-20 years has been the trending panacea for the ills of stress. And I'd be the first one to promote it, (mostly) enjoying a 38 year meditation practice, having taught meditation and having had it at the center of my work with others for over two decades. I've been around long enough to find, meditation (as we think of it, sitting on a cushion in a quiet room) definitely is not for everyone. I wish it was. But it's not.
So, let's think. What does the CNS require to stay my body healthy during trying times? What is it about meditation that covers this territory? What are other options if meditation is not for me?
|Tree of Life stone/metal work. Sid Saiyyed Mosque, 1573|
So, back to what does the CNS require to stay my body healthy during trying times? We need to give the SNS a break and allow the PNS to deploy. Meditation is a wonderful groundwork for this. It brings stillness to a series of moments. Helps us see and experience the separation from the busy mind and other parts of myself. It slows the SNS down and encourages the PNS to do its thing. It's a great practice-- if you can do it. If you can't, other tools must be used.
|painting: Peter Vihelmlisted|
Exercise is the number 1 stress buster. Catch two fish with one net (two benefits from one activity) and do QiGong, TaiChi or Yoga. All 3 practices are meditative in nature, work with creating deep breath work (meditation!) in the movement sequences. Imagination is key in especially yoga and Qigong. Poses in yoga have imaginative names that inspire more of me to participate (i.e. Warrior I, Pigeon pose, Downward Dog) and Qigong integrates imagery as part of layered sequences. The third fish is they're all really fun to do, once you relax into it. These are "low impact" exercises, so your cardiologist and physical therapist will love you for doing them. Swimming is low impact as well. Doing laps gives you the opportunity to get into "the zone" (meditation!). Again, it's rhythmical and repetitive, it's exercise (!). A lot of fish with one net.....
|photo credit: Tianzhan Chen|
Yes, giving oneself time. This is the key in all these practices, including meditation. This is the obstacle. All of these practices require a discipline, a commitment. They require a shift in perspective. Do you have to meditate? Shrugging off instituting a meditation practice because it's not your thing is one thing. But we can't shrug off the connection that is inherently right in myself that I'm missing. Choose your rest and relaxation path, your direction and embrace it. Your health and well being depends upon it.
The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.