Time to Get Down With Your Inner Zen
The world is awash in a sea of chaos, a sea that can carry you far off your path if you let it. But you don’t have to. You have more control over yourself and your life than you may think. Certainly outside circumstances can be harsh and scary sometimes, economic and personal challenges can pop up all around you, and you can lose a small measure of our confidence as it seems life is swirling out of your control. That’s where the pursuit of peace comes in. Inner peace, the kind that comes from inside and shines out of you no matter what’s happening. And there are some really great, easy and not-too-expensive ways to relax and rejuvenate without breaking your wallet.
Tune into the Yoga Scene
Adopting a regular yoga practice can calm your monkey mind and cultivate a great sense of peace in you. It can also lower your blood pressure and increase your flexibility. A bonus point is that yoga comes in dozens of flavors, so you can pick the one that suits you best. If you’re looking for a gentler and quieter form, check out Hatha yoga, which fosters a deep sense of relaxation and release. Or you can check out Raja yoga, which takes you deeper into self-realization and opens up channels to your inner spirit. For the more active among you, Kundalini yoga is your ticket. With deep and fast movements, this one will rev you up and send you off in the right direction. Then there’s Hot Yoga at temperatures above 100° Fahrenheit to warm you up and limber you out.
While some traditional yoga classes can get pretty pricey, DVDs can offer the same great workout without the cost. Gather a group of friends together for a once-a-week yoga session. You can support each other and reduce your stress at the same time. Or check out your local YMCA. Memberships are inexpensive and usually include free access to yoga classes.
Boost Your Body with Qigong
Raise your energy with some daily qigong. This ancient Chinese practice works on increasing the amount of chi, or energy, in your system and directing it toward what you want. Most of the practice focuses on healing the body, but the energy boost you get from qigong pops up everywhere. You find yourself happier for no real reason, relaxed in the midst of a chaotic environment, even Zen-like in the face of a confrontation. That’s if you do it regularly and consistently.
Slow, smooth movements dominate the practice, so this is only for the most patient among us. The Eight Piece of Brocade is among the simplest series of movements to learn and do, while something like the Hand of the 18 Luo Han can require more practice to master. No matter which one you choose, though, doing them every day will boost your health. Your blood pressure will go down, your circulation will increase and your immune system will improve. Perfect for cold-ridden winter months.
As with yoga, a lot of gyms offer qigong classes or you can check out DVDs. A quick call to a local qigong school or a glance through their website can tell you more about the different kinds of qigong. Taking an introductory course to get your started and then doing the practice on your own also works well.
Master the Art of Meditation
When your mind is racing with a cacophony of houghts and your life is swirling with responsibilities and obligations, it can seem like a luxury to take a few minutes to … do nothing. Think nothing. To just be. But getting a quiet moment or two in a day can mean all the difference between living on the edge and biting off a loved one’s head or responding calmly to things that come up. Because something always comes up.
To get started, you can merely sit quietly in a place where you won’t be disturbed and watch what your mind does. You can also try one of the many kinds of meditation out there. For instance, insight meditation engages the mind by giving it a specific thought to chew on while you sit. Others, such as Siddha yoga, involve chanting from spiritual texts. The Guru Gita is a famous Hindi manuscript that followers have used for hundreds of years and there are dozens of great places across the U.S. where you can find a meditation group to chant with. One of my favorites is the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center of Seattle. Aim for 30 minutes of meditation a day for the best benefits, but start with 10 if your mind operates in overdrive most of the time. Plus, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. The biggest challenge is to find a time and a spot to sit in silence and let your thoughts wash over you.
If you’re looking for group support or a good meditation instructor, check out the local Buddhist temples. You can also search for meditation groups on the Internet. Or check out your local Unitarian Universalist Church, which often hosts a free weekly meditation group. Be creative and try out several until you find one that works for you.
Let’s get started. There’s no time like the present.