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The Art of Living

health meditation prevention stress stress reduction Jan 17, 2015

Living a healthy, happy life is an art, a balancing act. It also requires practice. The new year is a good time to evaluate and make resolutions. But in fact, anytime is a good time for evaluating where we are at with our life. What do you want to practice this year?


What if we could let go of our burdens instead of having resolutions?

Time for a check on our resolutions, if you have any to begin with. Often resolutions don’t work very well, and they are just a set up for failure. Maybe it is too hard to get a clean fresh start because we drag our burdens of the past with us into the new year.

A week ago I went to the monthly guided meditation and dhamma talk by Ajahn Sona. He comes to Kamloops every month from the Birken Monastery to enlighten us with his wisdom. This time, he talked about serenity and peace, and renunciation. Freeing yourself from burdens is a liberating act. Especially at the beginning of a new year, it can give you a fresh start.

To 'renounce,' in English, means to give away or relinquish, to reject, or to disown.
In the Buddhist tradition, renunciation can be understood as a letting go of whatever binds us to suffering. Instead of asking yourself what you want to accomplish with resolutions, ask yourself: ‘What do I want to drop and let go off?’
Write your burdens down on a piece of paper, and then burn the paper. If your burden persists, do it again, and again, until you are no longer burdened by it. Off course, you can do this any time of the year, but a new year, new moon or your birthday may be good times to do this.


Yesterday does not exist, why be burdened by it?

Why hold on to bad experiences and constantly remind ourselves of something that causes grief or pain? Even the news on TV loves to repeat old news by bringing up events from 10 years ago, to remind us of something terrible. As if we would forget.
Holding on to anger can cause sickness with its negativity. That is a burden you do not want to carry with you. Forgiving and releasing the anger by writing it down and then burning it is a great way to let go and it will free you. Persist, even if you have to repeat it three or more times.

The Buddha said: ‘Get real, get free, live life.’

Letting go of burdens will free up space on your hard drive (your mind) and energy that you can use to focus on generating good habits in your life. Let’s not call them resolutions. This is the art of life and it is so undervalued! Do you realize how much energy we waste on worry and stress? Just pay close attention for a few days, observe your own mind, and you will notice how busy your mind is with nonproductive, negative talk.

In our busy lives, we are overstimulated, over productive, and even too educated, to the point that it is unhealthy. To prevent disease and increase health it is important to balance our busy mind with ‘non-activity’, or restorative ‘activity’. Practicing meditation to experience serenity and benefit from a quiet mind can bring wisdom and is very potent therapy.


4 tips on how to start with meditation:

  1. Sit in a comfortable but active posture, on a chair or pillow, in an area where you will not be disturbed.
  2. Set a timer, most phones have one.
  3. Start by paying attention to your breathing. Gently keep your mind focused on your breath, and bring it back to your breath whenever you find your mind wandering (which will happen all the time, it’s normal!). It helps to count your expirations, count up to five and then back to one, and keep repeating that. When you lose count just start with one again, without judging yourself.
  4. After doing this for a while, maybe not the first few days or weeks you practice, you start noticing a sense of space, you're realizing your thoughts are not you, they are just entering into, and exciting out of your mind, like clouds in the sky just floating by. There is more to your being then your mind and the thoughts, and you start sensing a calm energy, a sense of peace. Sometimes this will last a second, and the moment you realize it, the feeling disappears. But don’t get discouraged, practice is the key. Just like physical exercise to strengthen your muscles takes time and repetition, it takes time and practice to strengthen the mind. You are training your mind so you become more capable of paying attention to thoughts and ideas you want it to pay attention to, thoughts and ideas that are uplifting and beneficial.


5 tips to make meditation your healthy habit in your life:

  1. Start NOW, not next week or after the busy month you have coming.
  2. Schedule a time, preferably in the morning before you start your day, to sit quietly with no interruptions for 15-20 minutes. As you get more experienced you can sit longer but 20 minutes every day seems to do the trick.
  3. Create your own ritual around it and connect your new activity to your existing routines. For example: when you get up in the morning, you probably will use the washroom, brush your teeth and have a glass of water. Here is where you add your new routine: you set your timer for your 15-20 minute meditation. Then you continue with your regular morning routines.
  4. You have to create the time, make no excuses. Get up a little earlier.
  5. Prepare for resistance in the form of excuses and distractions to throw you off, but don’t let them. Just stick with it and after 30 days it will be much easier to maintain. You could find an accountability partner; you can support each other when sticking to it is a challenge. Or maybe technology can help you out: there are lots of meditation Apps that can track your meditation sessions and time to keep you motivated and on track. I use Insight timer, available for iPhone iPad and android. After 60 days your meditation practice will be your new habit. Once you start noticing the benefits, you may even choose to do quick 1-5 minute meditations during your busy day, to reboot your system.

'Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness'
~Thich Nhat Hanh~

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