Meditation: Creating Peace within Yourself
One reason we struggle to find peace in our daily lives is due to the inability to rid ourselves of negative experiences. It can be easier to hold onto the bad things that happen to us, rather than continually focusing on the good. We all choose to make changes in our lives, in hopes for better circumstances. The transitions seem to be the most difficult steps, but sometimes, it's harder to let go of all the pain we felt before the change. After a transitional phase, it is important to release the negativity so that we are able to accept the present and move on to the future. Taking some time to slow down and meditate can help bring your focus back into a peaceful center within yourself.
"Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity"
You will need:
- candle, preferably colored white to represent spiritual purity
- small bowl of water (not too full, so it doesn't spill)
- pinch of salt
- something to stir with
- jasmine or lavender oil
- incense, if desired
Meditation #4: Wash It All Away
We wash our physical selves regularly with cleansing water to rid our bodies of unwanted dirt and germs. Gallons of water are consumed on a daily basis in order to flush our inner systems of waste materials and remain healthy. But water can be used as a spiritual cleanser as well. From Christianity to Islam to Western Paganism, many belief systems use water as a divine method of purification. Muslim practices involve a daily ablution to purify the body and soul. Christians are accepted into the community of their Lord after Baptism, a cleansing by blessed water. By focusing on your own spiritual connections, you can use water in a simple meditation to rid your soul of unwanted waste and negativity.
Water is an excellent symbol to use in meditation after transitions in life, as it is ever-changing on this earth. Think of the natural water cycle when using this meditation practice: the flow and change of how water moves and cleanses as it goes.
- Sit in a dark, quiet room. Play soft, calming music if there is too much background noise to achieve total silence.
- Face the candle, light it and say a prayer to the deity in which you believe. Pagans, cast a circle, invoking your god or goddess.
- Focus on what you want to clear from your aura, mind, soul.
- If sitting in front of a table, you may rest the bowl of water on top, as long as you can lean your chin over it comfortably. If not, hold the bowl in your hands, just under your chin.
- Sprinkle a pinch of salt and stir in counter clockwise. The salt with "absorb" the negativity.
- Breathe deeply into the bowl, letting your breath pour all of your fears, doubts and pain into the water.
- Do this until negativity is gone. I usually stop once I get to a "happy thought," something that makes me smile and I feel at ease.
- Hold the bowl over the candle (at safe distance so nothing, including you, will get burned). If using a glass bowl, catch the candle light in the bowl, so it reflects through the water.
- Visualize a gold or silver or white light cleansing the water.
- If you live within a quick walk of a body of running water--river, stream--pour the bowl of your negativity into it and let nature wash away your troubles.
- If not, pour the bowl into a sink and flush with cold water. For extra emphasis on removing spiritual waste from your soul, flush it down the toilet.
- Smudge yourself with lavender or jasmine, blow out the candle with a closing prayer, and Pagans should close their circle.
Another form of Therapeutic Writing
List making can help you ease your mind when it's flooded with stressful events. Write down, in a column, all the things that are troubling you, big and small. You can expand upon them with little notes if you want to visualize the details. This will help you to compartmentalize your thoughts and decide what events take priority.
In my mind twenties, I was overwhelmed with my life. I realized I was dealing with so many major stressful events during the course of 6 months that many people wouldn't have to face in several years time. Listing the stressors helped me to focus on each issue in their own moments.
What to Do with Journals
So you've been writing in a journal for some time now and the notebook is finished. What do you do with it? You may choose to keep your completed journals for a several reasons. Perhaps you may decide to write a memior about your life and it will be handy to have those notes available. Or maybe it's just a peice of you that you an't discard. Also, you may wish to re-read your previous journals as a form of self-enlightenment. Going over your own past, from your own persepective can help you reconcile the events you've written about, or help you to realize your mistakes and make a conscious effort not to repeat them.
However, you may feel that in order to move on from an event or a specific phase in your life, that you cannot keep that journal. Those pages act as a relic, a constant reminder of those moments that you are trying to get past and holding onto the journal is holding you back. Feel free to discard or destroy as you please. Burning (safely) the pages is a symbolic and very freeing way to get rid of a troubled past. I have an art project I've made from the scortched pages of my highschool journals, serving as a reminder of who I once was, but essentially eliminating what I've grown past. Shredding or tearing the pages works just as well, as long as you get rid of what you don't want to keep.
Meditation #5: Write it Out
Journaling can be extraordinarily therapeutic. I've been keeping a journal since I was nine years old, and there are some times in my life I couldn't have made it through without writing. Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper can help you focus your mind and release negativity. By forming the words, you can realize what you're truly upset about and it may help you look at the issue from a new perspective. For some people, putting visible words to their thoughts may be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. There is no judgement from a blank page or a pen and no one but you needs to see it.
- Find a notebook that suits you. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you can pick up something cheap and simple from your local drugstore. But, if you desire, book stores and stationary boutiques do make beautifully designed journals to fit any personality.
- don't stress about WHAT to write. Putting down any thoughts or feelings is a good start. You may take a break at work to jot down, "I hate doing projects with Stephanie!" or "Shifts with David suck!" Or, after a bad social outing, "Another horrible date," or "Why did I drink so much again?"
- Grammar and punctuation can be neglected. This is not your college thesis paper. It is from your heart and no one is going to be judging it.
- If you're having trouble starting because you feel like you're talking to yourself, don't. Write an epistolary journal, in the form of a letter that will never be mailed. You can choose to write to whatever spiritual figure you identify with, or deceased relative you always looked to for guidance. Or make up a character that fits your needs to make you comfortable in communicating. In middle school, I wrote practically on a daily basis to a character named Fred. He took on many forms, usually ridiculous or absurd. But when I had something serious to talk about, I knew Fred was always there to listen.
- Once you have the initial thought or feeling on paper, take a quiet moment to expand on it. Try to describe the entire event, with as much emotional detail as possible. Focus on the WHY of the matter, to get to the root of the problem. Why is Stephanie or David so impossible to work with? What do they do to aggravate you? How do you feel and what is your response to them? What make you feel awkward socially that the date went bad? What attracted you to that person in the first place? How many drinks did you have and what is the limit of "enough"? What were you feeling or what was happening that you thought you needed to drink more?
- Don't worry about finding an answer or solving your problems while writing. Sometimes, once the words are down on paper, it will feel as though answers present themselves.
Benefits of Excercise on Mental Health
The Mayo Clinic reccommends exercise to help relieve depression symptoms. If you are choosing medititation to help ease your anxieties, adding the physical aspect to your mental activity will increase the advantages. Taking a brisk walk can have multiple benefits on your state of mind, such as:
- release of feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
- reduction of immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
- increase in body temperature, which may have a calming effect
for more information, check out http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043
Mediation #6: Walk Away
When life's struggles are so overwhelming that you can hardly bear it, the urge to walk away from it all can be very appealing. So do it. Not permanently, running away and hiding is never a real solution to any problem. But taking time out of your day for a long walk (run or jog) alone can do wonders for your mental health. It will help you clear your head and organize your thoughts.
Any form of exercise releases endorphins in your brain, the chemicals that make you happy. However, walking or running works best for contemplative exercise. Weight training or an aerobics based routine take up too much off your thoughts on the physical activity. Though they can have a positive effect on mental health, they don't leave much room to meditate while performing. Walking is a repetitive, passive motion that is ingrained already into our brains and you don't have to use a conscious thought process to do it. This gives you the benefit of the physical release while keeping your mind free to examine and sort out your troubles.
During my divorce, I was working in the next town over, which is a quick 5 minute car trip away from my home. I took advantage of not having a car to enjoy the half hour of walking to and from. I would walk through the peaceful tree-lined streets, and the quiet of the local historic cemetery, attempting to organize my thoughts and feelings. Usually in the quiet darkness at 5 am when opening the store, or at midnight after closing, I would finally reach solutions to nagging problems. At this moment in my life, the walk was the only chance during the chaos of my week to be alone in the quiet of my own mind.
- Dress comfortably and try to head out with as little of your personal belongings as possible. Your house keys and identification are necessary, but if you must bring your cell, turn the ringer off. Leave the big bag at home, ladies!
- Choose a path that shows the beauty of nature: a tree lined street, a large garden path, or a park. Being surrounded by nature will be more peaceful and calming. An article published by the Association for Psychological Science states that "being around nature replenishes our store of directed attention...nature may have a restorative effect on mental abilities."
- If you are stuck in an urban environment with no access to a park, choose a course that will be least distracting to you. Don't walk past your favorite shops that may tempt you to go in. Try to find the quietest streets to go down, with the lightest traffic, so you can be one with your thoughts.
- Choosing to walk to a particular destination (like I do to work), instead of driving or public transportation, is a great time to clear your mind. But, if you don't have a particular destination in mind, do remember you'll have to return home! The length of time you spend on your walk isn't relevant, but don't overexert yourself. I recommend 15 minutes one way, then walk back. A half an hour is enough time for the walk to be beneficial, physically and mentally, but go for as long as you think your body can handle.
Peace in Nature
Power Centers of the Human Body
Top of Head
Meditation #7: Drawing Down the Moon
An ancient practice from Celtic Druids and Italian Strega traditions (pre-Christian pagans) was used for psychic development and meditation. It uses the moon as a symbol of power that flows through you, strengthening your spirit. The healing practice of Reiki uses similar methods. You focus on each individual body part, or Body Center, which represents a spiritual aspect, and the moon's energy in each section will bring strength to that part. You may go through your entire body for a full spiritual cleanse, or concentrate on the aspect needing specific attention. See the chart to identify body parts and their spiritual aspects.
- Start in the Lotus position.
- Sit quietly and envision the Full Moon above your head. For added energy, visualize the moon's light as power.
- Mentally, draw the moon through each of your Body Centers, with the image of them glowing in moon light. You may wish to move your hands around, but not touching, the Center you are focusing on.
- Let the light cleanse and strengthen you, concentrating on each part for about a minute before going to the next one.
- If working on your whole body, once you've reached the last Center, imagine your entire being, inside and out, glowing with moon light.
- Allow yourself to absorb the light, imbuing yourself with serenity and strength.
If you have a strong religious inclination, do not let the paganism deter you from trying this method. The moon is just a symbol, and you can still connect with the deity in which you believe.
Settle Your Soul
In the chaos of this world, our daily struggles rob us of our inner peace. Whichever meditation methods you choose, taking time to restore serenity will help deal with stress and create balance within your mind. Try to give yourself 20 minutes to half an hour daily to rejuvenate yourself. Turn off the screens, close the books, put away your phone, turn off the lights and focus your mind to settle your soul.
"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without."