The night was filled with silent meditation, creative journaling + vulnerable discussion - a winning combo in my eyes.
And whilst it’s easy to receive a deluge of epiphanies, joy + peace during a group meditation, I realised there are simple ways to bring that very stillness into our lives each day.
So here are my top 5 ways to bring a sense of calm to each moment…
1. Return to the breath
One of the simplest, yet most profound way to invite calm in is to take a deep breath. An exhale, a deep sigh, even a yawn is coupled with a release in tension. All melts away with the exhale. All is renewed with the inhale.
When I was in the throes of panic attacks + overwhelming anxiety - learning to breathe was literally a life saver for me. I found the greatest sense of calm when I used a longer exhale than inhale.
For example, if I inhaled for a count of 2, I would exhale for a count of 4.
Within that control of the breath, I found the sense of control + calm I needed.
2. A still body = a still mind = a still body
At the very beginning of the meditation, Susana guided us gently in for a few minutes. A profound statement (it’s a tweetable!) stayed with me throughout the silence.
“Stillness is a reflection of your presence” - click to tweet
Any time I found myself fidgeting, I realised my thoughts had become distracted from the present moment. I remembered that movement flows from distracting thoughts. A deep breath + a stillness of the body led me back to a stillness of the mind.
Later I thought “How many times a day do I bite my nails, tap my foot, play with my hair, pace around?” I realised each time I’m restless, I try to diffuse the discomfort of my thoughts through nervous energy + movement. But it brings no peace.
You can choose in any moment of anxiety or restlessness to still the body + thereby still the mind.
3. Release judgement
A judging mind is a distracted, compartmentalised, time bound, sequestered mind. It is caught up in labels, past regrets, future tripping + overwhelm. There is no room for peace. Thoughts may hold you hostage but a return to awareness can set you free.
A still mind is a liberated mind. A still mind has thoughts, but they rise + fall away with the breath. They whistle through the mind like leaves from a tree, sweeping past without a trace. No anxiety, no attachment, no judgement.
Judging a thought or activity (ie this is boring, my back hurts, this is good, that is bad) can lead to distraction, procrastination, or avoidance. Rather than “sit in the tension” with awareness + kindness - we may try to shift our attention into something more pleasurable. For me, this often meant turning to food as a source of solace.
Even just noticing that a judgement has arisen allows awareness + peace back in.
Try proclaiming “Oh, hello judging mind” + return to the breath (see #1).
4. Use kindness
Rather than hoisting + shoving thoughts away. Rather than being critical for having anxious or distracting thoughts. Rather than piling on guilt, shame, resentment, the “I don’t wanna”, “This sucks”, “If only X were Y” ‘s + turning life into a general GAH-fest…
Gently + kindly nudge the thoughts back to the the present moment. Notice the breath once more.
Kindness calms the inner critic + allows more awareness, presence + peace to unfold. This in turn allows you to get your shit done with a minimum of fuss.
5. Pay attention
Meditation is really just focused attention. Paying attention gently to the breath allows the thoughts to pass through. Attention to a positive mantra allows all doubt to fall away.
Attention to the present moment allows peace to arise; dissolves past regrets; + halts future tripping immediately. Attention to a loved one allows true understanding + connection to occur.
Attention to a tedious task allows it to be done without procrastination or resistance. Attention to a creative task allows the subconscious mind room to expand + create while the rational, judging mind has a break.
Simply pay attention wholly to any given task + voila - instant calm.
Disclaimer - Using meditation (or any other mindful practice) doesn’t mean that every moment of every day will be filled with rainbow-pooping unicorns + giggle snorts. However, meditation does have a direct influence on your brain, your mood + your mental health. It will help you cultivate resilience in the face of adversity; strengthens positive neural pathways; plus it helps you be kinder, smarter, more patient + loving.
Nothing else on earth provides THAT much bang for buck.
Do you meditate? What’s your favourite way to go about it? Do you use music, silence, guided visualisation, mindfulness? Share (don’t be shy) in the comments below.