Next Stop Wonderland
I’ve been known to moan and groan about taking the long way or driving aimless – something my husband loves to do. Without fail, a five-hour drive always takes us 7-8 hours. That’s a lot of time to smell the roses. Sometimes I have to be forced to see and experience this kind of beauty or peace. But 9 times out of 10, we often discover a hidden gem that was totally worth the ride and I am proven wrong yet again. It’s usually something small like a new breakfast place or a great cup of coffee at a roadside farmer’s market. For me, these experiences are like remembering to breathe – an act that many of us really don’t do. Sure, we are “breathing” and living, but too many of us fail to consciously take a deep, mindful, and memorable breath. But when I do remember to breathe, I start to become aware and really start to take it all in.
Two and a half years ago, after a really devastating personal loss, I took up mindfulness meditation. And I didn’t start small. I actually enrolled in a transformative program – the Penn Program for Mindfulness. This eight-week course was a life changing experience for me. It taught me that the endless play of thoughts in my head were just that – thoughts. The only power they truly had been the power I gave to them. And guess what? I could just choose to ignore them too. When my head fills with these thoughts, I start to focus on the heart and listen to it. While my head may lead my astray, my heart rarely does.
So I started to do just that. Are they still bigger than me sometimes? Do I still get taken down by these thoughts and anxieties in moments of weakness? Yes, but at least now I have the tools to deal with them. I take a step back and do my “three breaths” – probably the most useful tool from the course. We don’t always have time to pull out a meditation pillow and sit for 20-30 minutes especially if we are at work. But we do have time to close our eyes and take three long, hard, deep breaths. You can do those once a day or 10 times a day. It’s like a little battery recharge. It changes my perspective every single time.
Mindfulness has taught me to appreciate taking the long way home or finding joy in a few spontaneous excursions. Believe me, I still whine and complain over some of them, but I’m learning to see many in a new light. Most importantly, I am remembering to breathe.
My Favorite Books on Meditation & Mindfulness
I’ve read a lot of self-help books over the years and very few had a lasting impact. For some reason, these did – and still do.
And if you are looking to explore meditation for the first time (or the fifth!), the Oprah/Deepak Chopra 21-day Challenge is an excellent way to start and it starts tomorrow. No time like the present (a little mindfulness humor…)!