Giving thanks is what this time of year is all about, with many families gathering around the table this week reflecting on what they are thankful for. Personally, I am grateful my daughter is alive. She suffered an injury and mild traumatic brain injury but every day she is regaining strength and I am confident she will be whole again.
I have experienced a year of ups and downs, happy moments pivoting quickly to some sleepless nights. From what I am witnessing amongst family members and friends, this has been the experience of many others also. However stressful your life may be, I believe you can experience joy in the midst of turmoil. Joy and happiness are two different emotions. Joy is an inner feeling, whereas happiness is an outer expression. Cultivating a sense of joy in the midst of personal challenges is a gift. Contentment with the fact that you are here on earth enduring hardships and trials, yet meeting them with calmness and strength, gives meaning and purpose to life. You are no longer in reaction mode, rather taking action. If you are no longer able to experience joy go seek help. If you are in a constant state of fear, loneliness or depression you are not awakening to the treasure inside you.
Meditation has helped me and may help you. There are many ways to meditate. If you google apps for meditation there is a plethora of ones for guided meditation to get you started. Eventually you won’t need an app because when you are comfortable being in silence, and accessing that deep place within you, you will re-gain a sense of peace and restoration to greet all of life’s ups and downs.
“Is meditation worth it?” This may be the question you have asked yourself when your life is so busy that to carve out an extra twenty to forty minutes a day may seem burdensome. Sometimes, a better question to ask yourself, is what would my life look like if I didn’t meditate regularly. Take it from Ed, an interviewee from our book, Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. He states that meditation is 200% essential for both balancing our lives and promoting longevity. He shared that he has been meditating for forty years and gets up every morning around 5:30 am and mediates for an average of an hour and a half. He shared that he no longer suffers from “monkey mind.”
You don’t have to necessarily follow Ed’s practice of early rising and hitting the meditation cushion to gain positive results in helping decrease anxiety, unsettledness and fear, which are all symptoms of a “monkey mind.” However, it is beneficial to meditate regularly for the most positive effects. Research has found that even just fifteen minutes daily, the gray matter increased in participants’ brains, creating a healthier, younger brain. Meditation calms the brain by triggering the feel-good hormone serotonin, shifts the body from a fight-or-flight response into an intentional state, and re-engages your prefrontal cortex part of the brain, which rules your executive functioning and enables you to make intelligent, mindful decisions.
In addition to going around the table this year and reflecting on what you are thankful for, consider taking a moment to sit quietly, close your eyes, breathe deeply and appreciate the stillness. Then the day after Thanksgiving, start to practice meditating regularly. This will be a gift that keeps on giving!
Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, along with her husband, Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. You can learn more at: www.joyinaging.com