Studies have demonstrated again and again that maintaining a formal, daily meditation practice benefits our bodies, minds, and souls in many ways. Reduced anxiety, depression, and compulsiveness, greater serenity, deeper sleep, and enhanced immunity to disease are some of the perks of consistent meditation.
However, if you don’t feel you have the time, desire, or opportunity to sit with eyes closed in a quiet spot for 15 to 20 minutes a day, as formal meditation generally entails, you can still experience more peace in your life by spending time meditating on words of wisdom, even as you go about your day. Instead, of getting caught up in worrying, you can ponder these ideas, as laid out by Barbara Ann Kipfer in her book Self-Meditation: 3,299 Tips, Quotes, Reminders, and Wake-Up Calls for Peace and Serenity, as you commute to work and back, wait in line at the grocery store, or walk your dog. By doing so, you can reexamine your priorities and gain a new, more serene perspective on life.
- “Live responsively, consciously, and intentionally – directing your life from within, not by the demands of the clock or external demands, or as mere reactions to external events. Listen to the music of the moment.” Being willing to go with the flow and with what your present situation asks of you, rather than doing what you’d automatically do or what other people are pushing you to do. For instance, listen to your body and how it responds to different foods you eat (or when you eat them). Our bodies change over time, and what may have benefited you in the past may no longer do so. The same goes for our other routines.
- “Do good, even when you are alone.” Your conscience will thank you. Also, living in this manner can remind you that your opinion of yourself is more important than what other people think of you. Try to live with integrity.
- “When you feel your spirits sagging, form a half-smile. Maintain it for at least ten minutes.” Research has documented that our facial expressions have a significant effect on our moods. Smiling in a gentle (Mona Lisa) type of way does tend to boost our spirits. Also, when we’re with other people, smiling can make us seem more approachable.
- “Breathe in and say, ‘What I have is enough’. Breathe out and think, ‘What I am is enough’. Breathe in and say, ‘What I do is enough’. Breathe out and think, ‘What I have achieved is enough.’” This will help to ground you in the present moment as well as oppose feelings of low self-worth and inadequacy.
- “Ask yourself if what you’re about to say is true, kind, and beneficial. Is this the right time to say it?” Sometimes we talk out of a wish to fill an uncomfortable silence, to be noticed, or put someone “in their place”. As an alternative, consider what would be in the best interest of all involved.
- “Recognize your inclinations, but resist the pull to be controlled by them.” Just because you really, really want to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t mean that you have to do so. Urges do not have to overcome your inner wisdom.
- “Be a lighthouse rather than a lifeboat. Guide by example, and let others find their own way.” A wish to help other people is admirable, but trying to save people can result in frustration and resentment and is often impossible. Your responsibility is to set clear boundaries with others about what you will and will not tolerate, but that is the extent of your power. You are most effective when you focus on living in line with to your personal value system and letting the results speak for themselves. People will be more influenced by your behavior than your words.
- “It takes less energy to do an unpleasant task now than to worry about it all day.” Having an unfinished task on your to-do list can preoccupy your mind, drag down your spirits, and distract you from whatever you do happen to be doing at the time. Frequently, just attending to the matter ends up being easier than you’d expected – and then you needn’t spend any more energy worrying. You may even experience renewed energy after the emotional weight of the unfinished task has been removed.
- “During the course of your day, try to send loving-kindness to strangers and associates. Note the difference between feeling isolated and feeling connected by means of your practice.” No matter the size of the city in which we live, we often pass by people without acknowledging them. We might even feel intimidated by them. Whatever the case, by creating an invisible barrier, we miss so many opportunities to extend good will. You don’t have to greet everyone you encounter, but you can silently send them good wishes. Doing so can warm your heart and be a reminder that we’re all in this together.
- “Repeat this focus sentence during meditation: ‘I have a body, but I am not my body.’” You can remind yourself of this wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. You are so much more than your body weight, state of physical health, and visual attractiveness. Reducing your identity to just these items can feed depression and fuel extreme and unhealthy attempts, including the development of eating disorders, to maintain or alter your looks. In truth, your body is in a state of evolution throughout your life. Yes, taking good care of yourself physically is important, your body is only one aspect of who you are. Remind yourself that you are a spiritual being, with a mind, emotions, and body. By doing so, the over-emphasis on your physical qualities can make way for a more detached and peaceful point of view.
- “Look at things with more consciousness. When you see a tree, stop for a while. Look at it with more alertness. Suddenly, the tree will appear different – sharper and more meaningful. Expand this exercise to people as well.” Shift your focus to what is going on around you right now, and release preoccupation with the past, future, or what’s going on within you. Pretend that you’re a reporter and need to notice every detail. This practice will help you to hone your five senses. Try noticing five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can smell, two things you can touch, and one thing you can taste, to ground yourself in the present.
- “Refrain from gossip, falsity, slander, and harmful speech.” When you speak or write about other people with viciousness, you may or may not do harm to that person, but you will definitely damage your own psyche, soul, and body. Resentment sends adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone) coursing through your veins, and if this physiological state is maintained for any length of time, you will suffer. If you try to eliminate malicious behavior in yourself, you’ll significantly lighten your psychological load. You’ll also be able to use your energy in more effective ways. Pay close attention to what deeply bothers you about other people, as sometimes these are aspects of yourself you haven’t yet dealt with. So, if you tempted to engage in one of the behaviors mentioned, consider if what you’re about to blame someone else for applies to you as well, and what changes or acceptance in yourself might be warranted.
- “Be aware of an imperfection without turning it into a big problem.” Suspend judgment and practice merely perceiving what is. Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. Nor do we.
- “Turn a bad habit into a meditation. Pay close attention to your every move. Notice how your body feels. Whenever your mind drifts off, bring it back to the experience. Do not try to stop or change this habit; go through the motions as usual, but do so with full awareness. Indulge in your habit with this high level of awareness over and over again. See how your attitude and feelings change.” Whatever you decide to do, even if it’s a compulsive behavior about which you have ambivalence, be mentally and emotionally present for the experience, rather than using this behavior to check out from reality. What can you learn from this choice and experience? Is it really worth it in the short run? How about in the long run? What does it do for you and to you?
- “When watching television, mute the commercials and follow your breathing. Get up and walk around, look out the window, stretch, and relax your eyes.” Instead of zoning out in front of the TV, remind yourself to reconnect to yourself and your present surroundings.
- “Always choose quality over quantity.” Chances are that you do not need an additional best friend, purse, or car. If what’s currently in your life doesn’t meet your personal requirements, then look into your options, but don’t try to accumulate “more”, since doing so does not equal better.
- “For one day, no matter what happens around you, say, ‘This is miraculous’. Notice how this outlook changes your relationship with everyday experiences.” We color our world with our thoughts. When we term something “miraculous”, we engender feelings of awe, gratitude, and humility, all of which can increase our sense of well-being and a realistic view of our place in the universe.
- “Do not automatically turn on the radio in your car or the television at home, or open a book while you are waiting for an appointment. Do not needlessly occupy your mind. Just be.” It’s ironic that often we can feel lost or unsure about what to do about major issues in our lives, when by whittling down our activities, doing only one thing at a time, and giving ourselves time to just be, our best answers will arise.
- “Do everything like it’s the last thing you’ll ever do.” We tend to take so much of our lives for granted. What if the experience you’re currently having is your last moment on earth? Wouldn’t you pay closer attention and appreciate it more?
- “Equanimity meditation: May I accept things as they are. May I be open and balanced. May I find equanimity and peace.” Make serenity your goal. Whatever happens to and around you, make it your top priority to respond with acceptance and peace.
At any moment, we have the chance to use our powers of attention and attitude to increase our level of harmony with ourselves and life. Even if what’s going on around us doesn’t change, our experience can change profoundly.