The articles in the “self” category of this website explore ways to make life a little bit easier by physically and emotionally comforting one’s self. Nurturing the body and the mind can help tackle those less-than-perfect days that we all experience. We, as non-hip hippies, are not going to bother you with any hip (read: fad) exercise regimes or yogi-meta-level meditation practices. We are just going to share with you the little things that help us keep calm, fight off chronic stress and slouch a bit less in front of the lap top.
Personally, I am really good at stressing out and really bad at relaxing. My partner claims that I am unable to have a moment of peace and do nothing at all. This might be true. My idea of relaxing always includes an activity: knitting, reading a book, baking muffins, planning a new project, watching a TED talk. This is why I found it so terrifying when I went to my first meditation course and the teacher informed us that after a few stretching exercises, we would spend 45 minutes breathing. Just breathing. I almost felt my palms sweating. Just the thought of trying to keep my mind quiet was making me nervous. But then Carmen, our meditation guide, said a thing that made me feel really comfortable. She said that our brain is made to think. Thus, we should not fight our thoughts. Just accept them and let them pass. She used a great metaphor. The mind, she said, is like a boat. And the thoughts are like waves. If you force the boat to stay still while the waves hit it, it will either brake or get filled with water and sink. But if you let it loose to ride the waves, the storm will eventually pass. I loved this metaphor. It made me feel that I was good enough, as long as I managed to let bad thoughts pass from my mind and eventually go away.
With this same teacher we also did a few yoga lessons. I do not mean meditation, but yoga postures and sequences. It was a group targeted to students and people who work in offices, who need a good stretch once or twice a week. We stopped quite soon, because Carmen started the courses with some confusing stories about Buddhism and some more confusing stories about monasteries that she visited and her Catholic background. Do not get me wrong. I love to hear stories about different cultures and religions, but those ones were fragmented and seemed a bit out of context. I could not really relate them to the sequences that we tried each time. Nevertheless, I highly value those courses, because they gave us enough motivation to look further into yoga and figure out what would work for us.
What I am currently doing to keep my body in shape is half an hour of yoga every morning or night. Some days I will brake the pattern and go for a long walk instead. I have found that it helps me not only strengthen my muscles and slouch less, but also relax and breath deeper. Two of my best friends prefer swimming as their way of maintaining a healthy body and a clear mind. My partner used to go running. Whatever works for you. The important thing is to put the effort and do even a tiny bit of exercise each day. (Especially if you are a petite female like myself, being active is crucial to avoid osteoporosis after menopause.)
Trust me when I say that I detest exercise. I really feel like I am going against my nature when I abandon my laptop/book and start those first few yoga moves. But 1 minute in, I feel that I am doing myself a favor. My suggestion would be to try it 10 minutes at a time, if you have never exercised before, and choose your exercise of choice. This way you are more likely to stick with it in the long run. For most people, 45 minutes to one hour of training is enough to also clear their head, thus there is no need for any form of meditation afterwards.
So, to conclude, I would advise you to visit the “Self” category often, in order to find easy ways to battle everyday issues that compromise your happiness. Be it stress, anxiety or a back pain, we will try and figure out a way to solve this.