Being 60 has a lot of perks. We get to experience retirement, stronger friendships, second act opportunities, no more periods, and an appreciation of our time. Each moment we get to decide our state of mind, decode our perceptions, and seize the day.
We can take on new endeavors, plan our days to our liking, and get to do those dreams if we choose to. We can continue or begin new practices to give us support. We each have our preferences. We can start our day with a meditation, intention, prayer, journal, or an early morning walk. We can combine, switch it up, or decide to sleep late. The point is to connect to some inner quiet.
But what about the infinite stressors we face like health changes, needing to move, divorces, financial stressors, adult children drama, and aging parents?
As you know, sometimes these may hit one after another and combine with our internal condition. It can feel like a bombardment of negative happenings. What then? Difficult times can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us.
Meditation can indeed be a powerful antidote to anxious feelings in a pinch. Meditation is so much more. I thought for years that meditation required me to sit still in a lotus position. I could not have been more wrong. I’ve meditated on walks, waiting to board a plane, and now mostly lying down.
My journey began to help me combat the bodily effects of intense life stressors. My dad’s passing, a seriously ill teenager, menopausal symptoms, and more took their toll. My acupuncturist suggested meditation would actively help me to lessen stress. It gave me a sense of control over my mental and physical health.
Here are my 5 reasons for meditating and why you should try it too.
My meditation practice began by using short YouTube videos or applications of guided meditations. I did feel immediately calmer. In time, my focus and clarity increased and so did my confidence. I became more aware that my smallest daily choices were as relevant as those trying to rock me.
As my options improved, I noticed I was making more intelligent choices. I chose to pause more often so that I didn’t need all my ducks in a row to feel good.
Meditation taught me that self-judgment is like an annoying itch. The more we scratch, the worse the itch gets. When I first began, I took the bait and would linger into the abyss of “why can’t you stay focused?” As soon as I recognized the thought for what it was and went back to the breath day after day, the self-judgment itch began to fade.
The daily exercise of allowing my mind to wander off and kindly remind myself it was ok to go back led me to self-compassion. Self-judgment unchecked can only show you down a path of negative feelings. I was alert to the trap of not being good enough and thinking of needing to do more.
On the other hand, the kindness you extend during meditation leeks into your day. Self-kindness helps us to be gentle, brings us closer to our most intimate relationship, with ourselves. When stressful experiences come up, and we know they always will, we can accept our imperfections and mistakes.
Meditation in a subtle, gentle manner helped me to tame my reactions and empower me to respond. It gave me the power to pause. In that pause, it’s as though I get to watch from behind a camera lens and decide what to do next. Since I am a novice, it encourages me to hear others’ meditation journeys and learn more about how meditation has been a quiet force for good.
After all, left to my own uninhibited devices, I get into trouble. I say stuff I wish I could rewind and do over, make choices I regret, and fall into a self-critical rabbit hole. A steady diet of daily practices has not been a panacea for guaranteeing I don’t get into trouble. It has empowered me to learn the power of the pause.
Pausing makes room for insight and noticing how I am thinking. The impulse to act quickly undoubtedly has resulted in heaps of tangled messes. Knowing I have choices, combined with self-compassion, the ability to pause helps me to live better. I’ve learned that saying no to the stuff that distracts me from what matters most is a beautiful thing.
Life is short and time is my most precious commodity. I’d rather sit on the floor with my grandchildren than clean the attic. I resist the temptation to choose busy projects over human connections. Being mindful about my time and priorities improves my balancing skill. I get to be productive without missing the treasures.
Meditation itself is a treasure. Within the compassion, pause and balance live serenity. It’s the place I get to feel a state of safety and repose. Mostly, I am safe from my negative thinking and judgments. It’s a place that allows me to feel a connection to myself. If I’m genuinely me, I can be genuine with other people and fully engage.
Meditation can be as a new friend we get to visit daily. It also provides a buffer to stressful situations. Most days, I start with a Yoga Nidra meditation and linger in the delight of the relaxing benefits. The daily ritual has become a shelter where I get to hang out.
Also, it has made me so much more alert to my bodily sensations and stress signals. The accumulated effect has been to slow me down to a keener awareness of my skills to choose rest and recover.
During the last and worst storm ever, I am grateful I had this practice to find refuge. I am also thankful for prayer. My youngest son suffers from bipolar disorder that has episodes of either deep depression or mania. In his manic state, he made such horrific choices that nearly broke my heart in two. It was stress on steroids.
Ultimately, it was primarily all out of my control. My usual response is to fix it and find solutions. Meditation and prayer helped me recognize I could not fix my son’s life, but I did not need to go down with the ship. I did my very best to find places of refuge by talking to my closest friend and doing self-care. I kept my daily routine for the most part and meditated.
Yoga Nidra, mindfulness, guided meditations, and prayer allowed me to feel the experience with awareness. I understood my powerlessness and accepted what was. I knew my limitations, and it had to be ok. What can we do when stress gets the best of us and clutches our best intentions? We learn to meditate.
YOU HAVE TO BE STRONG ENOUGH TO BE WEAK
“Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Notice any labels you attach to crying or feeling vulnerable. Let go of the labels. Just feel what you are feeling, all the while cultivating moment-to-moment awareness, riding the waves of ‘up’ and ‘down’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘weak’ and ‘strong’, until you see that they are all inadequate to fully describe your experience. Be with the experience itself. Trust in your deepest strength of all: to be present, to be wakeful.”
―Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in our thinking and feeling by staying in the moment. Simply, it allows us not to get caught in the anxiety of uncertainty and the problems of the past. We become more focused, attentive to experience, which helps us to calm. Mindfulness improves our confidence gained by making better choices because we’ve slowed down to respond and not react.
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation, or yogic sleep, providing deep relaxation by body scan. Staying awake during the average 20-minute practice will bring you to enter a state between wakefulness and sleep.
Some of my clients use Yoga Nidra to help with insomnia and are finding it works! It is a lovely practice that fosters self-discipline while benefitting from improved sleep and lessening stress, anxiety, and depression.
Guided meditation is a meditation technique led by another person, either recorded or in person. It can be as short as five minutes or longer if you like. Your guide will lead you to different images or places using your senses to experience this meditation technique. It can be incredibly restorative, emotionally healing, and stress-reducing.
Meditation with Breath Work
Combining breath with meditation makes it an active practice where the focus of your breath and sensations is the deliverer of lower stress, deep relaxation, focus, confidence, improved sleep, increased alertness, and lower blood pressure. Beginners can start with five minutes and grow their practice gradually.
What do you think about adding meditation to your day? Have you tried and found it difficult to continue? What are your thoughts on how meditation can improve your stress level, confidence, balance, and ability to respond better?