By Dr. Carolyn Anderson
Whether you’re retired or not, life can often seem a little crazy and stressful. I think the baby-boomer generation is dealing with unique pressures and you often have a number of balls in the air at any one time.
You may be the primary caregivers for your parents as they get older while looking after your own children and grandchildren at the same time. In addition, if you are still working you fear not staying current with the young up and comers. All of this to deal with while worrying about your own physical health and the financial pressures of making sure you have enough cash to last you for the long life you plan to live.
As we get older it is even more important to take care of our bodies so we can live long healthy lives and have the energy to be there for our loved ones. You already know the basic health precautions to eat well and get enough sleep but increasingly research is showing the negative effects of stress on our health.
Just because we are retired or close to retirement does not mean we retire from all the stressors of a normal busy life but you can significantly increase your ability to handle stress by learning how to meditate.
You may still think of meditation as a new age thing but at its core it involves focusing your mind. This concentration can help give your mind a break and actively focusing your mind is better than simply relaxing.
While it’s dismissed by some it has real health benefits for everyone. Neuroscience research has shown that it helps you to focus, decreases anxiety and reduces stress. It can even help reduce age-related declines . Recent studies have also shown that meditating regularly can physically change your brain in positive ways.
Meditation on the Move Video
Meditation on the Move Blog
Meditation is so simple yet so challenging at the same time. I’ve heard from many people that meditation doesn’t work for them. They can’t focus their attention for more than a second or they fall asleep while repeating Om.
When I first started trying to meditate it did not come easily to me either. In fact one of the first times I tried this practice, I couldn’t switch my brain off. I was thinking about whether I had a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry to throw into the pasta I was making for dinner that night, the email I forgot to reply to and how I should organize the Rubbermaid bin of winter clothes all at the same time.
So much for peace and tranquility. Then I thought…maybe I am doing this at the wrong time of the day, so I tried the morning. I would walk across the room to turn of the iPhone alarm and get back into bed to run through my meditation. The only problem is I just kept falling back to sleep and making myself late. My meditation became worse than hitting the snooze alarm five times every morning.
What I thought would be a great addition to the daily routine became another source of stress. I either could not turn my brain off or I could not stay awake. I swung from one extreme to the next until I found out what was right for me.
The two methods that I find most useful are visualization meditation and active meditation. This blog will guide you through a technique for active meditation I find really awesome. While any type of meditation becomes easier and more effective with practice, trying an active form of meditation can help to groove the practice into your life more quickly and successfully.
Active mediation combines movement with focused attention. There are many different forms but the one that I find really useful is a Navajo prayer. I first heard this from an interview with Martha Beck. She is the amazing life coach that writes an incredibly funny and insightful column in the O magazine every month.
The process is simple. Go out walking and look for beauty in your surroundings. Say to yourself the following as you walk and actually look for the beauty in each location.
Navajo Prayer Meditation Chant- Beauty All Around You
Beauty before me ( and really find some)
Beauty behind me ( and really find some)
Beauty above me ( and really find some)
Beauty below me ( this might be more difficult unless you have some really great walking shoes)
Beauty to my left
Beauty to my right
Beauty within me…you get the drill and repeat.
It is amazing how there is beauty everywhere if you think about it and look for it. When we open our eyes and look around we can find beauty often in the everyday simple things. It might be a blade of grass defiantly poking through a concrete lot, a bird freely flying above or an eye-catching sign. This act of focusing on the beauty quiets the mind and puts the brain in the meditative state. A relaxed state that results from this can give you unexpected ideas and solutions during the walk and during the rest of the day.
I found this video with a similar chant and you could listen to this on repeat as you walk along. Although I find doing your own thing can sometimes be better than trying to keep up with the audio.
Another benefit of this practice is just getting outside in the fresh air and getting up from your desk or couch. Don’t try to plan or solve anything during these walks, just focus on being in the moment. Commit to a five minute meditative walk once a day and build up your focussing power to spend up to 15-20 minutes in this active meditation.
Do you meditate? Why or why not?
About the Author: Dr. Carolyn Anderson is an eye surgeon who founded Impowerage to raise money for macular degeneration research. She practices cataract surgery in Langley, BC and is a professional speaker who speaks on managing your energy.