I often hear about ‘positive thinking’, benefits of meditation, staying calm, giving gratitude, etc. Lots of inspirational stories and many speakers try to motivate the benefits of these.
My parents, some family members and close friends have also advocated these to me. Everyday messages on the same lines flood my inboxes…these messages are fantastic to read, but can they be really practised in our daily lives?
Is it so easy and life altering to change thoughts ingrained in our psyche over the years?-thoughts ranging from self-doubt, loneliness, anger and other negative feelings that crowd through us every day?
Passing through a challenging period in my life right now, I desire to try to bring a change in the way I think. I chance upon an app in the App Store and try their ‘7 days of calm and happiness’ to see if it is easy to feel these despite the daily challenges.
Day 1: A few minutes of concentrating on my breathing and trying to calm myself down. Every few seconds I find my mind wandering, but I calmly bring it back to my breathing.
Next is a 10 minute session on feeling gratitude for all that I actually have in life. Wow! I do have a lot of blessings to count!
Day 2: I concentrate better on my breathing- following my breath as it goes in and out is slightly better than day 1. My mind still wanders, but it is easier to bring it back to the task on hand.
This is followed by a session on self-love and realizing my weaknesses without passing judgement on them. Listing my positives and my negatives without criticizing made me feel strangely quite contented.
Day 3: Breathing while concentrating on every part of my body from scalp to toe ensues. I breathe into each part individually trying to feel the signals they send me.
This is followed by an exercise of ‘letting go’. This is not so easy. Letting go of pent up feelings of anger, resentment and past failures and future uncertainties is challenging. While doing the exercise, momentarily, the mind ‘let’s go’, but doesn’t forget.
Day 4: Today’s session is about pulling out of ‘auto-pilot’ and ‘living in the moment’. This is difficult, as my mind is crowded with many thoughts and constantly wavers. But, as the session goes on, it becomes easier to bring it back to concentrate on the breathing exercise.
It is an exercise to appreciate the moment that we are in right now. Though hard, the few minutes of meditation does help bring a perspective to my life.
Day 5: The exercise on concentrating on breathing today involves taking breaks through the day to ‘do nothing’. Again, my mind wanders, but it is easier than earlier to bring it back. Breathing into each part of my body- the knots in my shoulders and back though they don’t dissolve completely, but they feel softer.
The session to embrace uncertainty and look at it is an opportunity is an ideal situation, but requires lot of effort.
Day 6: The session today is about building patience and better mental and physical health. Counting 1 as I take a deep breath saying 2 as I breathe out helps to maintain my focus on breathing. The first few times the mind is concentrated, but again it wavers. It requires an effort to leave the comfort of ‘thoughts’ to bring it back to concentrating on breathing.
Apart from breathing into different parts of the body to soften them, the exercise also urges us to breathe into our emotions and feelings. As I do that, I feel a softening of my anger- I feel less angry at certain things that have been troubling me.
Day 7: Today is the last day of the exercise. It wishes to inculcate being ‘aware’ and taking time out for hobbies and other leisure interests. The exercise is about breathing into each part of my body one after the next and only feeling the signals they send me and not alter them. It is a fairly long session and as everyday it is a challenge to keep my mind only on the breathing.
The next part of the session urges me to think about the last time I laughed, and what I like to do for a hobby or my idea of relaxation. It is a jolt to me that I cannot find answers to these basic questions right away. As I breathe in and out trying to soften my tense muscles, it makes me think about them.
Doing craft is my hobby and I remember feeling so creative and joyful every time I made something. The session inspired me to decorate some pieces.
Focusing only on breathing and not thinking about anything else is hard. Meditation is not something that I look forward to do daily. But practising it this past week, I do sense a change in me, however small, but it is unmistakably there. I feel calmer and more accepting of my circumstances. It has served as a reminder for the many good things in my life, instead of only focussing on the not-so-good.
I haven’t tamed all the raging lions in my mind, but they feel more pliable now.