Category Archives: Spiritual Balance
If you’ve been curious about meditation, but maybe also a bit intimidated by the New Agey vibe associated with it, this article is for you. I’ll give you a simple explanation of mediation, so you know what it is (and what it isn’t), and then I’ll explain the benefits of it, why people choose meditation, and finally how to get started if you think it might be a good tool for you.
What Is Meditation?
Mediation is a silent approach to finding peacefulness. Although it is all about you and your mind, it has nothing to do with God or praying. It is really a state of being where you, in a sense, “empty” your mind. Meditating is a way to clear your mind so that only your consciousness remains. One way to look at it is this – If you have a lamp on, but you remove all the objects in the room, the lamp still goes on giving light. Meditation does the same thing, but in your mind. You remove all the “objects” (thoughts, worries, aches and pains) from your mind, and only your consciousness remains. True meditation is that state you are in when it is just you and your consciousness without any particular thoughts.
This isn’t guided imagery where you picture yourself in a peaceful place, and it isn’t a relaxation technique where you focus on something like your breathing. You aren’t thinking about anything. You are clearing your mind of everything to find a place of peace.
Don’t be scared off by the idea of reaching your “consciousness”. It means nothing more than just clearing your mind completely.
Why Do People Meditate?
People meditate for a lot of different reasons. Usually, individuals are drawn to meditation when their lives are getting a little too hectic, and they are yearning for some balance or peace of mind. If you ever feel like your life is a bit out of control, or you are just running from one thing to the next all day, meditation can really help you calm the chaos in your mind.
Other people arrive at meditation not to counterbalance chaos, but more for treatment of generalized problems. For instance, people who struggle with anxiety (even mild anxiety) find meditation to be helpful. Also, people who are feeling stressed – even if they can’t necessarily identify all their stressors – find that meditation helps them lower their stress level. Think of it as a medicine without having to clearly diagnose your ailment. It helps your overall mental health, even when you haven’t thought about what led you to struggle in the first place.
If you’re always on the go and sometimes feel like you need a moment to catch your breath for your own sanity, meditation can be a great tool.
What Will Meditating Do For Me?
Besides the sense of calmness or inner peace that meditation can bring you, there are also numerous studies showing the physiological benefits. People who meditate have been found to have stronger immune systems to fight diseases (not just viruses but systemic ailments like cancer too), lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and healthier hearts.
Another interesting benefit to meditating is the changes in your mental health. People who meditate report feeling like their minds are sharper. They are better able to focus on both physical tasks and problem-solving, and they actually find they are able to resolve concerns and stressors easier. This makes sense, since when you meditate, you clear your mind for a time period. In a way, it’s like clearing any clutter from your mind that is impacting your thoughts and other mental tasks.
How Do I Start?
Even if you aren’t sure whether meditating is for you, it is certainly worth a try. Give it a week and see how you feel. If you don’t want to commit a lot of time to something you aren’t sure about, that’s okay – you can give it just 5 minutes per day.
If you think it might feel a bit awkward to just sit in a room and try to focus on nothing, start at an easier step. Just do this:
- Go in a quiet room that you can darken, and where you won’t be disturbed.
- If you’d like, turn on some quiet, soothing music.
- Find a comfortable sitting position – it doesn’t have to be the traditional meditation pose on the floor with legs crossed. Just be comfortable.
- Now just breathe. I know we talked earlier about this not being a breathing exercise, but if you’re new to meditation, it’s a good place to start. Just breathe in and out quietly for five minutes (or longer). If you find yourself thinking about things you need to do, shift your focus to something quieting – like a cloud or a tree or a field. If you find yourself listening to what someone is saying in another room, try to tune it out. That’s all you’re trying to do here – tune out all the things that normally crowd your mind, and just be still with a quiet mind.
Once you get comfortable with breathing and clearing your mind – you are meditating! There are actually two kinds of meditation – mindful meditation and mantra meditation.
Mantra is the type you’ve heard of where people repeat a single word in their head (such as “om”) while they meditate. This helps to give you something quiet to focus on, while still allowing you to completely clear your mind.
Mindful Meditation is mediation where you focus on one of your senses or your breathing or even the thoughts going through your head, and but you do so without judging yourself – instead just letting thoughts and feelings flow freely in and out of your mind. You can decide whichever one works better for you.
- Don’t forget to repeat. New habits are hard to instill, and even more so when you aren’t sure about something new you are trying. But you probably won’t feel the benefits of meditation from just one session. Try to do it every day for a week, and then see how you feel. If you think you might be starting to feel a bit of a sense of calmness, promise yourself another week to keep working on it. If you can, increase the amount of time you spend meditating – as much as 20 minutes each day if possible.
Of all the many benefits to meditating, the favorite one I’ve read about is that it extends your life! Something so simple and calming can have so many positive effects on both your physical and mental well-being AND extend your life! Why not give it a try?
If you have tried meditating before, let me know how it worked for you. And, if you try it now, be sure to report back with your results. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Spring is here! Actually, here in Kansas City it feels like we skipped straight to summer. But that just means it’s the perfect time to start planning a garden.
In our continuing quest to make our lives more balanced, it’s important to think of the environment and make sure we are reducing our impact on key resources (using them conservatively) and also making positive choices that contribute to everyone’s quality of life – people, animals and plants included.
Growing your own vegetables and herbs – if you do it in an environmentally sound way – is a great place to start, since it’s beneficial to the planet and to you. Plants help prevent global warming by using carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that traps heat) to make energy for themselves. Not only do plants use carbon dioxide, but they put out oxygen, which is what people and animals need. So more healthy oxygen and less carbon dioxide is good for us and the planet.
Another consideration is the small impact you can make as part of the bigger whole. More people planting food in their own gardens means fewer trucks on the road transporting fruits and vegetables, less pesticides being used, and overall energy and fuel conservation. Everybody who plants a garden makes a difference, just as everyone who recycles or uses energy efficient bulbs or carries home groceries in reusable bags makes a difference.
If you haven’t planted a garden before (as with anything new), you can start small. There are just a few things to consider when deciding what to grow, and then you’ll be on your way to fresher, healthier, greener food.
Location - For the most part, in many areas of the US, you can plant just about any vegetables or herbs. You’ll have more success with certain fruits in southern states where it stays warmer longer. Weather.com has a terrific tool that will show you all the best flowers, trees, vegetables, fruits, and herbs based on your zip code. It’s a great place to start!
Space - There is no space too small or too large to grow a garden. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow plants! Here are some ideas that will work in different size spaces:
Large outdoor garden - There are some vegetable plants that really spread when they grow, and they’re fun to watch because they grow so fast. If you’ve got the space, consider cucumbers, green beans, and tomatoes.
Small outdoor garden - If you don’t have a lot of space, consider vegetable plants that won’t spread out too much or vegetables that grow in the ground. Some ideas would be carrots, cherry tomatoes, beets, or scallions. There’s a great book called, Fast, Fresh Garden Edibles: Quick Crops for Small Spaces that has a lot of suggestions on what to grow in small spaces, and also includes details about caring for your garden, which might be a bit different, depending on how small your space is.
Along a fence - This is a great area for bushes with berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Others that are less common are gooseberries, rhubarb, and (my favorite!) red currants. Depending on the type of fence you have, it can even serve as support for the growing bushes.
Front yard - Yes, you can have garden space in your front yard and still maintain your home’s curb appeal! Sunflowers work great in the front, and you can also landscape with strawberries or herbs.
Indoor planting - Even if you don’t have a yard for a garden, you can still grow a variety of edibles, especially if you have a balcony. Start with herbs on a windowsill. If you want your plants to double as decor, try combining them in bigger pots. There’s a great book, Grow Your Own Herbs in Pots that has all sorts of suggestions on which herbs go well together based on height, color, leaf shape, and even fragrance. You can also grow vegetables in containers such as five gallon pails, planters, or even plastic bags, as this lady suggests for potatoes.
Healthy variety - There’s a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicating strong evidence that a variety of berries can protect the aging brain from memory loss and other degenerative changes. Leafy green vegetables like leaf lettuce and spinach are rich in vitamins and minerals and can decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease. Carrots also help you fight disease and of course help improve your vision. Even sunflower seeds are packed with vitamins, especially Vitamin E.
Depending on what your health priorities are, you can plan your garden accordingly. The agriculture department of North Dakota State University put together this easy list of foods and their benefits that makes it easy to pick and choose. Or check out this fun chart if you are hoping to help a certain ailment (but see your doctor if it’s warranted).
Truly going green - Keeping in mind our goal of benefiting the planet, I have to tell you – it’s time to give up all your pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals. I know, they’re easy and cheap and they get the job done, right? But they’re also defeating your purpose.
By adding chemicals to your garden, you are potentially serving cancer-causing agents to your family. They also pollute the soil and water, and in general are harmful to the environment.
I’ll cover the hows and whys of natural gardening in a future post. For now, though, you might be interested in a helpful guide called The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way. It has tons of tips and information about how to naturally avoid pests and diseases, how to maintain your healthy garden all season, and even new ideas on what to do if you still encounter problems. It’s a much healthier approach, with less impact on the environment.
Are you ready to start gardening? What are you thinking about growing this year? I’m definitely thinking about corn, but still deciding on other veggies. Maybe green beans? Let me know your gardening thoughts. I’ll see you in the comments, and you can also like One Move Forward on facebook!
When you think about your own health, probably the first things that jump to mind are your diet and how much you exercise, right? Interestingly, even scientists will tell you that spiritual health is also an important component in your overall well-being.
But how do you get in touch with your spiritual self? And what does that even mean? Is being a member of organized religion enough, or is there more to it? My reading and understanding tells me there are many components to your spiritual health. Yes, organized religion (or any belief in a higher being) might be a part of that for you. But I think there are other parts to your spirituality as well, including making an ongoing effort to find your meaning and purpose, defining your values and living your life by them, figuring out what feeds your soul and acting on that, and also engaging in practices that reach into your spiritual realm (not strictly physical or mental) such as prayer, meditation, and yoga – just to name a few.
Today I want to focus on defining your personal values and then behaving in ways that are reflective of those values. The reason it’s important to clearly identify your values is because it helps you further define and understand yourself. In yesterday’s post about self-esteem, I talked about the importance of gaining confidence in yourself, thus being able to better make decisions that are true to the real you. And you want to clearly identify your values for the same reason – the more in touch you are with the true you, the closer you move to peace.
In an effort to continually define the true you, think about your values. Make a list of them (choose around 10), and then try to rank them in terms of your biggest priorities. Below is a list of some values, but it’s not exhaustive, so be sure to include your own in your list:
Being the best
And just like that, you’ve already done most of the hard work! You’ve created your own bible to live by. When you know your most important priorities, you use them to make informed decisions in your life, both big and small. If, for instance, one of your top priorities is nurturing your child, and he is asking you to stop watching TV and instead play trucks with him, your decision is easy. The action itself (turning off the TV and missing the end of your show) might not be easy, but the decision to do so is. And if your high priority value really is time spent with your kids, when you make the decision to do so, ultimately that will be the most gratifying decision because that is what feeds the real you.
The biggest benefit in knowing and understanding your values is that it will lead you to clarity and focus. When you use your new prioritized values list when making decisions, it will inspire you to do the things that really matter to you. In other words, the whole point of discovering your values is to improve the results you get in those areas that are truly most important to you.
Make sense? I hope so. It really all is a process. I would recommend that you try the entire exercise a few times and see how you feel in the end. Make your list of 10 values and prioritize them. Review your list a few times and really think about whether that is what you want or if that is what you think you should want. Revise your list if needed. Once you are sure you have a list of prioritized values that reflect the true you, commit them to memory if you can.
Then start using your values to make informed decisions – how you treat others, how you spend your time, your attitude, how you handle adversity, where you spend your money – everything! And, over a period of time, see how you end up feeling. If your values list is reflective of the real you, and if you’re making decisions and acting in ways that reflect those values, I’d bet your core self will start to move toward inner peace – and a little more spiritual wellness.
I’d love to know how this works for you! Let me know in the comments, or you can also reach me on Twitter at @onemoveforward. I look forward to hearing from you!
In yesterday’s post, we talked about the first three dimensions of wellness – social, physical, and emotional. Today I’ll explain the last four, which are career, intellectual, environmental, and spiritual.
Career wellness (or occupational wellness) is about finding work that is fulfilling to you, while also maintaining balance between work and the other parts of your life. When you want to make an impact in your career, you make an impact in the organization where you work, and then in turn you make an impact on society. The impact can be positive or negative, and the best way to make a positive impact is to find work that you find fulfilling. In future posts, we’ll discuss how to find a career in which you gain satisfaction, unique ways to make a positive impact in your place of employment (and the effects that can have), and new ideas on balancing a demanding job with the other important parts of your life.
Intellectual wellness covers a lot of ground. Part of it is being open to new ideas and experiences. When you have the desire to take on unfamiliar challenges, learn new concepts, and improve your skills, you can move toward intellectual wellness. Critical thinking is also a component of intellectual wellness – when you examine your own thinking and judgments (and those of others), you build your ability to see things differently. We’ll talk more about how to keep an open mind, how to challenge yourself when you feel stuck in an old rut, and how to build on past experiences to learn in new ways.
Environmental wellness is the process of making positive choices relating to your impact on resources such as air, land, water, and energy. Positive environmental choices will contribute to sustaining or improving quality of life for people, animals, and plants. I look forward to talking about how to limit toxins, chemicals, and pollution. We’ll also talk about food safety, how to make a positive environmental impact, and anti-consumption movements.
Spiritual wellness is not about religion or how to live your life according to your religion. Regardless of whether you believe in a specific organized religion, you can move toward spiritual wellness by working on discovering your meaning and purpose in life, identifying values that are important to you, and then behaving in ways that are reflective of those values. These skills will help you develop peace and harmony in your life. We’ll talk more about calling on your personal belief system to help cope with both daily hassles and life crises, how to use your values and beliefs to elicit a relaxation response, and how to let go of worries, pain and stress to focus instead on hopefulness and satisfaction.
That’s it – you now know the seven dimensions of wellness. As you work on balancing all seven, think about what you are working toward. The highest and most important goal of your wellness journey is to attain peace – inner peace. And, in the words of The Dalai Lama,
“Without inner peace, it is impossible to have world peace.”
Let me know your thoughts about career, intellectual, environmental, and spiritual wellness in the comments! What areas do you want to work on?