The Makings of an Optimist

Life is stressful.  It just is.  We have jobs, kids, friends, family, money and whatever else we deal with weighing on our shoulders.  We multitask, reschedule, overbook and overwork to get everything done.  It’s hard to stop and breathe sometimes.  Our bodies take stress in and it can affect us in different ways.  Headaches, backaches, stomach pain and anxiety attacks are only a few of the culprits. 

I have been on a quiet journey for a few months.  While trying to read more and write more, I have also been trying to calm my mind and body in the meantime.  Maybe we could say I am on a path to enlightenment.  Too cliched?  Ok, I am learning about meditation.  When I first began reading about it, I thought what can it really do for me?  I can barely sit still for several minutes let alone get my mind to focus on a mantra.  Isn’t this only for hippies and people who live for yoga?  Besides, I have kids, a dog and a cat, so there is no chance of me ever having a substantial amount of undisturbed silence to obtain any benefit. 

Wrong.  I was so wrong.  I am so wrong it makes me wonder why have I not done this before?  Meditation does not mean sitting and chanting “Ohm” for hours on end.  There is so much more to know.  You can meditate by looking at a candle, listening to ocean waves or even doing daily activities.  Positions vary from lying flat on your back to performing yoga poses.  The middle of your living room is a great place.  So is your back yard.  Or your desk at work. (You may not want to lie across your desk, though.)  The point is, meditation is not about one position and one practice.  The importance is in the results of your meditation.

The ability to breath deep and allow yourself to let go of your thoughts is a true gift.  The breathing can calm your body as well as your mind.  When we let stress affect us, it can make our muscles tighten and our breathing to become short and shallow.  By forcing a deep breath, you can feel your muscles begin to relax.  And somehow, some way, the more you do it, the more the calm bleeds into the rest of your day.  You are more likely to handle tasks with patience and skill.  You are less likely to be upset by coworkers, spouses or your children. 

My favorite outcome is I feel more aware of my own self.  I am starting to discover so much more about who I am.  I feel much more in tune with my body and mind.  When I feel frustration or anger building up, I am much better equipped to pacify my emotions.  Just one or two deep breaths can help me refocus when I feel like I am losing control.  Most of all, I relish the fact that I can learn to appreciate so much more in my life.  A mere smile from one of my kids or a trip in the car without an accident is enough to make me remember what is important in my life.  Each day, each moment can hold something precious. 

So, has meditation made me an optimist?  Maybe.  Or maybe it just showed me what I’ve been missing.