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Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Today is the last day of the fifth month of my Happiness Project for 2011.

To recap, I chose to focus on Peace & Spirituality. My resolutions for the month were to: 

  • Sit in complete silence for 10 minutes each day
  • Attend a meditation class
  • Unplug after 6pm
  • Breathe
  • Create a gratitude journal and write in it each day
  • Explore the outdoors for 10 minute every day
  • Visit a Buddhist Temple
  • Visit the First Unitarian Congregation
  • Read the Bible 

I really feel like I slacked off a bit with this month. I did most of the things I had committed to but I didn’t do them with full enthusiasm or interest. The purpose of this month was to learn to bring peace into my life as well as find some sort of spiritual connection but I really feel like I was just going through the motions, checking off the next item on my to-do list. 

Sit in Complete Silence for 10 Minutes Each Day

In the beginning of the month, I did my best to make this a priority but as the month went on, and I didn’t really feel like I was getting any real benefits from this exercise, I considerably reduced the frequency of my solitude. Although most times I would feel much more relaxed after the ten minutes were complete, I didn’t feel like I was getting anything else from it. 

I’ve always heard that meditation has all these huge benefits; it reduces stress, releases anger and fear, and helps you to develop more kindness, compassion and gratitude. It is a remarkable tool for self-reflection. It enables you to look within and see more clearly, witness your deepest thoughts and reduce your self-involvement. All I received from my time alone was an increased relaxed feeling – from all the breathing, and a slight increase in my frustration levels from constantly (unsuccessfully) eliminating the distracting thoughts and attempting to ignore the surrounding noises. 

I think I may need to get some expert advice on this whole meditation thing. Perhaps I am simply putting too much pressure on myself. Maybe this particular way is not the right way for me. Maybe I just need to stick with it a bit longer until my mind becomes more trained. I believe I went into this with high expectations, assuming I’d come out of it with these huge insights. Perhaps there is no ulterior purpose to meditation. Maybe the only intention one should have is to just be there, in the moment, without trying to achieve anything in particular or get anywhere. Maybe there really is no right or wrong way, simply being present and being aware is the only objective. 

Attend a Meditation Class

I finally found a cool meditation class – one without all the weird chanting and flower child attire and acoustic guitars. I found a meditation class that is instructed by a very peaceful, serene Buddhist monk. The class was an hour and a half long and involved over 45 minutes of silent meditation (and I thought 10 minutes a day was tough!). The teacher guided us through a breathing meditation and then changed our focus to one of positive intention. Apparently, if you bestow a positive intention to each of your meditations it becomes much more powerful. The teacher then stopped the meditation to discuss some Buddhist values and teachings. She talked about Karma and then focused the talk around anger and how we can effectively deal with the anger in our lives (we certainly don’t want to have an outburst and create bad Karma for ourselves! 🙂 ) She ended the class with another silent meditation where we again concentrated on our breathing, created a positive intention and then spent a few more minutes focusing on anger and what we can do to deal with our anger and become a much more patient and peaceful person. 

I really enjoyed this class for three reasons. The first was because it forced me to sit there in silence for a really long time. The second was because the teacher was awesome and taught me a lot about Buddhist tradition and creating more patience and peace in my life. And the third was the fact that we were told to specifically think of a thought (how we can deal with our anger to become more patient). This was key for me. During all of my at home solitude sessions I would try my best to clear my mind from all thoughts but in this class we were actually encouraged to focus on those thoughts. That, I believe, is where the real self-reflection and insights will be found. 

Unplug After 6pm

For the most part, I found this goal pretty easy and quite calming. Other than the two nights when I had to go on after 6pm to upload my daily blog post, I have managed to stay away from the computer. It sounds weird but knowing that I could not go on it led to a very calming, peaceful feeling. I no longer have all these distracting thoughts of what I should go search for or check up on. I simply don’t care. 6pm is my time now to do what I want without having that nagging timewaster hanging over my head. 

Breathe

I’ve done pretty well with this. I wouldn’t say it has made a big difference in my life but having it as one of my goals at least reminds me every once in awhile to just stop and take a few deep breaths. 

Create a Gratitude Journal and Write In It Each Day

My gratitude journal has been really good for me. It encourages me to live in the moment and to become more aware of all the things I have to be thankful for. I did noticed a lot of little things before I started the journal but I feel that I really fully observe and engage myself in the simple pleasures now.  I literally stop to smell the roses and pause a moment when I see a bird singing in the trees. I allow myself to completely delight in the silly things and fully appreciate all the beauty we have in this world. 

Explore the Outdoors for 10 Minute Every Day

Unfortunately I did not succeed in this department at all. I’m going to use the record amount of rainfall as my excuse. When it was nice out, I did make sure to get outside, usually for at least half an hour to a full 2-3 hours. However, on those frequent miserable dreary days, I tended to shy away from the outside world and submersed myself deeper into my comfy, dry house.

Visit a Buddhist Temple

Last Sunday I attended a Buddhist Center. I wanted to go to one of the big temples in my city but I couldn’t find any info on them, all I could find was the addresses and the emails I sent out requesting info were ignored. This particular Buddhist Center had a fabulous website though, with lots of info, so I gave it a shot. The Sunday “class” was very small, with just three other people in it. It was held in the upstairs of a building, above a store, and was certainly nothing like the big old church I was expecting. We started with a prayer (played to music), did a 20 minute silent meditation, the monk talked for a few minutes then proceeded to play another musical chant-like prayer for world peace. We had another short 5 min meditation, played another musical prayer then had tea with the monk. It certainly wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t a bad experience by any means but I don’t think I will be going back. I have my Buddhist meditation class now that is similar in the teachings and meditation but lacks the (slightly annoying) musical prayers. 

Visit the First Unitarian Congregation

I attended the First Unitarian Congregation a few weeks ago and had a really great time. I was quite nervous as I had never been to a real church before but this place put me completely at ease. The people were all really nice, the place was very casual (jeans & t-shirt kind of apparel) and it wasn’t at all preachy and religious. I started by belting my heart out to “Lean on Me”, listened to a story about Winnie the Pooh, participated in a few minutes of silent meditation as well as music meditation to a live band and got to hear a really awesome sermon about making decisions. The overall impression I got from this congregation was not one of God, religion, sacrifice and commandments but one of community and non-judgmental togetherness. It was a lot of fun and I will definitely go back again in the future. 

Read the Bible 

I must admit, I’ve pretty much let this goal fall right off my priority list. To be fair, I have refused to pick up any other books in the meantime, in hopes of inspiring myself to pick up the Bible but I just couldn’t spend my free time reading it. It is just so very long and boring (well, compared to my exciting murder mystery novels I like to read anyways). I have read some of it (the book of Matthew, Mark, and John) but I haven’t made it all the way through. I do intend on finishing it eventually, as I do still feel it’s important for me to have at least read it once, but I think resolving to read it in its entirely in 31 days was too big for me. 
 
I certainly don’t think this month was a waste in any sense but I am definitely not as happy with the outcome as I had first presumed. I’m very glad that I found a few more things to get me out of the house each week as it’s now been proven that being extroverted is very beneficial to my happiness. I really enjoy my gratitude journal, it does provide me with a lot of happiness, but I really don’t feel any more at peace as a result of these goals. I intend to continue with them as best as I can and see what the next few months bring my way.
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“I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear tries to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number.” ~ Edith Armstrong

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It’s now half way through my Peace & Spirituality month; here is an update on how I’m doing. (Look here if you need a little refresher of my goals for May.)

Most days I have sat in silence for 10 whole minutes. Usually after I complete my hour on the treadmill I will sit back in my big papasan chair and concentrate on my breath for 10 minutes. I have noticed that when I am completely relaxed I can usually breathe in and out to a count of 8 (8 counts with my inhale, then 8 counts with each exhale). This is pretty impressive for me since I have such a hard time breathing deeply. The first day I did this I felt incredibly anxious. It took all of my will power to keep my butt planted and my eyes closed. By the second day, I was quite enjoying myself and even felt that 10 minutes came too soon. Each day since though, I have been having a hard time relaxing. I think much of this has to do with distractions. The weather has warmed up so the windows are open now and I can hear the cars. My dogs don’t understand what I’m doing so I can sense them standing in front of me staring or sometimes they will even jump up on my lap. For the future days I’m going to try to eliminate all the distractions and hope to return to the relaxed state I felt on day #2.

I have not yet attended a meditation class or the Buddhist Temple. I still have half a month to go though so hopefully I can still get these two checked off my list.

I have successfully unplugged myself from the computer each evening by 6pm. Some days I find this goal a little frustrating if I just want to go on quick to check something but overall it’s nice not having that time waster ruining my night.

Each day I usually remember to take several deep breaths while I’m sitting at my computer or at my work station. I have not noticed any improvement yet, as I’m still finding it difficult to catch my breath, but it does seem to help me relax.

My gratitude journal has been a lot of fun. Not only is it nice to record all the things I’m grateful for on a daily basis but it is persuading me to become more aware of simple things to be thankful for. During my day I will assess all the different things that are happening and I will ask myself “Can I use this for my gratitude journal?” In the past I may have noticed the boy and girl finch couple on my bird feeder and thought they were cute but now I see them and think “hey, that would be perfect for my journal. I’m so grateful that they decided to come to my feeder”.

Unfortunately I have not explored the outdoors as much as I had hoped. Mostly because the first week of May was filled with rain. There were a few days during this last week that had been beautiful though and I  made sure to get the dogs and I out for a nice long walk in the sun.

This morning was my first visit to a church. I attended the First Unitarian Congregation with my mom. I had very mixed feelings about this and couldn’t wait to find out what it was all about. I had read a number of the sermons online and loved them but was really nervous about going to a real church. How do I dress? What will it be like? Will they try to get me to join? Will they center me out or want me to confess my sins? I quickly found out I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This place was pretty darn awesome! Not only were the people incredibly nice (and casual too – Jeans Amen!) but it wasn’t at all preachy and religious. I got to belt my heart out to “Lean on Me”, I participated in a few minutes of silent meditation as well as music meditation to a live band and I learned a lot during the sermon. The overall impression I got from this congregation was not one of God, religion, sacrifice and commandments but one of community and non-judgemental togetherness. It was a lot of fun and I will definitely go back again in the future.

I have been reading bits of the Bible when I have time but I am nowhere near complete yet. It’s a very loooooong book and it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to read.

I have been enjoying my gratitude journal and the trip to the Unitarians congregation was a lot of fun but other than those two things, I haven’t noticed these goals providing a huge happiness boost. I will keep it up though and see what the next two weeks bring.

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May – Peace & Spirituality

“We live in a very tense society.  We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together… I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.” – Helen Hayes

Now that my energy (both mental and physical) has increased and my relationships have improved, I think it’s time to turn inward and focus on my personal peace and spirituality. I notice that as my happiness level increases, I do tend to feel less stressed but I still don’t feel completely at peace with myself. I still have days or weeks when my brain will not shut off, I become overly emotional and I feel incredibly stressed. I need to start prioritizing “peace” in my daily activities.

I am not a religious person in any way but as I get older I have this desire to have some form of spiritual connection, whether that means truly connecting internally to my authentic self or to an external force. This month I will spend some time in solitude searching my soul as well as exploring the spiritual side of things.

The resolutions to focus on this month: 

  • Sit in complete silence for 10 minutes each day
  • Attend a meditation class
  • Unplug after 6pm
  • Breathe
  • Create a gratitude journal and write in it each day
  • Explore the outdoors for 10 minute every day
  • Visit a Buddhist Temple
  • Visit the First Unitarian Congregation
  • Read the Bible 

Sit in Complete Silence For 10 Minutes Each Day

I am positive this will be the hardest goal I have set so far. I absolutely loathe the thought of sitting in silence. I’m not a busy body or anything, I can easily sit for hours if my mind is preoccupied with something external but I cannot sit alone in solitude. As much as I hate to admit it, I know that this is something worth doing. I hope that by including this in my happiness project, I may actually stick to it and discover some new knowledge and understanding. 

Attend a Meditation Class

You may have noticed that I did not use the word meditation in the first goal. I’m trying to make the whole “sitting in silence” thing as easy as possible. However, with that said, I do want to eventually start meditating on a regular basis. I have read a number of different techniques but I am the kind of person that needs to see it and practice it instead of just reading about it. I have attended one meditation class recently but I never went back for the second. It was weird and it kind of freaked me out. We had to chant words I couldn’t pronounce and then we all sang the chants to the rhythm of an acoustic guitar. It was certainly a unique experience but it definitely didn’t excite me enough to return. In hopes of finding a meditation technique that actually works for me, I’m going to put my fear aside and explore some other classes.

Unplug After 6pm

More specifically, “unplug” from the computer. The internet is a huge time waster for me and I said in my last post that I need to start prioritizing my life better. If I want more time for my husband, my friends, my hobbies, exercise, sleep and my “sitting in silence” then I need to give up something less productive. Sorry Facebook and email but you’ve got to get out of my life (well, at least get out of my life after 6pm).

Breathe

Obviously I breathe on a regular basis or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this right now. What I’m talking about here is good, deep, lung filling, soul cleansing breaths. I am a shallow breather. I have major issues with shortness of breath simply because I don’t breathe fully. I have been told by several doctors that I need to use my whole torso to breathe, not just the wee little upper part I’m using currently. I hear what the doctors are saying, and I really do try to practice it but I usually just forget. By making this a resolution, and by holding myself accountable to this daily, I’m hoping my breathing with greatly improve, my stress levels will decrease and I will no longer gasp for air after climbing a flight of stairs.

Create a Gratitude Journal and Write in it Each Day

Almost every happiness expert will tell you that practicing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to increase your happiness. I have a lot to be grateful for but as the bad days add up and the complaints start to outweigh the joy, it’s easy to get sucked down the ungrateful spiral. I usually write about the Little Things each week but I’d like to increase my focus and write at least 3-5 awesome things that I’m grateful for in a journal each and every day. 

Explore the Outdoors for 10 minutes Every Day

I love nature. I love the outdoors. I love the fresh air. I love the weather. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of my time indoors. I have a feeling that if I can make time to get outside and explore my surroundings, I will feel at peace. It may only be a temporary buzz, and it may be a little more difficult to enjoy myself in the cold pouring rain, but I’m going to give it a try. 

Visit a Buddhist Temple

Of all the religions out there, Buddhism speaks to me the most. I love the fact that they are all about improving yourself instead of just obeying a higher power. I love that it’s all based on kindness and compassion. I love the little fat dude too. 😉 As part of this months spiritual journey, I’m going to visit a local Buddhist Temple and see what it’s all about. 

Visit the First Unitarian Congregation

A friend of mine has recommended I attend Sunday service at her Unitarian Congregation. I checked out their website, read a couple of sermons and have decided to give it a chance.

Read the Bible

I mentioned above that I am not a religious person. I wouldn’t say that I am against religion per se. I believe it serves a great purpose for a lot of people. I also believe that some individuals can go a little overboard with it as well. With all that said, I feel that it is important for me to read the Bible. I am in my late twenties and have never read it (other than a children’s picture book when I was a little kid). If I am going to go on this spiritual voyage and explore all things spiritual, I certainly cannot be biased and completely disregard the number one religion in the world.

I have no idea where this journey will take me but I really feel that it’s a great one worth taking. Wish me luck!

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