Are there things you know that will make your life better and easier, and yet you can’t figure out how to incorporate them into your routine?
One of my key omissions is meditation and silence. That’s why I was very excited when I interviewed Sarah McLean, author of Soul Centered: Transform Your Life with 8 Weeks of Meditation. McLean’s father had dementia and she understands how difficult it can be to offer yourself those few moments of silence.
Five Ways to Ground Yourself Through Silence
For McLean, the silence has been an important part of her spiritual and personal growth.
“By practicing silence, we explore our intuition and our connection to the divine,” McLean says. “When I sit quietly, I become more aware of my own thoughts and I notice the habits that keep me from seeing the beauty in life,”
McLean offers these simple tips for inviting mindful silence into your life.
Wake up with awareness.
Give yourself a slice of silence for the first five minutes of your morning. Avoid instant connections to people, TV, radio or Internet.
Hear the stillness.
When possible, walk outdoors. Listen to the sounds and feel the stillness.
Enjoy a Silent Snack
For one meal or snack a day, turn off all noise and eat in silence. Be present with the taste of your food.
Practice Silence by Listening
Being a listener is a great way to start practicing silence. Wait until you are moved to speak; don’t compulsively fill up the quiet.
Practice Silence with Your Loved One Who Has Dementia
McLean wrote this after a visit with her father:
“There seemed to be nothing I could say to relate to him and to jar his memory. One day, I sat with him and meditated. Somewhere during my meditation, I had the thought to open my eyes to be sure he was all right. I was surprised to see him sitting up, alert, bright eyed, and smiling. He looked blissful and joyous. I closed my eyes and continued to meditate. When I left that day, I felt as if I had connected with him, and he with me for the first time in years. As a meditation teacher, I was amazed that it had taken me this long to think to do this. I visited him a few more times in December and early January and meditated, and felt fulfilled again and again. “
By adding in those moments of silence, you’re inviting more joy, fulfillment, inspiration, and connection.
Along with her 25 year meditation practice, Sarah McLean has explored world spiritual and cultural traditions: she’s been a 2-year resident in a Zen Buddhist monastery, lived in an ashram in India, taught English to Tibetan Buddhist nuns, bicycled along the silk route through Pakistan, meditated in temples in Thailand and Japan, and trekked the Golden Triangle in Asia. She worked with Deepak Chopra for eight years as the Program Director of the Chopra Center for Well Being. Sarah McLean is passionate about teaching and sharing what she’s discovered about the modalities of mind/body health, self-awareness and her spiritual journey. Endorsed by Deepak Chopra and featured in The New York Times, Sarah is the founding director of the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona, which offers meditation classes, retreats and teacher certification courses. www.McLeanMeditation.com.
My stomach hurt most of the time. As I dashed around the house, getting ready to go see Mom in the Memory Care Unit, I frequently bumped into furniture. I found myself drifting away during meetings and unable to concentrate when I sat at the computer to write. And even though I had wonderful, supportive friends, I often felt an aching loneliness. Later, I learned these were normal symptoms of caregiver’s fatigue.
I asked my friend Linda Moore, psychologist, community leader and author of the newly released book, “What’s Wrong with Me?” to tell me more about recognizing and managing such exhaustion. Here are some of her insights.
Three Areas Where Stress Screeches You to a Halt
“Your body is the early warning system,” Linda says. “But most people try to ignore the on-going tiredness, low energy, muscle spasms, unfamiliar aches and pains, and GI issues.”
Often, after I’d spent hours solving problems around Mom’s care, I had a heavy feeling of disconnection and a dull anger. Nothing mattered and I felt sad, rootless and lonely. But I kept going. Caregivers tend to push past such feelings.
“Poor concentration is one common sign of stress,” Linda says. When friends say, “You’re just not acting like yourself,” it’s a cue to slow down and drink a cup of soothing tea, read a short magazine article, or phone a friend. Other stress symptoms include procrastination and isolating yourself.
Fight Breakdown with the MEE Plan
“Meditate, even if it’s just for a minute,” Linda advises.
Sit quietly, count to four as you breathe in and count to six as you breathe out. Watch your thoughts wiggle around. One minute of meditation calms you; five minutes energizes you and 20 minutes of daily meditation can really center you and give you a greater sense of well-being.
“Everybody knows it works and no one wants to do it,” Linda says. Even when you’re so tuckered out that your fingernails feel heavy, movement matters. Five minutes just walking around the house or prancing around to “Dancing Queen” can ratchet up your energy. Fifteen minutes of walking can lift your mood. Even a jog up stairs or unloading the dishwasher can shift your energy.
Is a banana really as delicious as a dark chocolate truffle? Many would say no. But most would agree, the banana is better for you. Even if you often eat on the run, choose fruits and vegetables to snack on. Throw in salads, whole grains, soups and nuts. And don’t forget the truffle: be sure you indulge every so often in a comfort food you really adore.
Lastly, Linda advises, “Don’t give away your personal power: ask for help when appropriate and learn to say no.” #
Q 4 U
I bump into furniture when I’m stressed. What are some of your stress signals?