Meditation: the art of Zen

Happy days are ahead of us - a long weekend, followed by more public holidays! If you were clever and put in an extra three days' leave, you'll have a wonderful 11-day holiday to look forward to.

Not all of us will have such an extended break (hey, someone's got to run the office) but at least we'll all get a chance to take a breather from a year that's already been insanely busy - we're only in April, who knows what waits for us around the next bend.

While you're munching away on Easter eggs and hot cross buns, use these next few days to unwind and refocus your energy on the months to come. For many people Easter symbolises new life and a new beginning. Why not apply this theme to your own life and try to rediscover what it is that you'd like to achieve in your life this year? Soon the brakes will be off and the year steaming ahead again - this is your ideal opportunity to prepare yourself.

The best way to get in touch with what's really important to you, is to take some time out and meditate. Many people still wrongly believe that meditation is a New Age practice, something that only weirdos do. You don't have to turn into a Buddhist monk or visit some far-off mystic retreat to meditate. Meditation simply means to quieten the mind. You may be surprised to learn that you most probably have meditated numerous times in your life already, without knowing it.

Praying, listening to music, walking outdoors and getting in touch with nature, relaxing in the bath and focusing on your breathing - these are all things that help you to switch off from the frenetic world outside and to rediscover your own voice.

Get in touch with yourself

Our minds are constantly processing the images, thoughts and messages that we take in everyday - the non-stop chatter can become so loud that we don't know the beautiful sound of silence anymore. Some people even feel uncomfortable with silence. Just taking out 10 minutes in a day, will not only refresh your mind, but also re-energise your whole being. By switching off the outside noise, you will be able to focus on your own thoughts and needs again.

It is especially important to switch off from technology. Though it may be hard to believe, it actually is possible to survive a few days without TV, computers, cellphones and the like. The most important person you need to be in touch with 24 hours of the day, is yourself.

If you are not used to "quiet time", you may initially find it difficult to slow down your mind. A flurry of thoughts may occupy your mind (worries, irritations, trivia and your things-to-do list), you may be easily distracted by outside noises and even feel fidgety. Don't worry about this. It's completely normal. Simply acknowledge all the chatter and let it pass through until you reach that wonderful moment of calm and quiet. This is the time when you can rediscover what really matters to you and how you'd like to achieve it. The more you practise, the easier it will become.

If you'd like to learn more about meditation, visit Health24's Meditation section. There are also meditation groups that you could join - most of them are not based on a specific religion and are open to anyone. And finally, if you're looking for something different, why not try a walking meditation? 

Here's to a restful break and a new beginning.

- (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Natural Health Newsletter, April 2011)

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