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Living Well

Once on our way home from a Vermont ski weekend, we stopped for gas at a service station that offered two welcome perks. What initially drew us in was the covered self-serve island, which kept the sloppy mix of snow and rain off my husband as he filled the tank. The added bonus was a set of speakers on the outside of the building broadcasting music. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but I was a captive audience that day. I found myself listening intently to George Strait’s catchy tune and poignant message: “There’s a difference in living and living well.” During our trip home, I reflected upon the distinction between living and living well and I invite you to do the same.

How would you define living well? Although what first came to my mind were scenes from glossy travel ads of idyllic tropical beaches (I’m sure that had something to do with our chilly weather) and luxurious spas, I quickly thought of some more everyday, low-cost examples of family and friends living well:

• My father, who settled into his recliner every evening with a sigh and an interesting library book
• Friends who sit out on their deck every summer evening to watch the sun set
• My German host parents who have perfected the art of leisurely mealtimes (gemutliches Essen)
• My friend who makes a nightly ritual out of taking a bath by candlelight

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As you think about your own life, what current evidence do you have that you live well? You might include things often taken for granted: your health, a good night’s sleep, the unconditional love of a pet or more obvious indulgences: a fine bottle of wine, a decadent dessert, silk lingerie. I hope that the length of your list pleasantly surprises you.

What would help you move from just living to consistently living well? There are many small steps you can take that can make a big difference. A shift in thinking is one example. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking in your life use an affirmation such as “All is well. I live well.” and you’ll begin believing it. What are things that you currently do (think eat, drink, sleep, bathe) that with more intention and attention could begin to feel like nurturing rituals instead of routines? What do you have access to but aren’t currently taking advantage of that could contribute to living well? Here’s a list that get you thinking:
• Fine china
• Music—to listen to or play
• Babysitter
• Comfy coach
• Jacuzzi
• Yoga mat
• Exercise videos or equipment
• Unredeemed gift certificates
• Bread machine
• Crock pot
• Fresh flowers

My challenge to you is to not “get through” the coming days, weeks, and holidays but to live them and live them well!

Gift of Peace

self carePeace, Love, and Joy.  Those are supposed to be the hallmarks of the season, yet are these truly filling your heart at this time?   What ripple effects are you currently setting in motion, beginning in your household, and expanding out to your workplace, community and beyond?

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Is a quote from Ron Hall that especially hit home during the years when our boys (and often an exchange student, too) were under our roof. I found that the added pressures of holiday preparations would often leave me feeling overwhelmed and cranky.  I’d dissolve into a puddle of tears at least once or twice before the New Year and know that I brought everyone else down with me.

Now, I feel that my deepening work with meditation has given me more tools and greater self-compassion to accept and ride out any strong waves of emotions.  Goodness knows, there are always ample opportunities for practice, especially since feelings of loss and yearning are often amplified during the holidays (hi-low-days).

In study after study, meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain and promote feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being.   So I encourage you to give meditation a whirl (or a second chance) if you’d like to cultivate and spread more peace, love, and joy.

I believe that there is no one right way to meditate; there are many paths. Too many people give up on meditation because they haven’t found an approach that really works for them or stuck with it long enough to realize that some sessions will feel better than others and to form a habit.

Just as we have different learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic–which make some methods of delivery work better for taking in information, the same may hold true for meditation.  My personal theory is that our learning style(s) may correlate with our preferred meditation style(s).  Someone who is an auditory learner, might do well with guided meditation, chanting, reciting a mantra or prayer, or listening to a recording on headphones with binaural beats to reach an alpha or theta brainwave state.  A kinesthetic leaner might find it torturous having to sit still to meditate, but might love circling to center with a labyrinth, doing yoga, focusing on the breath, or engaging in mindfulness, walking meditation, or guided relaxation.  A visual learner might resonate with visualizations, staring at candle flame, focusing on a flower or other natural object, or creating or experiencing mandalas or other art.

Also consider:

  • What approach(es) have worked well for you before?
  • What approach(es) would you like to explore?
  • What time of day appeals most to you for meditation?
  • Are you drawn to solo practice or meditating in a group?

I love to create opportunities for people to experience meditation.  I’ve become very active in Great Pond Sangha and coordinate a free drop-in silent and walking meditation in North Andover on Friday mornings.  This fall I also began offering weekly drop-in meditation sessions at a local company.

I’ve recorded a short, guided meditation which combines several of these approaches.  May it help create peace, love, and joy within you so that you may spread this to others this holiday season and beyond!  I’d be curious to hear about your experiences.  Please let me know if there’s anything I could do to support you on your path.