If you've been following my blog for a while then you know that starting in 2013, I swapped out a list of never-ending, never-completed new years resolutions in place of one word to define my year instead. Last year it was brave (tattoos, pixie haircut, mopeds, etc) and this year is peace. I wrapped up 2013 and kicked off 2014 with a combined brave and peaceful act, and have struggled every month since with fulfilling my word choice for 2014. So far this year, I tried gaining more peace with a gratitude journal, a class on de-stressing, and a month-long social media cleanse, among other things. For June, I decided to meditate daily and try using aromatherapy on a regular basis.
To be honest, I don't feel like I really decided to meditate daily on my own. In late May, I was at a local bookstore shopping for travel guides and found a pack of daily meditation cards among books on routes through Germany. At the time, I hadn't decided yet on a peaceful act for June, so I decided it was serendipitous and bought the deck. I have never been able to start a regular meditation practice and even when I did yoga more regularly, I struggled with quieting my constantly racing, worrying mind. To insure success, I decided that meditating between 5 - 10 minutes every evening was a realistic goal to set, and I'm proud to say I achieved that. I thoroughly enjoyed the meditation cards, much more than I anticipated.
So after one month of nightly meditation, from a total beginner, here are my tips if you'd like to try this yourself:
1) Set realistic goals when you begin. I found 5 - 10 minutes was doable but anything beyond that became a struggle to stay focused and relaxed.
2) Have low lighting in the room you'll be practicing in and keep the space as quiet as possible. Some may find music relaxing so it's worth trying, but I found it distracting.
3) Light incense, burn a subtly scented candle, or dab lavender aromatherapy oil on your collarbone before beginning. I found doing one of these every few nights helped relax me further.
4) Find a practice (card, book or online) that feels natural to you. Some of the meditations in the pack were a little silly or challenging for me starting out, but there were several meditations I returned to throughout the month. I typically found myself most drawn to the "Healing Body, Mind and Spirit" and "Calming and Centering" topic areas.
5) Be very, very patient with yourself. Quieting your mind is commonly very challenging, so give yourself a break if even 5 minutes feels grueling some evenings. I definitely had nights where I barely made it to 3 or 4 minutes.
When I took the de-stressing class a few months ago, the instructor brought in a local aromatherapist who shared small vials of chakra healing oils with us. I forgot about the vial in my purse for several months, but last month after experiencing an especially disabling migraine attack, I started using the aromatherapy oil regularly to help alleviate panic attacks. When I feel short of breath, I dab it on each wrist and collarbone then practice deep, long breaths until the tightness in my chest subsides. You can purchase her locally made oils in her Etsy shop. I started researching the benefits of aromatherapy last month and found that lavender oil can help with sleep, stress, and pain. I bought a vial in the natural pharmacy section at our local grocery store and started putting three droplets on Keith's and my pillows at night. Lately I've had some trouble falling and staying asleep, but the first few weeks, I fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than I typically do.
I haven't decided what peaceful act I'll be doing in July, but I'll share an update later this month. In the meantime, I intend to keep up the meditation practice, gratitude journal and aromatherapy. I also promised an update on my recent ten-year high school reunion which seems pretty fitting amongst my attempts to de-stress. I definitely had to practice some meditative breathing on the hour-long drive to my hometown to calm my nerves last weekend. Mainly I was nervous that none of my old friends would attend and I wouldn't know anyone there. Fortunately Keith came with me so at least I knew I'd have someone to talk to, and thankfully, a lot of my old friends attended as well!
I enjoyed college far more than high school, but I promised myself years ago that if I was happy, healthy, and employed, I would attend at least the first reunion. The Facebook invite came through and since all those things (and more!) are certainly true, I bought my ticket and slowly convinced myself over the last few months to at least stop by. As is typical for me, I was stressing unnecessarily, since it was actually a lot of fun! I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with old friends and meeting their spouses and significant others, and I'm already looking forward to my ten-year college reunion four years from now. On that note, I'll leave you with a few photos from my high school days (took pictures of photos with my iPhone). Enjoy!