At one point in my life, when I was feeling unmoored, I came across the book “PMS, Perimenopause, and You,” by Lori Futterman. Now what does a healthy mind have to do with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and perimenopause, you ask? Well, included in this helpful book, which takes a holistic approach to this stage in a woman’s life, is a very good definition of what it means to be healthy. And I quote Futterman: “You are healthy if you are able to do the things you want to, have a strong sense of calm, and are able to face unforeseen events that may be stressful with resolve and resourcefulness. You may achieve inner peace through meditation, religion, reflection, study of philosophy, or visualization.”
I found this definition so illuminating that I copied it and reread it over the years, whenever I needed reminding. Notice she emphasizes the need for a contemplative or meditation practice as a means to gain inner calm and strength, claiming it will aid in the ability to live life from a steady, confident and centered place. With that assertion in mind, I want to alert you to a program being offered and resources available here at the library, which focus on the development and maintenance of mental well-being through meditation. Fortunately, there are many types of meditation “practice,” which means there is something for everyone, depending on life approach, personal preference and ability.
First up, the library is offering a program on Tai Chi, both at the Columbia and Callaway County library locations. Tai chi can be described as meditation in motion, and it is an ancient, slow-motion Chinese martial art. This body-mind practice is suitable for all ages and levels of physical ability, and it addresses many components of physical fitness (muscle strength, flexibility, balance, etc.), but one of its important aims is to foster a calm and tranquil mind. Tai chi can also be helpful for a host of medical conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and sleep problems, among others. Clearly tai chi has a lot to offer, and if you’d like to give it a try, please plan to attend one of the above mentioned programs.
Like tai chi, yoga can also be described as a form of meditation in motion. This practice of physical postures combined with conscious breathing originated in ancient India, and it aims to integrate body, mind and spirit. Historically its purpose was to move one toward attaining enlightenment, but even if this is not a “goal” for you, there are many benefits to be realized from a yoga practice. Physical benefits include increased muscle strength, flexibility and protection from injury. Mental benefits include increased mental clarity and calmness, a greater ability to focus and concentrate attention, and it can also aid in reducing anxiety and/or depression. Yoga is also suitable for people of all ages and levels of physical ability.
Sitting meditation, another ancient practice, can be undertaken with the aim of building inner strength and tranquility. There are numerous forms of meditation that employ different techniques, but for the same purpose — to train the mind to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment, and thereby become aware of the mind’s behavior and tendencies. Research has shown how meditation affects the brain and has uncovered many benefits, including improving the ability to focus and concentrate attention, improving memory, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, enhancing creativity and developing compassion. That is quite a lot to offer!
This pithy little book, “Start Here Now: an Open-hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation” by Susan Pivers, provides straightforward explanations and instructions that demystify meditation (in case you were mystified), making it very accessible to beginners. There is a treasure trove of books here at the library, both in print and audio, with explanations and instructions on how to meditate. And there are a few organizations in our local area that offer group sitting opportunities and meditation instruction, for those interested in taking a class: Show Me Dharma, Mindfulness Practice Center and Silent Mind-Open Heart.
“Even when in the midst of disturbance, the stillness of the mind can offer sanctuary.”
― Stephen Richards, The Ultimate Cosmic Ordering Meditation