In the previous Healing Your Thoughts posts, (Imagination and Belief; Being and Flowing; Despair Vs. Repair) and some of the God In Therapy posts, we began to explore ways in which your thoughts seem to have a life of their own, how you can be become more aware of your thought process, and even feel more in control.
It might seem like your thoughts are steering or directing your emotions, but if you are a go-with-the-flow kind of thinker, generally speaking, emotions, especially strong ones, can spark your thoughts.
In truth, there is a chicken-egg cycle and the debate about which comes first, your thoughts or your emotions, might not be all that relevant.
However, by slowing down your thoughts through relaxation or meditative techniques, prayerful meditation, and so on, you allow yourself to experience yourself and your thoughts as never before.
For some, this can be painful. It can be frightening to be alone with yourself. For many, it is good. It is freeing.
There is a technique that can help you if you’re a newbie to relaxation. It begins by getting out of the house and finding a natural spot you love.
Meditating while walking is an easy way to lower stress. Research shows that being out of doors in a natural area, especially in forests and near the ocean, automatically lowers stress levels. This 2010 PsychCentral report explains:
Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings.
Breathing in air scrubbed by green leaves increases your oxygen intake. Also, sun improves mood, in part because it provides you with Vitamin D. The ocean’s rhythmic surf is calming; your heartbeat might even entrain with the in-out of the surf.
Mountains offer vistas, which expand our physical horizons. Our emotions may follow suit. Walking on the earth or sand rather than concrete or flooring changes our gait and our posture. Most people find it soothing.
Some people enjoy walking labyrinths, and if you do, go ahead, but the freedom to wander and meander is also very conducive to meditation.
How to begin? Go to a forest, mountain/hill path, beach, field, or somewhere out of doors—even a public park—a place which is safe, not too crowded, and one you find appealing. Although being alone might feel ideal, keep in mind that in many places, it’s safer if there are at least some fellow walkers around.
Stick to a trail if you are in the wild or a large park; in a small, public park, just find an attractive place to walk.
Don’t carry heavy packs. Use a cross-body bag or light backpack to carry water, a phone, wallet, a snack.
Turn off the ringer (even the vibrate) on your cell phone. Do it! (Keep your phone on in case you need to make a call.)
We like the talking-walking technique, which comes from the Jewish mystics and is called hisbodedus. (Walking isn’t an absolutely essential part of this technique, you can sit if you must, but talking is vital.) There are several ways to do this, but we like a rather simple one.
For starters: Have a conversation with the God of your understanding or your inner higher power.
If you are comfortable talking out loud rather than in your head, go ahead. If anyone sees you, they will assume you are talking on a wireless phone.
Start by expressing gratitude for the outwardly and openly positive things in your life. Good relationships, love, friendships, family, friends, work, school, pets. There are more things to be thankful for: your home, furniture, possessions, clothing, shoes, neighborhood and country. What you’ve been through, what personal gifts you have (talent, intelligence, physical health), and so on.
Make sure you finish by thanking the God of your understanding or your inner higher power for the beautiful woods (or other area) you are walking through.
Now, take a moment to list your good points. Talk about at least ten. Out of these, pick your absolute favorite good point (or at least one of your top favorite ones) and focus on it. Is it your sense of humor? Is it your willingness to help others? Your artistic talent which can inspire others? Your problem-solving ability? Your talent for creating beautiful spaces? Your way with words? Your kindness? Your gentleness? Your intuition?
Talk about how this good point not only inspires you but actually helps change the world. List reasons why the world would be a lot poorer place without a person uniquely like you. If you can’t think of any, you aren’t trying! If you feel blocked, list three things that you have done, no matter how small, which you believe are good.
It can be any thing at all: Maybe you gave money, even a coin, to a charity. Maybe you watched your neighbor’s goldfish while she went away on vacation. Maybe you called a friend to cheer him up. Maybe you cleaned your house before you had a visitor, so they’d be more comfortable. Maybe you met a treatment goal.
Now, ask yourself: How can I maximize this good point I have or do more deeds like this? Are there new ways I can express this goodness I have inside?
Thank the God of your understanding or inner higher power for gifting you with this good point and resolve to remind yourself of this unique good point whenever you are feeling down, overwhelmed, frustrated, angry or sad.
By now, you will naturally feel more at peace, calmer and happier. The dissonance between how we see ourselves and how we are will be less intense and far more positive. Finding and knowing and expressing your good points is crucial to living a spiritually meaningful life.
Now, just walk.
Don’t force yourself to take deep breaths, but if you’d like to try it, breathe in a bit deeper than usual and exhale a bit slower than usual. Taking in more oxygen combined with slowing your exhalation slows down your heartbeat.
To read more about finding your good points, see Believe in Yourself, which is a previous post based on a lesson called Azamra! by the mystic, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
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Last reviewed: 26 Jul 2012