When not to meditate

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Do you find your mind spins when you’re under stress?
Do you want to be able to think clearly during turmoil?
Do you want to be more centered and less emotional when you’re in a crisis?

Despite what you may have been told, when you’re stressed, it may not be the best time to meditate.

Don’t get me wrong. I love meditation! I’ve been doing it for the past twenty-some years. I’ve even been leading meditation practices regularly (up until social distancing got started).

However, when there’s a lot swirling around, like in the world we live in today with the pandemic and the protests, I actually advise against doing seated meditation as a way to quiet the mind. Not as my first choice anyways.

Why? Because it won’t quiet the mind that’s spinning out of control. It won’t calm the emotion that’s been boiling. It won’t provide you peace amidst the storm.

I experienced this firsthand last year. After hearing the shocking news of my father’s sudden passing, my very foundation was shaken up.

But sitting quietly was agitating me more than anything. It was like braking hard on a fast moving train. The train wouldn’t come to a full stop right away. Mechanically, it wasn’t able to do that. The momentum would keep it going for quite a while.

So, what’s helpful in a situation like this?

Simple practices with movements that anchor you in your physical body are more effective in bringing you a sense of calm and peace. Here are some of my go-to practices:

    1. Walking
    2. Stretching
    3. Dancing
    4. Chanting
    5. Gardening
    6. Cooking
    7. Tai Chi

The items on this list engage my mind in a minimal way. They’re gentle. They create movement in my body, allowing emotional and mental energies to move in a way that they see fit.

They are physical by nature, anchoring the mind in the physical. That alone provides a floor, a foundation, a grounding in the midst of shifting sand, of turmoil, of crisis.

These practices are especially effective when you perform them with mindfulness. That is, to be aware of some aspect of the movements, like your feet on the ground while walking.

Among all these practices, Tai Chi is my favorite. It requests a little more attention than walking or weeding. It requires no equipment. It doesn’t need any special gear.

Tai Chi has a lot of other benefits that you can learn more about online. To get a feel of Tai Chi check out my YouTube video on eight standing movements for health, a Qi Gong exercise that is closely related.

For those of you who’re local to South Florida, I have a weekly Tai Chi class at Boca Regional Hospital that’s on hold right now. Drop me a note if you want to be notified when it resumes.

What’s your go-to practice when you’re stressed? If you don’t have one yet, which one will you incorporate in the next 30 days? Please share with me here.

Dr. Dan ZhouWhen not to meditate

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