By Katherine Tandy Brown
Back in the 1960s, Volkswagen vans sported bumper stickers promoting peace. Graffiti scrawled on subway cars and construction project barriers always included a peace symbol. People greeted strangers with a smile, their index and middle fingers raised in a “V” – the peace sign – and at least a mumbled yet heartfelt, “Peace, brother” or “Peace, sister.”
During that era of undeclared war, peace was a popular concept.
As our nation’s edgy political atmosphere goes viral, worry and fear creep into conversations in many languages in many countries. Dueling pundits declare the radical shift in universal perspective to be either a new American order or the beginning of the end.
Social media has provided a gathering ground for the like-minded, be they liberal, conservative, religious, atheistic and/or disenfranchised.
As in the aforementioned era of free love, people are taking to the streets to protest in record numbers, contacting congressmen, scribbling heated diatribes and banding together in newly-formed interest groups.
The times, they are unsettling, to say the least.
For those folks outside the immediate political arena, the big question arises, “What can I as an individual do to make a difference?” And I believe there’s a simple answer to that seemingly complex question: “Do what you’re on the earth to do.”
While I admire activists who fight for their causes, I’m not inclined to pick up my ‘60s protest sign. As a writer, I realize that my time is better spent penning my own stories, teaching memoir writing so folks can leave behind a legacy, and coaching students to reach their goals.
Your focus may be saving lives as a medical professional, calculating others’ income taxes, cooking meals in a busy restaurant, fixing flats in an auto repair shop or serving customers in a retail clothing store.
Maybe your income-producing job isn’t your heart, but does provide three squares so you can spend time handcrafting beautiful furniture, volunteering for missions in developing countries, casting a shrimp net for a hand-caught Lowcountry supper, visiting nursing homes with your golden retriever, ogling marsh birds while walking the Spanish Moss Trail, or even smacking a golf ball into a tiny hole.
Any activity that makes your heart sing adds beauty and positive energy to the world, thus raising the vibration of the earth. And best of all, it makes you feel good.
However, what if you’re not clear about what you’re on the earth to do? What if you favor more than one direction? What if you’re so freaked by the world scene that you can’t concentrate on your own life? What if your calendar is so full you can’t grasp the concept of “free time” to pursue a passion or watch the sun set over the springtime marsh?
Aah, grasshopper. Might I recommend meditation to clarify your direction? Indian scriptures, or “tantras,” mentioned this ancient practice some 5,000 years ago. Newfangled, it ain’t. And as Yoda might say, “Work, it does.”
Just so you know I’m walking my talk, I’ve been practicing near-daily meditation since a friend sent me a link to one of Deepak Chopra’s free 21-Day Meditation Challenges three years ago. And, back to the parlance of my pointy-eared pal, change my life, it has.
Among the proven benefits of the practice of meditation are: aiding physical, emotional and mental balance; easing anxiety, stress and depression; creating clearer thinking for better choices; increasing levels of self-esteem; lowering heart rate and blood pressure; increasing alertness, creativity, intelligence, learning ability and memory; boosting the immune system; controlling chronic pain …need I go on?
Meditation has been touted as a “reset button” for the body. A personal plus I’ve found is that, whenever I encounter a stressful situation – and no matter how meditative you are, you’re human and those will appear – I’ve noticed that I more often tend to get present quickly, rise above the circumstance and gain perspective on what’s really going on.
I then tend to respond to the stressor, instead of simply reacting to it. Truly a gift.
With the approach of one of those milestone birthdays, I can testify that it’s never too late to start a meditation practice. Learn how at a local yoga studio, online via all-knowing Google, or even from an inexpensive Amazon, or free library, book. You’ll be glad you did.
Katherine Tandy Brown has traveled the world as a freelance writer for 25 years. She teaches memoir, travel writing and writing practice in USCB’s OLLI Continuing Ed program and in her downtown cottage. A certified writing coach, she is penning her first novel, “One to Go: An Equine Thriller.”