M E D I T A T E O N T
H I S
Still wound up from the December
holidays? January offers an excuse to take some time for
yourself to relax and reconnect.
BY SARAH LINN
Few seasons scream “stress!” like
the holidays. Shopping, house cleaning and social gatherings, plus
and tight budgets, have taken
Now you’ve got New Year’s resolutions
“The season is joyous, but it’s also exhausting,” said Patricia
Alexander of Templeton, a writer (she co-authored “The Book of Comforts”),
life coach and group leader for Weight Watchers. “Over the years
I have discovered I need to honor my body and my emotions by giving myself
meditative time.” As we enter 2008,
it’s important to take some
time to relax and reconnect.
Relaxation is “absolutely imperative,” agreed Linda Lewis Griffith,
a marriage and family therapist and Tribune columnist based in San Luis Obispo. “It’s
the first thing we give up when we start to get stressed, and yet it’s
the first thing we need.”
Plus, she added, fewer hours of daylight and
more coughs and sniffles mean that spirits are naturally low in winter.
Setting aside time to meditate can
help combat depression and anxiety while opening a world of serenity and
With this in mind, we’ve compiled tips on having a happier winter and
productive new year from local experts and British professor David Fontana,
author of the new book “Meditation Bliss: Inspirational Techniques
for Finding Calm.”
Just breathe: “Look at your meditation as a quiet room where you can
go and think,” said Griffith. “Shut the mind down, put
it on hibernate, just let yourself go in that room and be quiet.”
According to the therapist, it’s as simple
as taking five slow breaths.
As you breathe, shake out your hands and let them hang. Relax your jaw,
your chest, any part of the body where your muscles tend to tense up. “When
we breathe, we stop gripping,” Griffith explained.
Perform this exercise regularly — try once every hour — for
a calming effect.
Back to nature: Here
on the Central Coast, we’re surrounded by natural
splendor, from misty Estero Bay to the North County’s oak-covered hills
and the rolling, sands of the Oceano Dunes. To clear your head while stretching
your legs, try the Adventures with Nature hikes organized by the Morro Bay
state park museum. This Monday, two separate hikes explore Montaña de
Oro State Park, while a third provides a “lunchtime look-see” at
mating herons and cormorants.
The Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club also offers guided hikes.
destinations include the Dana Adobe in Nipomo and Salmon Creek Trail,
just across the Monterey County line.
Making scents: Pale
purple blossoms dance in the breeze at Green Acres Lavender Farm in Atascadero,
releasing a heavenly perfume.
Prized for its relaxing, romantic effect, lavender
is just one scent that alters moods, evokes memories and aids meditation. Farm
owners Janice Silva and Bob
Bostwick sell lavender bundles plus essential oils, soaps, sachets and
Lone Madrone Herb Farm, west of Paso Robles on
Highway 46, sells more than 400 varieties of herbs, including fragrant and
tasty basil, oregano, thyme,
rosemary and sage.
For incense, commonly used to promote contemplation,
try local stores such as Bali Isle Imports in San Luis Obispo or the Halcyon
Store and Post Office
in rural Arroyo Grande.
The sound of music: “It is no surprise that throughout the centuries
humankind has associated music with the gods,” David Fontana writes in
his book, “Meditation Bliss.” Music can delight, excite, sooth — even
lead to spiritual revelation. Fontana suggests using music to relax
and focus your thoughts.
“Close your eyes and relax your body. Listen to the music, absorbing yourself
totally in its rhythms, cadences and tones,” he writes. Settle in a comfortable
chair and play your favorite CD. You can also catch one of several local concerts.
Tonight, singer-songwriter Andrew Bowen brings his mellow blend of folk and
Americana to Linnaea’s in San Luis Obispo.
Focus on taste: Food
might seem like an odd way to guide meditation. After all, many of us experience
stress from overeating, eating poorly or not eating
Yet Fontana says that very act of tasting and savoring a snack can provide
true enjoyment and inspire gratitude. “Mindfulness in eating is a meditation
in itself,” he writes.
Fortunately, our county offers a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables,
gourmet wines and handcrafted olive oils, meats and cheeses. Sample
bounty at a local farmers market. Or savor the finer things by filling your
basket at De Palo & Sons in Shell Beach, Crushed Grape in San Luis Obispo
or Linn’s Gourmet Goods in Cambria.
Go with the flow: Few
elements are more soothing than water, whether in the form of a crystal-clear
fountain, a swift-moving river or crashing ocean waves.
For those of us with aching backs and joints, however, a steaming hot tub has
even greater appeal.
Feel your troubles melt away as you sink into a private, naturally
heated tub at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila Beach, or
River Oaks Hot
Springs & Spa
in Paso Robles.
to Alexander, there’s
nothing wrong with a little pampering. A massage or a day spent in
bed can work wonders on your mental and physical
“One of the most important things is to practice kindness, not only to
others but also to yourself,” Alexander said. “The Book of Comforts,” co-written
with Michael Burgos, focuses on ways to comfort one’s spirit,
body and soul.
Have a willing heart: On
Christmas night, Alexander found herself bent over a sink of dishes.
Rather than gripe about the
chore, however, she chose
to think about other holiday gatherings between family and friends. Washing
dishes took on an almost Zen quality. “Before I even finished my reverie, (the
dishes) were clean,” she said. Alexander described a female
mentor who blesses each member of her family as she folds their laundry.
“It’s something you have to do anyway, so it’s wonderful to
come at (chores) from an attitude of counting your blessings,” Alexander
Get creative: Even
if you’ve never painted a picture or penned a poem,
you’ve got a creative spark. “By stilling your mind in meditation,
you can tap into the source of inspiration and open up to the quiet voice of
your own genius,” Fontana writes. Channel your creativity by exploring
classes available to community members. Cal Poly’s Continuing
Education program offers courses in watercolors and wine appreciation,
interested in jewelry, pottery and cartooning can check out Cuesta
Alexander even recommends using art to
envision the future.
She suggests making a collage to symbolize hopes and goals, or writing
down plans for the new year. “Because it’s not a list — it’s
thoughts and visions — it kind of keeps you on track,” she
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.
© 2008 San Luis Obispo Tribune and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.