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Health August 2014

It’s Not Easy, But I’m A Believer!

By Jim Cotsana

I started to pay closer attention and searched the internet for meditation techniques, particularly for beginners and there is no lack of information. At 66 years old, I was, of course, skeptical but started going through some of the material I printed out.

For the past few years, I’ve been having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. And when I finally do get up, I don’t have much enthusiasm or motivation to do much of anything. I feel tired and sluggish. My primary mover is Maggie, my 14-year-old black lab and constant companion, who nudges me after hearing the alarm go off. She knows it’s time for her to go out and do her business and then eagerly waits for me to make her breakfast.

I’ve been retired now for almost six years but it’s certainly not the retirement I had expected. My wife of 33 years and I planned on staying in our home in northern Virginia as a base and spending a four to six weeks in southern California during the winter and doing the same in Montana during the summer. Unfortunately, these plans went awry in 2007 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away that same year. In 2008, I decided to move to my small hometown in New England where I still had family and friends.

They say things get easier with time but it never really got easier for me. However it does get more manageable. Once Maggie and I got settled in our new home, I looked for activities to keep myself busy. In some respects, I’m lucky in that I’m financially comfortable and have no need or interest in getting a paying job. Hence, I ended up doing volunteer work for a number of organizations. I also do a variety of activities with my old high school friends and meet new people with similar interests. I admit this helps but I was still lacking in the way of enthusiasm and motivation. The last thing I wanted to do was ask my doctor for some kind of mood medication.

What did help is that I’ve always exercised on a regular basis dating back to my Marine Corps days. During the winter months I invested in a basic treadmill which I religiously use four to five times a week. Once I finish my routine of three to five miles, running comfortably, I feel much better and able to get more focused and motivated but still not at a level I wanted.

Something was still missing.

My weekend newspaper carries a small magazine section and very often there are articles on physical and mental health that included meditation. I would just skim these and go on to the news sections. However, more recently, I started to pay closer attention and searched the internet for meditation techniques, particularly for beginners and there is no lack of information. At 66 years old, I was, of course, skeptical but started going through some of the material I printed out.

There was one particular beginner’s site that caught my attention. Instead of trying to get my body in some awkward sitting position on the floor, I could use my recliner. It also recommended the use of a candle or music (I’m not into candles) and, coincidentally, I have a CD with peaceful, soothing, falling rain. It also suggested starting with five minutes of meditation sitting comfortably while listening to your breathing and nothing else. The goal is to rid your mind of all your thoughts. Well, this seemed easy enough so I gave it a try.

I turned on the soft rain music and set a small timer I have for 5 minutes and listened to my breathing, trying my best not to let my mind wander to other things. This was not as easy as it sounds and I had to keep going back to only my breathing. Soon, the buzzer went off and my time was up. Not letting your mind wander is indeed difficult but I did this exercise every day for two weeks and found I was getting better about not wandering.

I’ve been doing this faithfully now for about four months and have worked up to 15 minutes of quiet, listening only to my breathing and not letting my mind wander, and it has gotten much easier. My 15 minutes of meditation along with my physical exercise routine has paid off. I feel much better both physically and mentally and found my enthusiasm and motivation to get on with my day much improved.

For anyone in a situation similar to my own, give this an honest try. Look at beginner techniques on the internet and find a couple that start you off at a very elementary stage. The key is to make it a daily routine and, for me anyway, I combine it with my physical workouts. The other thing I found that helps is drinking plenty of water during the day. I’ve always been a big coffee drinker, particularly during my working years. Now, I limit myself to two cups in the morning while reading the paper and water with a little lemon juice mixed in for the remainder of the day.

This worked for me and it may help you as well. All you have to do is program in five to 15 minutes of your day so you really don’t have a lot to lose. Remember, the key is to make it a daily habit and after a period of time, depending on your own personal make-up, I suspect you’ll find yourself feeling much better. You’ll feel refreshed, both physically and mentally, and find more enthusiasm and motivation to go on with your day. Maggie can certainly attest to this!


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