A meditation refuge can help you quickly recover and bounce back from the daily setbacks of modern life - stress, anxiety, fear, lack of exercise, unhealthy lifestyle and poor food choices which constantly chip away at our well being.
My friends, who work in the corporate world, often complain how high-strung they are.
Some feel a moment away from suffering a complete nervous breakdown.
The constant pressure to deliver on ever-increasing targets, the insecurity of keeping the job, the struggle for promotions and the losing battle to maintain a work-life balance add up to make life pretty miserable.
Asking them if they go any place to take refuge usually gets blank looks.
And their preferred antidotes to stress - television, food and alcohol. All of them, unproductive at best, downright harmful at worst.
One friend, Alex, said nature was his way to de-stress. Going for a walk in the park, sitting on grass and just observing life around him soothed his frazzled nerves.
Tuning in to the sounds and sensations of nature surrounding him, calmed his mind and connected him to something larger than himself. This connection, he said, always rejuvenated his spirits.
The soul soothing refuge that Alex finds in nature, I find in meditation.
When overwhelmed and driven to madness, I sit down, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and focus my attention on the heart.
Within 5 minutes, a problem which was threatening my existence earlier stops looking like a problem anymore. It turns into a challenge I am more than up for.
The feeling of being stuck gives way to a rising surge of creative energy that exhorts me to attack the problem.
That gets me believing in myself again, in my ability to find a solution, no matter how vexing the problem.
Who or what can be a refuge?
Anybody, anyplace or anything that puts you in touch with your deeper self can be a refuge, your own personal 'sheltered space.'
When buffeted by external storms or internal conflict, you should be able to call upon it to feel safe and secure.
It should provide the conditions where you can calm your mind and connect with your inner reservoir of strength.
A friend, relative, family member or a trusted mentor could fulfill that role. And if it has to be a place, it need not be outside in nature.
Your favorite place inside the house - kitchen table, meditation corner, rocking chair, or a spot on the couch can all be a refuge. A quick 5 minute breathing meditation in any of these places will help you centre yourself.
If you are the kind who likes to expend energy, to let it all out, then an activity like running, swimming or cycling could be your refuge, where you can shut out the external world and do deep introspection and self-examination.
I prefer meditation over external activities because it helps me take control of the situation, however little.
Depending on an external source for solace by reaching out to a friend or trying an activity, may lead to further disappointment due to my in-built expectations from that person or place or activity in helping me overcome the stress.
If they are unable to help, it will only make things worse. So, here is what I recommend:
5 minutes to feeling better
Opening up and connecting to the benign, loving presence that surrounds us is deeply comforting.
Don't judge, don't get impatient. Believe in the higher potentiality and the gifts you will receive from it.
As you start doing this regularly, preferably daily, you will find yourself more grounded and more at ease with the world.
Challenges will simply be opportunities to do better than before. You will get the strength and wherewithal to attack the issues troubling you with heightened vigor.
Over time, your meditation refuge will become more than a quick and easy way to fix life's immediate problems. It will be your way of leading a happy, contented and peaceful life - your own Tao of Living.
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