downloadThese days, events in the daily news range from shocking to devastating for some of us. Hence I am thinking about ways of cultivating joy and peace – ways to help achieve a sense of balance.

Everyone suffers with stress at some point of time and it is unavoidable. Meditation has been used for many years as an effective tool for reducing stress and anxiety. Mindfulness meditation relaxes your mind and body brings to a more peaceful and calm state. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment, without drifting into concerns about the past or future, i.e. don’t rehearse tragedies and don’t worry about the future. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School suggest that mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety and mental stress.

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge of the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power”. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”

According to Dr Hoge, if you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self’”. Dr Hoge recommends that learning mindfulness techniques and practicing them with a group is especially helpful.

Mindfulness practice doesn’t make one forget the past; it allows the practitioner to learn to skillfully use their mind to decide which thoughts lead to productive outcomes.

One of the greatest gifts of yoga and meditation practice is that it can help us to train our minds and hearts to generate even more joy and happiness in our lives, no matter what circumstances we may be experiencing in any moment.

“The cultivation of happiness is one of the most important skills anyone can ever learn. Luckily, it’s not hard when we know the way to water and nourish those wholesome seeds, which are already there in our consciousness.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The Dalai Lama said, “When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher … The life of exile is an unfortunate life, but … I have always tried to cultivate a happy state of mind, appreciating the opportunities that this existence has offered me. This way I have been able to preserve my inner peace.” He wrote this in the book “My Spiritual Journey”, discussing the spiritual impact that his exile from Tibet for most of his life has had on him.

Thich Nhat Hahn teaches that,“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”