by Laurie Bishop
Who has the money to calm down these days?
Well, no one really thinks they do.
Most people are paying off some sort of loan or loans or working just to pay their bills. Many do not have extra cash to do something as luxurious as to be calm, or so they think.
Here’s the thing, though.
You don’t need money to be calm.
You really don’t.
What you need is brain space.
So, what is brain space?
Brain space is space in your brain that allows you to feel a sense of calm.
We spend our lives walking around with all these thoughts in our heads:
gotta pay off this bill
have to make dinner
must finish this project
need new tires for the car
must buy dog food
…and on and on these thoughts keep going rattling around inside our brains.
You can’t be calm unless your mind is calm.
You could go to the most beautiful beach in the world, sit in the sand, and stare at the ocean, but if you haven’t learned how to calm your mind, you might as well be sitting in your living room staring at the TV because you are going to still feel all the stress you brought with you to the beach.
You can run 10 miles a day, and while you are running, maybe your brain settles down as you fight to breathe and keep your heart going, which, of course, takes precedence over any stressful thoughts. Once you stop running, though, that stress seeps right back.
Are you super forgetful?
Chances are your brain is too cluttered, leaving little room for you to remember.
Think of your brain as if it were a favorite room in your house. When you aren’t calm, there are clothes, and newspapers, and old bags of empty (except for a few shriveled up french fries) fast food wrappers.
How can you find anything in such a mess?
You know you left your car keys somewhere in that room, but darned if you can find them with all those piles of junk. Maybe the keys are under the empty Krispy Kreme box that rattles with pieces of dried sugar? Maybe they are beneath the wet smelly towel that has been there since your lake trip three months ago?
There’s so much garbage lying around that you just can’t find what you need.
You have to clear out your thoughts just as you have to clean-up that favorite room of yours.
It’s simple, really.
All you have to do is take 20 minutes, sit down, or lie down, and just be.
Just sit and be still for 20 minutes.
Don’t solve any big problems or think about your favorite song lyrics. Just sit still and breathe.
That’s all you’ve got to do.
Sit, breathe, and do nothing. Think of nothing.
As you sit there, breathing and doing nothing, make sure you acknowledge right now, right in these 20 minutes, you need nothing.
You don’t need anything for the next 20 minutes.
Keep breathing and acknowledge that you have nothing. Go ahead, say it to yourself. I have nothing.
You know what, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose!
Now let’s take this one step farther. As you sit and breathe, say to yourself, I am nothing.
Now you might be thinking, Hold on there Laurie, I am a big muckety-muck in my community. I have all these people that rely on me.
Hmmmmm…could it be that having all those responsibilities are cluttering your mind?
So, let it go for 20 minutes.
For 20 minutes, all that doesn’t matter.
Just let it go and be with nothingness.
Now, you might be thinking, That’s Impossible! I don’t have the time for anything as ridiculous as all this. Or, you might be thinking, I’m far too busy, or I’m far too important to do that.
Sitting still for 20 minutes will not bring ruin to your life.
What it will do is make room in your brain.
As you sit still and breathe, your brain begins to pick up the trash that’s lying around.
It tidies up.
It quiets down all those nagging noises that prevent you from finding calm.
As your mind begins to work through all those thoughts and memories that are chaotically lying about, you begin to feel more like yourself.
You become that person you were before you knew there was such a thing as money. You embrace that person you were before you knew there was such a thing as pain or anxiety or loss. You realize that person you are seeing within yourself has been with you all along, but the clutter of your mind has kept her hidden.
When you sit for 20 minutes a day and breathe, you begin to see who you were born to be.
You begin to experience calm.
Who wants to be calm?
Well, I’ll tell you who. You want to be calm because when you are calm you are able to do so much more.
With a calm mind, you begin to see how you can easily finish those projects you started. With a calm mind, you begin to see how you can make your finances work for you and not against you.
With a calm mind, you begin to see how you have control over who or what influences you.
With a calm mind, you have the ability to create a better life for the time that you have here on this earth.
You don’t need money to calm down.
All you need to do is sit quietly and breathe.
by Laurie Bishop
Thinking about meditation, but not sure where to begin?
As in, really where? Where does one meditate?
You go to the gym to workout, the pool to swim, but where do you go to meditate?
I don’t have a specific meditation room in my home, and I’m guessing you may not either.
So, how do you start meditating when you aren’t even really sure where to go to meditate?
If this stumps you, I totally get it.
I’ve wrestled with this more than a time or two.
Once, I knocked over my water bottle while trying to meditate sitting perched on a high rock sending the water bottle plummeting down a mountain cliff. Then there was the time I tripped and fell while trying to meditate while running. Boy, was that a big mistake!
If you’re like me, trying something new, no matter how great it is for you, takes patience to work through the epic fails.
From my experience of losses to wins, here is The Happy Bishop’s top ten list of places to meditate to get you started on the path to a healthier and happier mind.
10. The beach
Sitting on the beach and meditating can be a fabulous place to explore the innermost recesses of your mind, but only if you happen to be on a private beach.
We are big beach-goers in my family, and I have found that it is challenging to find a time when a beach area is empty.
There always seems to be people around, like the boisterous kids that ghost crab hunt (Those are my kids, by the way), the sunrise turtle patrol who militantly search for turtle tracks (When I’m in my 80’s, that’s so going to be me!), the morning joggers (been there), and the shell collectors (am that person too) to name a few.
When you think about it, there’s a lot of traffic on most beaches and not just the beaches where I am vacationing.
A better place might be a quiet room where you are staying at the beach.
9. The mountains
Sitting on a large rock on a mountaintop also sounds like a fabulous place to meditate.
Be mindful of how far away from hiking trails you are, and that you don’t wander off too far and become lost.
Fun fact, I get lost often during hikes. Many a 1/4 mile hike with me has turned into a rugged 5-mile adventure.
Also, you’ll want to make sure there are no bear, mountain lions, or snakes that decide your choice of a meditation spot is also their favorite spot.
You will also want to make certain that if you perch on a perfect high rock sitting on the top of a steep cliff, you don’t accidentally kick over your water bottle and watch it roll over the side of the mountain, as you yell, “OH MY GOD, noooooooo.” Of course, the yell is met by an echo announcing your folly far and wide.
That might have happened to me.
A better place might be a quiet room where you are staying in the mountains.
8. The spa
Sitting in a lounge chair in the “meditation room” of a spa all bundled up in your soft spa bathrobe and slippers with a cup of cucumber water beside you might sound like a wonderful place to meditate.
It would be if it was just you and not you and a pack loudly chatting strangers bonding over their spa bridal shower.
I might have had that experience as well.
A better place might be your hotel room where you can sit quietly and meditate and not have to worry about anyone trying to engage you in conversation. Wasn’t it obvious to the bridal shower party that my eyes were closed? Why did they keep asking me questions?
7. The lake
The lake is a great place to calm your mind. You can plop your folding chair by the water’s edge, and relax into meditation.
That is until a large group enters the water in front of you, and you feel their stand up paddle boards miss your head by several inches as they run past you. Then, there is that motorboat you saw in the distance that decides that where you are sitting in the sand is a wonderful place to anchor so the kids can splash and swim.
A better place might be in a quiet room in your home before you go to the lake or after you get home.
6. In the car
I have tried to meditate in the car.
No, not while I am driving, but while I am the passenger.
It’s difficult though because your focus has to be away from your daughter’s choice of music (rap), or your husband using profanity, matching the lyrics of the rap music, at the car that just cut him off.
Hey, is that just in my car?
A better place might be in a quiet room in your home before you get into the car.
5. On the train
Trains have a beautiful way of lulling us into a seemingly meditative state, that is until the child sitting behind you starts kicking your seat, or the massive passenger beside you sticks his elbows into what is obviously your area.
It perplexes me why he didn’t move even after I gave him the stink eye.
Public transportation is just that, public.
When you decide to meditate while riding public transit, the person sitting next to you, or behind you, may not be tolerant of stillness.
Maybe a better place would be to meditate before you get on the train in a quiet room while you are at home or when you return from your trip.
4. During your run
Running can bring peace and clarity, with its repetitive movement and rhythmic breathing.
It’s easy to feel like you are in a meditative state.
But you are running, and you have to be aware of traffic. You have to be mindful of where your feet land so you don’t trip.
I might have fallen dramatically on my hands and knees during one run when I let my mind get a tad too zen.
Maybe a better place would be to meditate in a quiet room in your own home after your run.
3. Your backyard
You might find a place of comfort in your backyard.
That is not the case where I live, but I have a friend with a very secluded backyard who likes to meditate in her garden.
She once had a bird land on her shoulder as she meditated.
How cool is that?
I think for me, though, that would have pulled me out of the meditation as my mind began to holler, “Oh my God! Oh my God! There’s a bird on my shoulder; there’s a freakin’ bird on my shoulder. How cool is this? Where’s my cell phone? I need to put this on Insta.”
Maybe a better place would be to meditate inside your home in a quiet room.
2. Your home
Have you noticed the reoccurring location for meditation seems to be in your own home?
There is a good reason for that.
Meditation isn’t about traveling to an exotic place to find peace.
It is about traveling within.
The best place to “travel within” is where you are most comfortable, and for most of us, that place is our home.
1. Anywhere safe, quiet, and still
The ultimate place to meditate is where you feel safe. A place where there is quiet and stillness is your best bet.
You don’t have to travel physically to get there, only mentally. The best place to meditate is where you can sit, breathe, and relax.
The best way to start meditating is through guided meditations. If you would like to try guided meditation, try using an app. There are many meditation apps available, but I use the app Sattva.
Do you have some favorite places to meditate, or some epic fails you’d like to share? Let us hear about them!
by Laurie Bishop
It’s hurricane season, and there is already another hurricane barreling towards us when most are still picking up the pieces from the last hurricane.
That’s life, though. Life presents one storm after another, whether it is in the form of a hurricane, personal illness, family trauma, and the list can go on and on.
We have to learn to live our best life now and not wait for the storm to pass.
Pampering is an essential part of living your best life. You HAVE to take care of yourself.
I used to live in Connecticut years ago. I loved living in Connecticut. It was such a beautiful place to live.
I made many new friends while I lived there. One of my new friends had immense wealth.
One day, I was at her humongous home, and our daughters were playing somewhere in the house, and my new friend was giving me a tour of her home.
I remember her showing me her bathroom, which was fantastic.
Floor to ceiling windows.
Beautiful sunken tub surrounded by ferns.
“I really love this tub, but I have never used it,” she commented to me.
“Why not?” I asked.
“I just don’t have the time?”
While we walked on to the next room, I was stunned over what she had just said.
How can you not have enough time for a bath?
In a tub you love?
How can life be so hectic that you can’t find 10 minutes for a soak?
Living in the idyllic backdrop of New England, I too kept myself busy; although I didn’t have the grand tub to ignore, I did ignore taking time for myself.
Then, I had a miscarriage at 15 weeks, which devastated my mind, body, and spirit.
Six months later, I had another miscarriage at 8 weeks, which further weakened me.
You’ll never guess what happened six months after that – I caught Lyme’s disease.
I felt like I was in a boxing ring getting punched in the face and gut over and over again by a prizefighter.
It’s just life, though. I am no different than anyone else.
Life can be one hurricane after another.
After it took months to climb out of the deep hole of lethargy that Lyme’s disease threw me into, I began to rethink the whole “No time for the tub” agenda, and I am hoping if that is your mindset, you will reconsider that too.
If you walk by your tub and think, boy I could use a soak, then take ten minutes out and soak.
Who is it going to hurt?
No one is going to care that you took time out for yourself.
If you have always wanted to take a gardening class, go do it NOW.
Don’t wait until the stars align or someone with higher rank gives you permission.
Go take the class NOW.
If you have always wanted to take yoga or exercise class, or meet your friend out for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, go do it NOW!
The excuses you make to not pamper yourself mean nothing.
When you take your last breath on this earth, I promise you, you will not think, “I lived a good decent life. I’m so glad I didn’t soak in my bathtub for ten minutes.”
You may very well say while at the end of your life, “What the hell was I thinking? My life is nearly over, and I never got a chance to live my best life.”
Taking time out for yourself helps you to live your very best life.
When you make that extra time in your day for yourself, go do what you need to pamper yourself.
None of us have that much time in life to pass up opportunities to be kind to ourselves.
Pamper yourself now because that next hurricane is already on its way.
by Laurie Bishop
Technology has given us a constant circle of friends. From Facebook to Instagram, we are connected to a world where we can learn about Sally’s son’s graduation and Bob’s broken toe. We are woven together by social media. Chained as one by our cell phones, computers, and even our TVs, we live in a technology-driven world where it’s hard to find a time when we are truly alone.
Yet, it’s amazing how many people are lonely.
Now, I’m not talking about depression or insecurity here. I’m talking about loneliness: without friends, alone. Loneliness can certainly bring out insecurity or depression, but let’s talk about what we can do to fix feeling lonely before it crashes into depression.
Human’s are social beings.
You know that.
I know that.
The founders of social media know that.
Because we are social beings, we like to interact with the world around us. Sometimes our lives don’t work out the way we plan, and we find ourselves sitting on a bench, alone and feeling lonely.
Here are two fixes to help when lonesome comes to call.
1- Live in the Present Moment
That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not that easy, which is why we often unknowingly open the door for lonely.
It’s so easy to let our minds drift back to the past. Too often when we do that, we aren’t remembering the good old days, but we are stuck on an event involving trauma or sadness. It consumes our minds to the extent that we are unable to focus on the here and now.
It’s not just the past that plagues our minds but also the future. We can become consumed by anticipating events that may or may not happen. All the “what ifs” that clutter our minds keep us away from what is going on right in front of us.
Letting go or moving on from past and future events doesn’t diminish the significance of the events. It allows us to live in the now and live more fully.
How do we let go?
The best way I have found is by calming my mind down through meditation and breathing exercises. Sometimes, a good long run also helps me because I am focused on my breathing and the steady cadence of my feet. If I can’t run, I often meditate or practice breathing exercises.
You can find meditations on the Sattva app and breathing exercises (also known as pranayamas) here.
When we sit on that bench and our mind is in the present, we allow ourselves to experience life more richly.
We begin to notice the person who just walked by us, smiled and said hello as he walked his dog.
We notice the person who sat on the bench with us and talked for 15 minutes.
We notice the birds, butterflies, squirrels or myriad of life that just circled around us.
When we are in the present, we realize we aren’t alone.
Still not feeling connected enough to brush lonesome off? Then, move to fix-it number 2.
2- Go Do Something Nice for Someone.
Have you heard the old saying, “When you give to the well of life, you get from the well of life?”
Helping others is a way to give to the well of life.
When you help others, you certainly aren’t alone, you are helping people. Helping others can elevate your mood as well as the mood of those you are helping. When you help others, you are forced to interact with people in a positive way. Most of the time, positive interaction grows more positive interaction.
But what can I do, you may be asking right now?
Keep it simple, and help where help is needed.
Go help stock food at your local Food Donation Center.
Volunteer at your child’s school, or your local church, synagogue, or temple.
Did someone in front of you at the grocery store just drop her grocery bag? Then, stop, and help her.
Is someone facing a grave illness? Then, take time to lend your ear. Helping isn’t about giving money. Sometimes helping someone in crisis involves showing that there is another person in the world that cares.
When you lift someone else’s burden of emotional isolation that a grave illness can create you become stronger. When you offer help, you are letting that person know she is not alone, which in turn makes you realize, “Hey, I’m not alone either.”
Ultimately, we are all in this technology-crazed, (at times dysfunctional) yet always beautiful, world together. Kick lonesome to the curb by living in the moment and helping others.
by Laurie Bishop
Last year, while on Spring Break and touring colleges with my daughter, a Junior in High School, I upheld a promise I made ten years ago to a starry-eyed 7-year old. The promise I fulfilled was largely due to calming my mind down through yoga and meditation.
Yoga and meditation helped me uphold a promise I made to my young daughter nearly ten years ago.
Although a calm mind helped me uphold a promise I made years ago, it had nothing to do with yoga or meditation type endeavors like being flexible.
The promise was to take a tiny 7-year old to a magical place she found in an advertisement on a sour cream lid. This advertisement graced the plastic lid of a container of sour cream as it sat on our dinner table.
You’re thinking, hmmm, a 7-year-old with an advertisement in her hand – it must have been an advertisement for Disney World, right?
The advertisement wasn’t about Disney.
So, what could be advertised on a sour cream lid that would appeal to a 7-year-old girl who still believes in magic and all things beautiful?
It was an advertisement for a waterfall in Alabama.
My daughter pointed to the lid all those years ago, and she emphatically stated, “We HAVE to go there.”
As our family sat at the dinner table eating potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, we all looked at our starry-eyed 7-year-old, and then to the lid and replied, “OK,” as we continued eating.
She was sincere about her desire to see the waterfall on the sour cream lid advertisement. That evening, she asked me for a stamp and for some help addressing the envelope of a letter she wrote inquiring about the waterfall on the lid.
A tourism brochure on the town where the waterfall resided appeared in our mailbox a few weeks later.
Our family read the brochure one after another in amazement agreeing that it was a beautiful place.
“We have to go there,” my tiny daughter dreamily again asserted.
“OK,” my husband and I replied.
The brochure was promptly placed on the outside of our refrigerator held in place by tiny magnets.
The years went by, and there was always something more important to do during my daughter’s vacations from school.
Without the ability to calm our minds down from daily life, we were always pulled this way or that. A family member was sick, or dying, or graduating, or getting married, or moving. There was always something that moved us farther away from that promise of going to see my sparkly-eyed daughter’s waterfall.
Not only were there always events getting in the way, there were also self-imposed roadblocks. Isn’t it too long of a drive? Where would we stay? Isn’t that going to be too expensive?
It was easy to say, “Sure, we’ll go.” It was less easy making that actually happen.
We couldn’t settle down and think through the wild card that had been thrown in front of us by a 7-year-old.
Nobody we knew had ever been there.
Besides, who travels over 8 hours to see something their kid found on a sour cream lid?
Really, who does that?
It was far too easy to say OK to our daughter, and then go on to accept other people’s plans for our time or be stopped by our homemade roadblocks.
Years Flow By
The years passed, and the brochure was moved from the front of the fridge to the side of the fridge. Then, it found a home in the kitchen junk drawer.
It’s amazing how quickly ten years can pass by while the promise of seeing a waterfall from a sour cream lid advertisement goes unfulfilled.
With a calm mind brought on by meditation and yoga, my husband and I picked up that long ago promise and took our 17-year-old daughter to Little River Canyon National Preserve in Ft. Payne, Alabama.
Without a calm mind, we would have continued making excuses for why we couldn’t fulfill a promise that for years had seemed too complicated.
That’s one of the great things calming down can do for you.
You see, the whole calming down thing through yoga and meditation is not about losing weight or being flexible. It’s about being able to make choices that create a wonderful life for you and those you love.
For this vacation, promised long ago to a small child, we needed a calm mind.
Want to know how the vacation went?
We drove to Alabama from Tallahassee, Florida after going on a college tour for my daughter.
The drive to Ft. Payne was beautiful, long but beautiful taking us through small towns that looked like they were pulled out of a Hallmark channel movie about love and community. We passed rolling lush green hills that brought us to breath-taking mountain roads in Alabama.
During our drive, there were long stretches of time when our car was the only car on the two-lane country road. Our car was the only car on much of the four-lane highway as well.
We didn’t know what to expect from Ft. Payne, Alabama.
The only thing I could say with certainty was that there would be a hotel off the highway because I pre-booked a room at a Hampton Inn.
The town of Ft. Payne was a lot bigger than I had expected. There was a Cracker Barrel and a Hardees. A Lowes and a Subway also graced the streets along with many shops.
Here’s a fun fact we discovered: Ft. Payne used to be the sock capital of the world.
We checked into the hotel and weren’t expecting it to be so clean. It was also newly renovated. We figured it would be one of those hotels stuck in time and long forgotten like our ten-year old promise, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was one of the nicest hotels of our Spring Break trip.
We slept well, as people often do in a nice, clean hotel high in the mountains. We expected breakfast to be so-so, but there again, it was one of the best breakfasts of our trip. The hotel had spinach and cheese omelets that were very tasty. A little old lady who looked like Aunt Bea from The Andy Griffith Show busily restocked the buffet as we ate in the clean quiet breakfast area.
Little River Canyon
It was a 15-minute drive to Little River Canyon through rolling hills dotted with beautiful country homes.
The visitor center was large, and the friendly park ranger gave us a tremendous amount of information on where to go, circling the highlights with a pink pen on our park map. She handed my daughter a National Park Ranger badge and a pin before she sent us on our way.
The group of visitors at the park was eclectic – some young, some old, some people riding motorcycles, some people in RVs, some people from other countries, and us.
“How did you know this place would be so wonderful just from looking at a sour cream lid?” I asked my daughter who just shrugged her shoulders.
We hiked to the main waterfall.
We hiked above the waterfall.
We hiked below the main waterfall and stopped to sit on large rocks beside the waterfalls while we ate sandwiches that we brought with us.
We walked in the river.
My daughter submerged her head in the cold clear water.
“I’ve just got to do this,” she said before dunking her upper torso into the freezing river water while standing knee deep as if baptising herself in the water.
“OK,” was my reply.
There is a 12 or so mile stretch of road along the canyon with gorgeous views.
We slowly drove on the winding roads, stopping to walk around and take pictures of the scenic overlooks.
The Waterfall Effect
It felt very calming to sit on the large rocks beside the waterfall. You would think it would make us nervous or afraid, but it didn’t.
As the raging river plummeted over the falls, crashing into the large rocks forty feet below, we felt a sense of peace and a sense of happy.
We were hours and hours from home, in the mountains of Alabama, in a town we knew very little about. While viewing these large and powerful waterfalls, oddly enough, we felt grounded and safe from life’s stressors.
We didn’t stop there and traveled to 3 other waterfalls on our way home.
Calming your mind down isn’t about what it does physically to your body. It’s about giving you the focus to make good life decisions for that body.
For us, a calm mind allowed us to honor a promise made long ago to a tiny 7-year-old with an amazing advertisement on a sour cream lid.