The Mental Vacay; “Meditation” With A Twist

I’ve always struggled with meditation. It’s the breathing bit. Yeah, the easiest part.

I’d begin breathing, counting, and thinking

“Did I inhale enough? Oh no! Did I breathe in too much this time?! Did I screw up the amount of oxygen in my lungs? I’m not going to have enough air to hold the next count, let alone to do a full exhale!!”

Before long, I was full on panicking and hyperventilating. When I spiralled deep enough to irrationally fear for my life, I reminded myself that at the very worst, passing out would enable me to resume breathing normally. Eventually, the stars faded away and I returned to earth. I was determined, or stupid, so I kept at it. But after repeated attempts, I soon learned that this form of meditation wasn’t for me.

Then, I heard about mindfulness and guided meditation. I can’t say that I follow these methods, per se, but I’ve created versions that ground me when I’m stressed, help me focus, and provide the ever important mental vacay.

In all that’s happening across the country, I find myself turning to these tools more frequently. With each passing day, it becomes even more imperative that I protect my mental health so it doesn’t negatively affect my physical well being.

If these ideas spark your imagination or you wish to adopt them outright, go for it. Please let me know, if you have other tweaks or ideas you think I might appreciate. We could all use a little personal TLC in the coming months and years.

1. Burn, Baby, Burn

This is a slight mod on a traditional method.

I imagine a flickering candle or a crackling campfire and their flames’ rapidly changing yellows, blues, and shades of orange. The flames gently waver or lash and spit in the dark. As each distracting thought appears, I toss it into the fire. If it’s meaningless and inconsequential, the flame barely flickers, if it moves at all. If the thought is concerning or a major distraction, when I throw it in the flames grow larger. I continue to focus on the fire, and feed it my stray thoughts; always returning to the candle or campfire. The steadiness and size of the flames. The beauty of the dancing colours flickering in and out.

Somehow throwing my thoughts, big and small, into the fire makes them seem less daunting when all is done.

2. The Sound of Music

I am obsessed with music. So, I use that.

In this method, I put on some of my favourite tunes. I usually listen with my earbuds so I can tune out distractions and hear every nuance of the music. The type of music isn’t overly important, but it’s more enjoyable when it’s music you love.

I close my eyes, while I soak up the rhythm, voices, and the emotion. I intimately focus on each sound; isolating each from the next. I try to identify every instrument, voice, and every object used to make each note in the symphony. Whether it’s literally an orchestral piece, or hip-hop, pop, swing, alternative, and on and on!

This method is probably closer to mindfulness. It feels like I’m training my brain to be more efficient and observant without “working,” because this is fun. Music is exquisite!

3. So You Think You Can Dance

Ha! This white girl can’t dance, except in her dreams.

For this one, I usually choose a mood-specific song or playlist. I close my eyes and imagine a loosely choreographed dance that’s not about the intricacies or expertise of the performance or the approval of the audience. My goal is self-expression no matter where I’m at nor the time.

One or many individuals express whatever my soul pours out or the music inspires. From a heartbreaking solo under a spotlight on a dark stage to… Don’t laugh. To a musical routine in a mall, a restaurant, or swinging off the balconies of nearby apartment buildings.

When you can’t dance and can’t teach, you get down in your imagination.

4. Reaching For the Stars

Okay, now, we’re going for it. You need your music and every ounce of your creative juices for this one.

I choose my music, then I open the doors to my imagination by starting somewhere realistic and serene or imaginary and fantastic. I create places where I feel safe or happy.

Some days, I’m wandering in a field of yellow on the side of a snow capped mountain. My fingers gently toy with the flowers, as I pass. The wind dances through my hair and teases the blue butterflies.

Other days, I’m deep in the forest, following the sound of the waterfall, who keeps calling my name. There are treehouses above me, connected by swinging bridges. Campfires nearby with drum circles, singing, and laughter. I realize I can fly, and I begin weaving in and out between the towering trees. Over and under the bridges, above the tree tops, and straight down to the forest floor. In a moment of pure joy, I shoot into the sky, reaching for the stars where I often wish I could escape.

Oh, the power of music and the imagination.

I’m no expert in meditation or mental health. I’m just a girl who struggles with depression and anxiety, and “these are a few of my favourite things.” I’m grateful for these adaptations, because I’m now more grounded. I’m happier, more observant, and clearer headed, and my imagination is more alive than it’s been since I was deemed old enough to be an “adult.”

We’re in this life together, but only you know you best. Please, look out for yourselves.