The other day, during a self-induced panic attack over my procrastination with my work, I began searching for meditation centers around the world where I could check out for a week or two and find some peace and stability in my life. But then I realized that I'm not much of a meditator, and paying for an international airline ticket -- as well as dedicating more than a week of my life to sitting in silence with a bunch of strangers whom I couldn't even make eye contact with -- wasn't going to help and most likely was going to cause me more stress. Why was I trying to find the grandest version of meditation when all I needed was to sit alone in my home for a few minutes a day?
Finding the time each day for some self-reflection or meditation is really all we need and can be incredibly helpful. What I didn't realize is how difficult something so simple is to do. Just clearing my head is the most challenging struggle -- that, and making the time to sit in silence. For someone who thrives on procrastination and laziness, it's hard to take time away from my wasteful moments to literally sit and do nothing -- but once I learned how to make the time, I immediately saw a change in my productivity and overall mental health.
We have a preconceived notion that meditation takes a lot more than it actually does. I've made it a habit to leave a bottle full of water next to my bed each night. Every morning, as I reach for my phone to shut off my alarm, I see the bottle and am reminded that I need to drink it. After I chug the entire bottle, before leaving bed, I lie back down and just enjoy the silence of the morning for a few minutes. When I eventually do stand up, my body is shockingly re-energized from the water and few precious moments I've given myself. I then proceed to the coffee and my daily routine.
I've also found a second free moment to reflect that takes no additional time out of my day: when I'm in the shower. There's no better place to just stand and appreciate the solitude, assisted by the sound of the water. In the past, I was conditioned to take quick showers, quite possibly due to my stint in the military many years ago, where we were expected to be in and out as quickly as possible. I still at times catch myself rushing my routine, but when I do, I take a deep breath and count up to whatever pre-determined number I feel makes the most sense for that day. Another trick I've learned is to have a shower playlist, so I know I have until the end of a set list to enjoy my time, which in turn helps me not to rush. These simple moments are exactly that: simple -- but very much needed.
Another relaxation trick I've forced myself to make a habit is daily stretching. Stretching is remarkably easy, yet we all forget to do it, especially those of us who avoid the gym or physical exercise. Our bodies crave to be stretched. That euphoric feeling we get from reaching our arms above our head and holding them for a moment can be achieved daily, and once you learn which stretches feel best and are best for your body, the act of stretching each day can positively affect your mental and physical health. Releasing muscle tension and toxins within muscles feels great, especially if you mentally imagine pain and negativity disappearing with each stretch.
The great thing is, most stretches can be done from the comfort of your own bed, so really, shut off the alarm, drink water, take a few moments to enjoy the silence, and stretch yourself before standing up. Then, grab your coffee and, afterwards, in the shower, enjoy a few more moments to yourself before you start your day. It sounds pretty easy, right? It is. Once you condition yourself to be robotic each morning, you'll quickly begin to see and feel a change.
Having HIV comes with a multitude of mental and physical ailments, most of which are self-inflicted due to not properly taking care of our mental and physical health. Is stretching or drinking water going to cure you or shock your doctor next time you are checking labs? Most likely not, but these basic steps will improve your daily life, and in the end, isn't that incredibly important?
Finding quick and easy ways to feel better is so easy, we just need to force ourselves (at first) to become accustomed to doing whatever it takes, and ultimately, our mind and bodies will thank us.
So, do I really need a 10-day meditation course in a foreign land? No, although now that I know I am capable of dedicating time to self-improvement, I'm more open to actually doing it with the added bonus of knowing that I would benefit from it. But ... baby steps. For now, I'll keep to my routine, and keep reaching for that water each morning.