Not so long ago, if someone told me meditation is the only arm I have to battle my anxiety I would have blown raspberries on his/ her face.

Even worse – meditation is beyond closing your eyes and chanting a phrase. I was outright repelled by meditation.

That there are visual and tactile meditations and you can avail these simple tactics, in the comfort of your home, to be more mindful; that you can feel better in any given circumstance just by practicing the art of being present and focusing on the present other than that vicious cycle of thinking and overthinking and getting stuck in that loop forever, is something I had no idea of. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know I was developing anxiety!

On a beautiful day, when the sky was blue and a gentle cool wind was blowing, in the most scenic place, a feeling of doom hit me square on the chest. We were to go from Kalpa to Rakcham and I have not been feeling too well- which I blamed on the bus ride from Sarahan. A little into our journey, I told rohan that I think I am having a heart attack. You should take me to the next hospital we find. I was sweating profusely, feeling restless, dizzy and was engulfed in a sense of doom. Like something really bad is going to happen and I will die.

The bus was snaking uphill and there was no hospital in sight.

I had big sips of water, stuck my head out and started breathing the cool air. Spotted a few flowers. Then a very fluffy dog and a herd of really fluffy sheep. Then a few rosy cheeked boys going to school and somewhere- and I don’t recall when- the doomed feeling just left me. I really don’t know how it went and when it went but it did. When I got down in Rakcham, I felt better. And I was bloody relieved that the heart attack didn’t happen. Over the next few days, barring a little heart race nothing happened. This was June, 2015 and I wanted to do an ECG.

How naive!

By 2018 I was fully aware that I suffered from general anxiety. I have consulted a psychiatrist & was put on medication. I have read multiple books on B12 vitamins and its effect on neurotransmitters. I have had 2 years of medication but I was battling. I could tell the signs when a panic attack starts to set in and I would suffer till the feeling passed. And all along, I had sidetracked meditation because it seemed too simple to be true

Little did I know that the hardest thing in life to slow down and be mindful

I will agree, I was born with a head that could imagine. I would imagine possibilities, situations and accidents & it was ever so vivid. I would often imagine comic strips and see and hear the characters clearly. And I enjoyed my time with my head. But unfortunately I didn’t realize when thoughts started to merge with the present and even started controlling it. On a perfectly fine evening, I would think of a dreadful situation, quite suddenly, and then howl and cry and palpitate. Rohan would tell me that the situation is fully hypothetical but hey, the brain is on fire. I was latching on to every passing thought of mine and was so tired solving those imaginary situations. Man! It was the most difficult time of my life. The situations in my head felt more real than ever and I was wondering if I was losing my marbles. The job sucked and didn’t help much.

I quit my job in 2018 and for once thought of giving meditation a sincere try.

It can also be the fact that I was reading the book, “The Dalai Lama’s Cat”. Such a fantastic book. So many answers in there too and I was somehow curious to explore this side of healing. Subscribed to a few YouTube channels and started hearing their stories and coping mechanism. I also downloaded headspace and started doing the guided meditations. A simple breathing technique and ways to be more mindful of the present. I didn’t have much hope to be honest.

The first few weeks, I thought it was pointless. The chatter in my head wouldn’t stop. But somehow I kept at it. 6 months down and I was able to control my racing heart by only sitting down and breathing. I could sleep when palpitations would hit me in the middle of the night by just meditating for 5 minutes. By March 2019, I was telling my head, stop, I’ll speak to you at 8 pm and calling anxiety my old friend.

2021, and I think God was prepping me to deal with what we are seeing now. Daily meditation helps me cope to with everything to this day and I think now is more than ever why you should actively seek to stay in the present.

I also learnt that you cannot stop your thoughts, which is the first instinct. The harder you try to stop them, the stronger it comes back. The only way to be unaffected by them is to let them come & go like cars on a busy road.

In 2020, I explored a little into visual and tactile meditation and how it can significantly affect hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol, dehydroepi- androstrone, serotonin, melatonin, and epinephrine. Also found out that natural materials have a more positive effect on our physio-psychological and emotional being and since then, I have been incorporating variety of natural textures in my home that helps me feel grounded; helps to be more mindful. Today, I will talk about 3 such ways of creating an atmosphere in your home that are conducive to visual and tactile meditation.

Engaging our sense of sight & touch in Meditation

And the concept is not new. Beads, stones, idols and objects find use in the history of meditation and can help in grounding you when you are trying to find stillness of the mind. A tangible thing can make an abstract idea like calming the mind a bit more achievable.

Visible grainy, unpainted wood

If you have been following me, you would have noticed that my space now has a lot more wooden surfaces than before. Beautiful unpainted, unvarnished wood with visible grains. Truth is, while I love the rustic-cozy look it lends to my home, wood in its natural state adds warmth. A research conducted showed that natural, smooth wooden surfaces were perceived more positively emotionally than coated surfaces, and I agree!

Try this: When you are very anxious, sit yourself down near a wooden surface and run your hands. Carefully look at the grains and remember the pattern. Ask yourself, is it cool to touch? How does it feel in your fingertips? Can you feel the grain. Natural wood will help you inculcate mildfulness. Engaging visual and tactile senses open up a whole new palette of sensations to explore with our mindfulness and because its less abstract and more tangible, it helps in achieving concentration which takes away our anxious thoughts.

Switch to Linen & Handmade

They call linen the noble fabric and its not for no reason. I love how linen feels against my skin. When I often sit to meditate, I do so on my linen bedding and the points where my body touch the linen often becomes my grounding point. I also think that natural, undyed linen helps you create a more meditative space. Pale, neutral shades are calming, the material is breathable, its tactile and it very effortlessly makes the space look all hyggelight with its rawness and realness. There is certainly something about linen that makes for a calming sight.

But then, there is also this

“At the electronic cellular level, flax cells are highly complementary with human cells; producing a benevolent effect on the human organism. The human cell is capable of completely dissolving a flax cell. It is interesting that flax thread appears to be the only natural material utilized for internal sutures in a surgical setting. Nobel prize winning Dr.Otto Heinrich Warburg identified signature frequency numbers of the average human at 70-90. All results with numbers less than 50 were identified as the signature frequency of chronic disease. Any number less than 15 was identified with those having a diagnosed incurable condition such as cancer. The measurement of linen fabric measures 5,000 signature frequencies.” making it a healing fabric. (Source)

Handmade materials come with its own set of flaws and its absolutely beautiful to run your hands through them and noting the handmade knots and stitches.

Try this: End of the day, sit on a linen bedding or mat and wriggle your toes. Take your focus to the point of contact. It feels really good. You may find this all too funny unless you actually open your mind and try it. Same goes for handmade fabric. Just notice the beautiful weave and you are instantly relaxed.

Create good views and take the view in

Taking a walk in nature certainly helps. But what do you do, when you are locked in day in day out? How do you not feel suffocated within the 4 walls? Create pockets of spaces in your home that are visually delightful. Add various textures, landscape and floral artwork, wall plates, patterns in your cushion and throws. Add a few plants and accents. Make it your happy corner.

Try this: Whenever you are feeling anxious, take a few deep breaths and sit near the visual corner. Once you are there, let your eyes wander around the space. Let it move naturally and let it go where it wants. Keep moving your eyes till you feel relaxed. Now, when you are doing this don’t rush to feel better. Take a minute for yourself. Take a cup of tea if you want and do it like those 5 minutes you would do nothing more useful. It helps.

Do something with your hands

Remember how a lot of us were baking breads when the pandemic hit us? It is probably because we were unknowingly “grounding” ourselves. Grounding is a technique where you use an activity to connect with the present moment and what better than baking a bread where our mind and our hands are in perfect harmony with each other? Right from forming the dough to noting the rise, to checking the springiness, then ofcourse that heavenly smell from the oven- making bread is very tactile and perhaps the best sort of tactile meditation. You can try painting, ceramic, carving or even changing the direction of your furniture.

Times are rough. A lot of us have lost our loved ones and it is difficult to feel at ease with the outpour of really depressing news day in, day out. It really shakes you with hats happening. And it will never probably be the same again. But truth also is, what is, is. If we take some time to slow down, accept the situation we are in, be mindful of the present and be slightly hopeful for the future, we can feel slightly better. And that’s all I strive for, everyday.

Meditation makes it possible for me. And I thought this will help you too.

Sincerely.

Rukmini

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