Daily Prompt: Leaves On A Stream – Meditation Technique

Daily Prompt: Leaves On A Stream – Meditation Technique


 

cropped-lakeelkhorn.jpg

Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, MD

 

With all the craziness going on in our society today, it is understandable that we are more stressed out than what should be considered normal. Our newsfeeds on social media and on TV are constantly scrolling with natural disasters, politicians trying to take away our rights to our life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness (like access to affordable healthcare), and other individuals just being evil and hurting others. This is, of course, no short list of things that affect our daily lives. However, what sets us apart is how we deal with these stressors.

Some individuals just unplug from their electronics for a few days when it starts to become too much while others go to classes or join organizations that promote relaxation techniques of various kinds. Some do yoga, tai chi, and other forms of meditation while some others, depending on what is going on in that person’s life, may need a bit of extra help by talking with someone.

I strongly advise that if you need to talk to someone, please do. It is very beneficial and everyone needs some help from someone they can trust and/or a professional. If you need to talk to someone, please contact your country’s crisis hotline or suicide prevention number. They have professionals who are able to help and it is, most certainly, not shameful to ask for help when you really need it most.

I was recently introduced to a new meditation technique when I was undergoing cognitive behavior therapy. My therapist had introduced it as “Leaves on a Stream” meditation technique she herself had learned about.

Just think about it…


Imagine being in the woods. Sitting on the ground or up in a tree or even on the bank of a stream. If you look up towards the sky, what do you see? Sunlight trickling between the leaves as a gentle breeze blows through? 

As you start to drift your eyes downwards, you notice a leaf came unattached from the tree above. Floating gently down next to you till it reaches a stream nearby. Water gently trickling around little rocks like mini waterfalls and making little pools before continuing on its way. 

Now imagine, placing your stress and worries on that leaf that is floating down to the water. Then watch as it gently and slowly floats on the stream’s current away. 

Looking back up, another leaf has detached itself from the strong, majestic tree to float down before you. Again, place your stress and worries on that soft leaf and let it float down the stream.


This was how it was more or less explained to me. The beautiful imagery helping to calm my anxiety and ADD mind. Reducing high levels of built-up stress to having muscles relaxed and feeling more centered.

Personally, I have tried other types of meditation though some were not too successful. However, there were some that were successful. Back when I was in college, I took a class at my local community college called Tai Chi Chuan. The slow movements were meditative and calming for me. Along with the relaxing music, I was able to focus and feel more energized. I felt like I was normal. Now, how many individuals can say they felt that way? Probably not many if they are being honest. (Being normal? How fun is that?) Another thing I just remembered was a previous post I saw while scrolling through Facebook titled “Something to remember when stressed.” All of these things are important to our wellbeing. Be it physical or mental, it is something we need to focus and do as we can.

If this sort of imagery is not helpful for you, there are other meditative types of things one can do to help reduce stress. Listening to music you find calming, reading a book, taking a walk out in nature, cooking, and more. The possibilities are endless!

On an ending note, I had subscribed to a poetry subscription website and a poem that reminded me of this technique had beautiful imagery. It reminded me of leaves on a stream and my troubles and worries floating down it gently away.

From Knopf Poetry, a poem by Vera Pavlova:

sit by the river
keep pitching
your troubles in it
watch them
float away
with the current
too light
to drown

—from Album for the Young (and Old) 

via Daily Prompt: Leaf

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Tai Chi Ch’uan – “2008 Beijing Simplified Form”

There are several forms of Tai Chi. The one I’ll be focusing on is the “2008 Beijing Simplified Form” as this form (out of two that I have learned) has been the most beneficial for me.  I strongly suggest talking to your doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen. Also, if you decide to take a class, talk to your instructor with any concerns so that they can help tailor the exercise to what you can do.

I first took a Tai Chi class at Howard Community College. In the beginning, I was a bit nervous as I had never taken a fitness class before and wasn’t sure what to expect but once we got started, it was a lot of fun. The class was about 4 months long and we started learning how to correctly step. Then once we progressed from that, we began learning the different steps and what they were called. I can still remember parts of it though really wish I could find an instructor in my area who knows the form to help me get through the forgotten parts.

So your question might be, “What is Tai Chi Ch’uan?” I found the foundation’s page where they explain it quite well.

“Tai Chi Chuan, “Supreme Ultimate Boxing,” is all about relaxation. The release of tension while following the series of movements allows the free flow of “chi” or energy through the body, which can be channeled both for health and for self defense.This slow-moving, low impact “moving meditation” has almost as many spellings as it does variations in form.

Whether you call it Tai chi, tai chi, tai ji, taichi or taiji, or practice Yang Short Form, Yang Long Form, Wu Style, Chen style or Sun style, daily practice offers a lifetime of benefits and personal discovery, helping you focus the energy of your body, mind and spirit.” ~Tai Chi Foundation.org ‘s Curriculum Page

The Tai Chi class did help me out greatly. It was slow and meditative as that was the main focus I was looking for in an exercise. It does have a lot of health benefits too.Some of the benefits include:

  • Improves Digestion (Though you might have to use the restroom afterwords)
  • Helps to Improve Concentration
  • Helps with Anxiety (At least for me personally anyway)
  • Improves Posture and Balance
  • It’s Meditative
  • Can practice it Standing or Sitting (Talk to your instructor first)
  • Can practice it anywhere: Grocery store lines (great for practicing balancing!), at home, at the park, etc.
  • And more.

I often found that my concentration did improve after taking this class. I was more awake, calm, level-headed, and could focus on things much easier. I was also very relaxed too. I also found that I felt more flexible even. So it is very beneficial. There are other health benefits that I haven’t listed above but you can find them in books at a bookstore or at your local library, or even a simple google search.

There are also several how-to videos on youtube of the different forms. I posted a couple I’ve found of the 24 Form below:

This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to do the 24 step form. There’s more lessons on it but definitely something that’ll help get you started.

Here’s another video with Gold Medalist Champion, Angela Hsu Cantafio. She is performing the Beijing standardized (simplified) 24 Form in a side view (youtube description).

Though learning it on Youtube can be cost-effective, it is also good to learn from an actual instructor in a class setting. The instructor can help you fine-tune and do the forms correctly as well as help you to even do the forms sitting down.

If your looking to do other tai chi forms, check your local fitness centers as well as colleges and universities on when they might be offering classes in Tai Chi.