7 Tips to Help Manage Depression and Anxiety

7 Tips to Help Manage Depression and Anxiety

Dealing with a mental illness is never easy but with the proper strategies and tools, you can learn to manage your mental health while living a happy life.

Self-care is the root for coping with mental illness. I never understood the meaning of self-care until I was hospitalized. It sounds simple to take care of yourself but you would be surprised by how many people neglect self-care.

Many of us tend to take care of everyone else without realizing that we are more valuable and effective if we take the time to give ourselves some TLC. 3 John 1:2 says “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”

God desires for us to be healthy. But, how can He dwell within in us if we aren’t healthy in our mind, body, and spirit?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults in the United States. It is also common for individuals with depression to have an anxiety disorder or vice versa. In fact, 6.7 percent of the United States population has major depressive disorder (MDD).

However, the good news is that 80 percent of those treated for depression and anxiety show improvement in their symptoms within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments. In addition to clinical treatment, there are a variety of coping mechanisms that help manage your symptoms.

Feeding your spirit can include praying and/or reading your Word. However, we, as Christians, may also want to consider opening our minds to additional coping strategies that will impact one’s spirit, body, and mind.

1. Therapy

I have been in therapy for a year and a half, and it has been a long process but I am reaping the benefits for sticking it out. Find a therapist that you like and feel comfortable talking to. Therapy offers personal insight, empowerment, coping strategies, prevention of future illness distress, and someone to talk to without judgment. I was hesitant in the beginning because I thought to myself “I am not crazy. I do not need therapy.” However, I am glad I put my fear aside and gave it a try. While you can talk to a friend, family member or pastor, I recommend that you speak with a person who has a background in mental illness.

2. Balanced Diet

It is not rocket science but the foods we eat impact our illness. If your mental illness is a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, it is important to be conscious of how food affects you. I have noticed when I consume an obsessive amount of comfort foods such as ice-cream and cookies, I feel worse. Here is the problem with overeating; it decreases your energy because your body must work harder to break down the food. Not to mention, overeating can lead to being overweight. A balanced diet helps with concentration and energy levels. According to Everyday Health, foods such as turkey, walnuts, fatty fish, whole grains and green tea help with depression.

3. Exercise

You do not have to go to the gym every day if that is not your thing but you can take a walk, attend a dance class, play sports or play with children. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals , such as endorphins. Endorphins, also known as the feel-good chemical, interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Exercise also helps to alleviate stress, improve self-esteem, and sleep.

4. Create a support group

It can be frustrating when you have a mental illness and no one understands you and/or judges you. Finding the right support team is important. This may include a life-coach, therapist and/or psychiatrist, significant other, family or friends. Each individual should help in some way by meeting a need or needs. If the relationship is not healthy then you may want to consider removing them completely from your life. You should be able to share with your support group whether you are having a good or bad day. When you struggle with a mental illness, every day will not be sunshine and rainbows, and that is okay.

5. Listening to nature sounds

Before I go to sleep, I play sounds of waves as it helps to relax my mind and body. I enjoy hearing the sounds of waves, raindrops, and waterfalls. When most of us take vacations, we tend to go to the beach, tropical islands or lakes to relax and rejuvenate. So, it makes sense that the sound of nature such as birds chirping and waves help many relax, specifically, the sound of water. According to an article by the Huffington Post, water gives our brain rest from overstimulation and induces a meditative state.

6. Himalayan Salt Lamp

I had no idea of the benefits of a Himalayan salt lamp. The lamp is a carved piece of rock from the Mountains in Northeast Pakistan and stretches across approximately 186 miles from the Jhelum River to the Indus River. The Himalayan salt lamp releases negative ions which promote a relaxing environment and increases the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. WebMD explains it perfectly. Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Think mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin which help to alleviate depression, stress, and boost energy.

7. Journaling

While journaling is not anything new in the mental health world, I think it is important for anyone struggling with a mental illness. It helps you be honest with yourself, track changes, create goals and express feelings through journaling. The beautiful thing about journaling is that you can be as free as you want and it is a judgment-free zone. You can journal once a day, a few times a day or every few days; there is no set schedule so it does not feel like a chore. If you are in therapy, journaling can allow you to write topics and concerns that you can discuss in therapy that will better aid you in your recovery and healing. Journaling helps to clarify your thoughts, reduce stress and solve problems. It has also been proven that journaling is one of the most effective coping skills.

While the above seven strategies mentioned are not the only strategies for coping and taking care of yourself, it is important to find what works for you. Take the time and step outside of your comfort zone for managing your mental illness and begin your journey to healing. God often pushes us outside of our comfort zone to strengthen our faith in Him and ourselves.


10 activities for body and mind while social distancing

10 activities for body and mind while social distancing

Video Courtesy of Kids OT Help

Staying busy, positive, and hopeful while you’re at home due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic can help you maintain good mental and physical health.

Much of America is homebound in response to calls for limited travel and social distancing to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.  Even if you can’t get together with friends or enjoy a night at the movies, it’s important to stay physically and mentally active.

“We’re living in unusual times, and it can definitely be a challenge to adjust,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health. “But it’s important to take a step back and look for ways to adapt your lifestyle so that you can stay both physically and mentally well.”

Attitude is everything

Dr. Harmon says a good attitude is essential. Rather than focusing only on the negatives of the situation, try to look at it as an opportunity to refocus, reflect, and revisit old habits. Consider these ideas to keep your mind and body active:

  1. Start a virtual book club. Exercise your mind’s eye by losing yourself in an e-book or audiobook, which can easily be downloaded to your tablet or smartphone. Better yet, create a virtual book club and video chat with friends to discuss what you’ve read.
  2. Learn a foreign language. With travel restrictions forbidding international travel, embark instead on a journey around the world by studying and learning important phrases in a foreign language.
  3. Try backyard birdwatching. Download a bird-watching app and find relaxation in your own backyard by seeing how many birds you can spot. Stay on the lookout while you go for your daily walk through the neighborhood.
  4. Get (or stay) in shape. Exercising outdoors is great therapy. You can enjoy the fresh air and allow the sounds of nature, from singing birds to the wrestling of leaves, to soothe your soul. There’s also plenty of free exercise videos available for tablets and smartphones that require no equipment to achieve a satisfying workout.
  5. Test your cooking skills. Now is a great time to revisit old family recipes and get to know your kitchen better by cooking your own meals. Family members and roommates can take turns making meals for each other.
  6. Video chat with family. If you live alone, you can connect with children and grandchildren with ease thanks to video chatting. Keep your cell phone or tablet charged and check in often with family and friends. Consider making your own videos to share with loved ones so they can see your face and hear your voice when they’re feeling lonely.
  7. Have a puzzle party. For a great way to help families stay occupied, pull out a massive puzzle, and work on it together at the dining room table.
  8. Get crafty. To help you focus on something other than the coronavirus, pick up an old pastime like crocheting, pottery making, or painting. Even coloring books and paint-by-number canvases can help temper your anxieties and result in beautiful works of art that can lift your spirits.
  9. Hike or bike local trails. Go for a hike or a bike ride on local trails (check to make sure they’re open and available for use before you leave home). Make sure to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others if you venture out.
  10. Take on DIY projects. Tackle a home project you’ve been putting off such as cleaning out your closet or the junk drawer, pruning bushes and repotting plants, or redecorating a room in your home using stuff you’ve stored away in your garage or attic.

“Eventually, we will get through this,” Dr. Harmon says. “Try to take this time to focus on yourself and your family, and remember that the sacrifices you are making by following social distancing recommendations are helping to protect yourself, your family members, and our community.”

This article was originally published on MyCarolinaLife.com.

How hope can keep you healthier and happier

How hope can keep you healthier and happier

Hope springs eternal – if you nurture it.
Getty Images / ipopba

Hope can erode when we perceive threats to our way of life, and these days, plenty are out there. As we age, we may struggle with a tragic loss or chronic disease. As we watch the news, we see our political system polarized, hopelessly locked in chaos. The coronavirus spreads wider daily; U.S. markets signaled a lack of hope with a Dow Jones free fall. Losing hope sometimes leads to suicide.

When there is no hope – when people cannot picture a desired end to their struggles – they lose the motivation to endure. As professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, I’ve studied positive psychology, forgiveness, wellness and the science of hope for more than 40 years. My website offers free resources and tools to help its readers live a more hopeful life.

What is hope?

First, hope is not Pollyannaish optimism – the assumption that a positive outcome is inevitable. Instead, hope is a motivation to persevere toward a goal or end state, even if we’re skeptical that a positive outcome is likely. Psychologists tell us hope involves activity, a can-do attitude and a belief that we have a pathway to our desired outcome. Hope is the willpower to change and the way-power to bring about that change.

With teens and with young or middle-aged adults, hope is a bit easier. But for older adults, it’s a bit harder. Aging often means running up against obstacles that appear unyielding – like recurring health or financial or family issues that just don’t seem to go away. Hope for older adults has to be “sticky,” persevering, a “mature hope.”

Hope is more than just positive thinking.
Getty Images / ridofranz

How to build hope

Now the good news: this study, from Harvard’s “Human Flourishing Program,” recently published. Researchers examined the impact of hope on nearly 13,000 people with an average age of 66. They found those with more hope throughout their lives had better physical health, better health behaviors, better social support and a longer life. Hope also led to fewer chronic health problems, less depression, less anxiety and a lower risk of cancer.

So if maintaining hope in the long run is so good for us, how do we increase it? Or build hope if it’s MIA? Here are my four suggestions:

Attend a motivational speech – or watch, read or listen to one online, through YouTube, a blog or podcast. That increases hope, although usually the fix is short-lived. How can you build longer-term hope?

Engage with a religious or spiritual community. This has worked for millennia. Amidst a community of like believers, people have drawn strength, found peace and experienced the elevation of the human spirit, just by knowing there is something or someone much larger than them.

Forgive. Participating in a forgiveness group, or completing a forgiveness do-it-yourself workbook, builds hope, say scientists. It also reduces depression and anxiety, and increases (perhaps this is obvious) your capacity to forgive. That’s true even with long-held grudges. I’ve personally found that successfully forgiving someone provides a sense of both the willpower and way-power to change.

Choose a “hero of hope.” Some have changed history: Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of imprisonment yet persevered to build a new nation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought hope to millions for a decade during the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan brought hope to a world that seemed forever mired in the Cold War. From his fourth State of the Union address: “Tonight, I’ve spoken of great plans and great dreams. They’re dreams we can make come true. Two hundred years of American history should have taught us that nothing is impossible.”

Surely a hero of hope – NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson at the 89th Academy Awards, February 2017.
Getty Images / Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic

Hope gets you unstuck

Hope changes systems that seem stuck. Katherine Johnson, the black mathematician whose critical role in the early days of NASA and the space race was featured in the movie “Hidden Figures,” recently died at age 101. The movie (and the book on which it was based) brought to light her persistence against a system that seemed forever stuck. Bryan Stevenson, who directs the Equal Justice Initiative, and the subject of the movie “Just Mercy,” has successfully fought to help those wrongly convicted or incompetently defended to get off death row.

Stevenson laments that he could not help everyone who needed it; he concluded that he lived in a broken system, and that, in fact, he too was a broken man. Yet he constantly reminded himself of what he had told everyone he tried to help: “Each of us,” he said, “is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Hope changes all of us. By regaining his hope, Bryan Stevenson’s example inspires us.

Regardless of how hard we try, we cannot eliminate threats to hope. Bad stuff happens. But there are the endpoints of persistent hope: We become healthier and our relationships are happier. We can bring about that hope by buoying our willpower, bolstering our persistence, finding pathways to our goals and dreams, and looking for heroes of hope. And just perhaps, one day, we too can be such a hero.

[Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.]The Conversation

Everett Worthington, Emeritus Commonwealth Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to Avoid the Box of Limitation

How to Avoid the Box of Limitation

Video Courtesy of LeahsEssence

We have been privileged to live in a generation that has mastered the art of multitasking, being able to do multiple things at the same time and excelling. You really have to, otherwise, life will pass you by.

Sometimes the news changes so fast that if you wait too long, you are outdated. Have you ever been in a situation where you did not check your phone all day, and by the time you turned it on, it seemed as though you were on a different planet because so much had happened? That is the gift of living in a world of possibilities. Everything is possible and anything can happen. The sky is the limit.

Limitation presents itself in a very cunning way in our lives. For some, it begins at a young age through criticism from a parent or guardian, a teacher or peers that begin to conform your mind to think a certain way.

Or, it could be the environment that you are first exposed to. Unfortunately, depending on the zip code that you reside in, it can determine the kind of privileges that are afforded to you.

Limitation can enter your life through rejection, a lack of acceptance, where you never fit in and regardless of how kind you try to be, or all the things you try to do, you just never measure up. Therefore, you feel limited, constrained, suffocated and blocked.

Limitation could be geographical. The opportunities that could bring a breakthrough in your life may not be at the proximity of where you are currently located. Moving out of that geographical region would be coming out of that box of limitation and pursuing something that could change your life.

The mistakes that we make are stepping into these boxes of limitation that are presented to us daily in our lives and getting comfortable. We take our pity party pillow, and our “poor old me” throws, find a nice corner to hibernate, and hope that Jesus will come down and rescue us from our misery.

I love the Bible because it is a wonderful and precious book filled with verbs. God is all about movement, action, and purpose.

In the book of Genesis, our first encounter with God, is His interaction with an earth that was void and filled with darkness. That did not intimidate Him or make Him cower back. Instead, His Spirit “moved” upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 KJV

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Your life may be filled with void and darkness, but guess what God wants you to do? MOVE!

I created an acronym for the word MOVE to push me during those times that I sense limitation is looming over me, trying to push me down a dungeon of hopelessness.

M– Mastering

O– Of

V– Victory

E– Everyday

Sometimes you have to look at life as a classroom that you show up to master and excel in every lesson presented. By the time we get to verse 31 in Genesis 1, God had taken the earth that was void and made it to be very good. You have to take your void situation, be motivated by purpose and create the environment that makes it very good.

Genesis 1:31 KJV

31 And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Instead of throwing a glamorous pity party and sending out beautiful invitations to host limitation in your life, I suggest:

1. Returning the limitation box back to the sender

Just the way you return mail that is not yours, you do not have to receive projections of limitations that are said to you, thrown at you, or even perceived by you from others. You have the power to control what you receive. Learn how to reject that which will limit your progress. Let it “talk to the hand!”

2. Follow God’s role model

The first thing that God did was move. He was not concerned about how things looked, He got busy creating. He got busy with purpose. Instead of complaining about what is wrong and how unfair life may be (which may be true), get busy moving into purpose and finding out why you are here. Passivity is a hobby that many take up, waiting for a change that may never come. You are the agent that triggers the change you are praying for.

3. Believe in yourself

There comes a point of decision and reckoning that you are unique. You have to begin investing in self-affirmation ministry to yourself and build up the confidence muscles that may be feeble in you. You may have to cry sometimes and that is okay, but after crying let there be purpose in your tears. The greatest gift that you can give yourself is to refuse to be limited and live a life that is open to receive all that God has for you.

Dear God,

Help me with the daily struggle of limitation that overwhelms me. If I have limited myself and allowed sabotage in my life, or refuse to step on the platforms that You bring to me, forgive me. I give myself permission to succeed. I look to You for confidence, and I receive the boldness to walk into purpose and the liberty of being myself. That is a gift, a precious gift that I ask You to help me guard. The gift of being me. Thank You God for making me, me.




Modern Faith

Modern Faith

Video Courtesy of Frank Thomas: Dr. Neichelle Guidry Talks Millennials, Technology, and Social Media

I’ve always wanted to do a homeschooling podcast with my son. We’ve talked about it so many times — what we’d talk about, how long it would be, yadda, yadda, yadda. We even purchased the equipment together, but I keep putting it off. “I’ll do it after I do this. It won’t work unless I do that. We need to plan for this.” Then I listened to a podcast by Dr. Neichelle Guidry called Modern Faith. In that podcast, she said, “What are the dreams of your heart? What are the ideas that you’ve had that you’ve said it’s too big for me? What are the things that are so big that you’ve talked yourself out of it? Unearth that thing.” She had my attention. But my mind immediately started moving to action when I heard her say, “I’m trusting in God to give me everything I need to walk this path of manifesting my goals, dreams, and ideas. I’m not sitting on them any longer— whether it’s a new mind, or a new heart, or new habits.” I’m recording my first podcast this week.

Dr. Guidry’s voice is soothing, soft-spoken, and powerful at the same time. She speaks authentically about the world around her and inspiring and motivating millennial women of color to lead and get out of their comfort zones. Though honestly, her messages will resonate with any generation. Dr. Guidry is currently the Dean of the Chapel and Director of the WISDOM Center at Spelman College. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University (2007, BA) and Yale Divinity School (2010, M.Div.). In 2017, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in the area of Liturgical Studies with a concentration in Homiletics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Before her current position at Spellman, Dr. Guidry was the 2016 Preacher/Pastor-In-Residence at the Black Theology and Leadership Institute at Princeton Theological Seminary. And she served as the Associate Pastor to Young Adults and the Liaison to Worship and Arts Ministries in the Office of the Senior Pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago for six years. She was listed as one of “12 New Faces of Black Leadership” in TIME Magazine in January 2015. 

Urban Faith had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Guidry about her approach to ministry, the new season of her podcast Modern Faith, and the woman she admires most in the Bible.

There have been exhaustive conversations about reaching the millennial generation and older generations. Still, I’m wondering, given your work at Spelman, what you see in Generation Z and how they worship and their attitudes about the church?
That’s an interesting question because, in years past, I used to be heavy in these conversations about the church and millennials. Then I just got really tired of both conversations because millennials became very commodified in the church. It became less and less about a relationship and a whole lot more about how do we get them? It perturbed me because we began to speak of human beings in the same way that we spoke of material goods. And to me, it illuminated how capitalist inclinations of the church. Our preoccupation with numbers is an ethical issue, a moral issue, and a leadership issue that cuts across so many different areas in the life of the church. This is, in part, why I choose to do ministry in the college setting. In the college setting, I can think about my ministry as a curriculum. I can think about what it means to teach compassion, not just to preach about it. I can provide humanizing frameworks, language, praxes to my students. This is important because these tools empower our students to move beyond hearing me preach a sermon or a Bible study on compassion or kindness, and to embody these characteristics in the world. In some sense, Generation Z is very similar to the millennials, where if there is a disconnect between what a faith leader talks about and how they’re walking in life, we don’t believe it. And that’s why I really think the millennial generation was the pivot generation for the church. And as the emerging generation, generation Z is going to build on the ground that millennials have broken, the challenges that the millennials have raised to the church and to leaders, and they’re going to run with it. And I see my position as being a support to their disruptive work. I love to see Holy disruption. I believe that that’s exactly what Jesus did himself and still does through us.

I saw on your site, shepreaches.com, that you’ve not only got inspirational messages, but downloadable tools ministry leaders can use in their own circles. What are your goals for the future of the site and also your podcast, Modern Faith?
I’ve gotten into podcasting as a way of democratizing the content that was laid on my heart to share.  I have a heart for people who have a deep spiritual yearning and desire to connect with God, but have no interest or trust in institutionalized church.  Many faith leaders are scrambling right now because of COVID-19, but there have been a lot of us that have been utilizing technology, social media, and digital media for community building. When I started shepreaches.com in 2012, I was kind of in a first wave of millennials doing digital ministry. It was an amazing time. But time has evolved, so have my own life and ministry. Furthermore, as the Gospel has been ransacked in quality over the past four years and the dominant narrative in the United States around Christianity has been the conservative evangelical witness, I really felt like we need more progressive, inclusive, and justice-oriented voices doing public theology. There needs to be more radically loving, just, and inclusive Christian voices that are also a part of this. And I’m not the only one. There are so many.

What will you cover in the new season of your podcast?
So, the next episodes specifically deal with the Coronavirus, its implications and how we can spiritually survive this global experience. I’ll be talking about the kind of spiritual principles that are emerging for me about finding a balance between being informed and becoming a little too immersed in the news cycle. So, I will cover topics such as, some of the spiritual and mental health practices for self-care and spiritual wellness that can keep us in that healthy center.

And then there’s going to be a few episodes that focus specifically on spiritual discipline. Many of us have more time on our hands right now. And so people were talking a lot about taking up new hobbies, taking online courses, and staying connected via virtual hangouts.  And I want to add practicing spiritual discipline into the mix.

That’s interesting you mention mental health. How do you think the faith community and the Black church handle mental health issues? Do you think there is still that stigma, even now?
In a Black History Month sermon in chapel, I talked about this mental health, and I expressed my joy at seeing how not only are we, as Blacks throughout Diaspora, talking more about mental health, but we are also going into mental health professions and creating more resources. There’s so much out there now. There’s research, podcasts, books, conferences, and even social media accounts that solely promote Black mental health and flourishing.

In my past, I’ve wrestled with my mental health. When I was in high school, I, like many teenagers, had some anxiety and some depression. I know personally how going through such experiences can feel like “hell on earth.”  So many people struggle with mental illness and have bad theology thrown at them when our mental health requires going to find a professional and perhaps even taking some medication. I see the de-stigmatization that’s right now as a movement of God because Black people were dying in silence and shame, while our operative theologies were often in support of Black death.

It’s taken time, and it’s taken education, and it’s taken broadening our thought patterns and our belief systems to come to a place where there are people like me, people like Melva Sampson, Candace Benbow, Lyvonne Briggs, and many more Black women of faith who talk openly about being women of faith and having serious self-care and mental health practices, including therapy.

Which woman of the Bible do you admire the most?
My heroine in the Word of God is Deborah in the book of Judges. As a woman of power, she had the seat of power and the seat of leisure at the same time. But, when her people were in trouble, she got out of that seat of power and went to the battlefield. We see her willingness to leave her seat of power and comfort, to the very front line for her people. One of the most powerful things about Deborah is when she prophesied that God was going to give the victory to a woman, she wasn’t even signifying herself. She was talking about Jael. What I love about her model is that, even if it’s not me, even if I’m not the one that’s going to get the shine and the glory, another sister is. She’s my hero in the Bible.

COMMENTARY: A beginner’s guide to meditation

COMMENTARY: A beginner’s guide to meditation

Video Courtesy of ContemplativeTV (Christian Mindfulness)

Blessed is the one who does not walk

In the counsel of the unrighteous …

But delights in the teaching of the Divine.

And on this teaching meditates day and night.

Such a one is like a tree planted by water-streams

That brings forth its fruit in season

And those whose leaf does not wither

Whatever this one does prospers.

Is this the doctrine of some strange Asian religion? The teachings of some self-proclaimed guru? You might be surprised to learn that this description of the power of meditation comes from Psalm 1 in the Hebrew Scriptures and is attributed to Israel’s great King David.

What compelled David to devote himself to meditative practice? Finding his personal life in turmoil, David sought, as many people of all faiths do today, a sense of peace and an enhanced ability to cope with troubles. Initial meditative or contemplative sessions often bring this kind of relief.

Even at the very beginning stages, most meditators discover a sense of something beyond mere respite. They find, as the Prophet Elijah did in the cave at Sinai, that”a still, small voice “speaks to them. It is a voice that seems to transcend religious differences.

The writer and former Taoist monk Deng Ming-Dao likens the meditative experience to a cave: “In a cave all outer sounds are smothered by rock and earth, but this makes the sounds of one’s own heartbeat and breath audible. In the same way, contemplative stillness turns us away from everyday clamor but allows us to hear the subtle in our own lives.” When I began experimenting with meditation as a teenager, I was typically ambivalent. Meditation felt good, but it was also very hard to remain attentive and undistracted. In fact, I gave it up for years. Unlike David, who turned to meditation after suffering rejection and betrayal, I was not broken or desperate enough to keep to a practice. Only after studying and contemplating religious scriptures and gaining a stronger connection to the extraordinary world of spirit did I resume a regular practice.

The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism’s sacred texts, paints a picture of the human metaphysical condition-some would say dilemma-in the story of two birds. The dearest of friends, the birds sit on branches of the same tree. One is incessantly occupied with pecking and eating the fruits dangling there. By these acts of destruction and consumption, the bird participates in the process of dying and living. The other bird simply witnesses and contemplates, uninvolved and unconcerned with consequences. Our nature is, like the first bird, taken up with the business of survival and material concerns. Yet, our nature is also spiritual; like the other bird, we must be in a different place to realize it.

Meditation removes us from the momentary, anxious world where we normally live and brings us to the timeless, serene world of the divinely empowered. Historically this experience was reserved for a select few-shamans, royalty, priestesses and priests, prophets, and acknowledged religious leaders.

Today, it is an open possibility. Meditation books and classes abound, and the Internet buzzes with discussion groups. People can choose from a variety of meditation instructions from Aboriginal to Zen. Dhyani Ywahoo, a Cherokee”wisdom-keeper “who teaches Native American and Buddhist meditation, extracts the essence: “Meditation practice … creates a still pool upon which your nature is reflected. As you continue, the emotions race less and less and the mind becomes transparent. Then begin to clarify channels within … that the sacred wisdom fire may manifest. Whether we refer to the inclusiveness of mind as Great Spirit, Buddha-mind, Christ-mind, Allah, or by another name, essentially there is one truth underlying … the undescribable.” This is the transformative potential of meditative practice. It centers the body in a state of restfulness and acceptance. It provides a breathing space from emotional disturbance. It allows goodwill and love to dwell again in our hearts. It clears the mind and opens receptive channels to universal wisdom and illumination.

The power of meditation is, blessedly, cumulative. Later in his life, David testified to this in Psalm 119, proclaiming: “O, how I love your teaching! … I know more … for your ways are my meditation.”