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How to Find Utter Bliss Beneath the Cherry Blossoms

Photo via iStock.

Meditation is one of those things that sounds impossible and more than a little bit terrifying before you give it a try. But basically, meditation is simply the practice of being present with yourself. And there are dozens upon dozens of techniques out there, so no need to feel as though you’re doing it “wrong” or “badly.” (And besides, who would know if you were?)

For busy Washingtonians juggling work, family and a hectic social life, meditation can be extremely helpful in calming the mind at those moments when it feels like your brain is in hperdrive. The practice has been shown to significantly improve focus, reduce stress and help us more effectively tackle problems.

Taking time out of your day to calm your mind and relax your body is an important first-step to capitalizing on the benefits of this age-old practice. For those of you who are new to meditation, what better time to start than during cherry blossom season? This weekend, head out to the Tidal Basin, find a comfortable spot, and follow these three steps:

 

Washing Away the Worry

Meditation can be challenging. Our minds are often held hostage by a constant stream of thoughts and worries—How will I meet that deadline? What am I making for dinner? Did I really say that during the meeting? Don’t try to quell the onslaught of thoughts. Instead, pretend your mind is the water in the basin. Watch each thought float by, acknowledge it and then send it on it’s way. Be patient. Eventually, your mind will calm itself down.

 

Easy Breathing Meditation

Take a look at the explosion of color filling the Tidal Basin and then slowly close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath: Do you feel it strongest on your upper lip? In your abdomen? Or in your lungs? Don’t try to change your breath in any way. Wherever your breath feels the strongest, pay special attention to that part of your body. After a few repetitions of natural breathing, start thinking about how your breath feels as it flows in and out. Not that it will feel warmer on the way in than on the way out. Does it cause your nose to tickle? No matter what the feeling, acknowledge it, experience it and move on. This practice will help calm your mind and increase your focus.

 

Walk it Out

For those of us who find it hard to sit still, get up and walk around the basin, using your five senses. Pay attention to how your feet feel as you walk across different surfaces. Note the smell of the cherry blossoms. Examine the way different colors in the sky and trees interact with one another. Let the sounds of other visitors wash over you. Open your mouth slightly and imagine what tastes might fill your mouth. Don’t force yourself to observe more than you would normally. Pay attention to whatever pops into your head, fully experience each sensation and then let it go when another feeling vies for your attention. After 10 minutes of awareness meditation, you’ll leave the basin feeling less distracted and more relaxed.

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Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato is a freelance science, health, and environment reporter based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in National Geographic, NPR, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Newsweek, and Nature.

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