Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

A while ago, there was some discussion about how old is too old to shovel snow. One article said 45 years old was the time to stop. Another said that those over 55 should definitely find someone else to move the white stuff.

Many people were very happy to heed this advice, quickly handing over their shovels to the younger members of their family. I was not one of those people.

I truly enjoy shoveling snow. I find the slow, repetitive movements relaxing. Being part of the quiet winter scene brings me a feeling of peace. The fresh air seems to wake up my brain and the exercise leaves me feeling energized and recharged. Shoveling snow gives me a moment of Zen.

Zen is defined as a feeling of peace, enlightenment and oneness. It is also a form of meditation that helps people stay present and relaxed. I think most of us would agree that, in these crazy times, we all could use a bit of Zen in our lives.

You don’t need to be an expert in meditation or spend hours trying to reconnect with your inner child to discover the feeling of Zen. It can be found within minutes and there are countless paths to reaching that ultimate goal of peacefulness and calm. Finding your Zen is as personal and individual as your fingerprint.

My first suggestion in how to find a moment of tranquility is simply this – breathe. Take a minute to stop, close your eyes, inhale in four beats, hold it for four beats and exhale in four beats. Repeat as needed. This simple act will help you to center yourself and find calm, even in the midst of chaos.

You can also find your Zen when you find your joy. Do what makes you happy. Dance to your favorite song, take a warm bath or hot shower, walk an extra lap around the block, warm your face with that late winter sun and dream of brighter days ahead. If laughter is the best medicine, then happiness is the quickest road to Zen.

I have also found that, in times of stress or when I’m having a tough time falling asleep, it often helps for me to repeat a comforting or affirming statement. A mantra can be a few simple words, such as “I’ve got this” or “we are blessed”. It may also be a single word, such as the Buddhist chant “om”, or even just “breathe”.

A favorite prayer or bible verse can also bring peace and comfort. My dear friend gave me the book, “Find Your Mantra”, and I’ve found that reading the various affirmations is a wonderful way to feel centered and refreshed.

I have one last bit of advice on how to find serenity during these tumultuous days. Turn off your TV, set down your phone, back away from your iPad. We are continually bombarded with bad news from around the world, the erratic behavior and various opinions of strangers and peers, and countless scary stories that plant themselves in our brains.

Taking a break from all of the negativity is vital for our overall well-being and peace of mind. You need to shut out all of the outside noise if you want to hear your inner voice and find your personal Zen.

The last couple of years have been very stressful and that’s taken a toll on all of us. The effects of the ongoing tension are different for everyone, as is how we find peace in the midst of such trauma. It doesn’t matter how we find these moments of clarity and calm; it just matters that we find them.

“Self-care” has become a trendy term lately; but the practice is actually centuries old. Giving ourselves the opportunity to reflect and recharge is not self-indulgent or silly. It’s an important life skill and its value is becoming clearer every day.

Take care of yourselves, friends, and remember to find those vital moments of Zen whenever and where ever you can. Even if that means picking up a shovel past the recommended stop date.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter.