“Sit back and relax. I’m about to take you on a mini vacation”. Those were the first words spoken to me by Sol, a semi-retired professional magician...and that’s exactly what he did.

     Having just finished reading a book on magic and the power of the human mind, I decided I would take my chances and try to ‘crash’ the weekly magic group that the book described as meeting every Saturday in a small Italian cafe in midtown Manhattan. Within seconds of sitting down at the large table, strewn with everything from clown balloons to playing cards, I was entertained and amazed. First, an older gentleman walked by and dropped a small string of beads in front of me, which he had twisted in such a way that it resembled a poodle. Another member of the group quickly picked it up and dropped it back on the table...only now instead of the beadwork it was a small wad of tissue. The poodle had vanished. Next a man walked by and showed me how he could levitate a straw. I then turned to my left and was witness to a dollar bill being transformed into a $20, and then back to a $1. One of my favorites was a dice trick done by Sol, where he held a playing die in his hand and then made the dots disappear and reappear on another side of the die. Spectacular. Incredible. Two hours flew by in the blink of an eye, and I left that little cafe feeling much like I feel when I leave a good yoga class: calm, refreshed and grounded. That feeling got me thinking about what Sol had said. It really was like a mini vacation. Watching the magic diverted my attention to the present, and helped me to escape the chatter of my mind. When I asked the ‘magic men’ what they enjoyed most about magic, they all agreed that it was the delight that it gives others. For a few moments, or in my case a few hours, the spectactor is able to let go of their worries and bring their focus entirely to what is happening right in front of them. As we discussed this phenomenon, I compared watching magic to a sort of meditation, and they all agreed. 

     Our daily lives are so encumbered with to-do lists, work, chores, grocery shopping, worries, and stressors, that it’s no wonder that we often don’t feel as good as we would like to. Study after study has shown how stress negatively affects our health and well-being.  High levels of stress trigger the secretion of cortisol into the bloodstream. High cortisol levels are associated with increased abdominal fat, high blood pressure and impaired cognitive performance, to name a few. Yet something as simple, and as enjoyable, as watching a magic show, can help to bring us out of these states of dis-ease. But it doesn’t have to be magic, or a an actual ‘vacation’; it can be whatever is enjoyable for you. What is something that attracts all of your attention; something that you enjoy so much that it makes you forget that you have ‘more important’ things to do? Do you like to get lost in a good book? Do you enjoy walking in the solitude of nature? Do you find pleasure in lovingly preparing a home-cooked meal from scratch? Whatever it is, hone in on it, because it is precisely this that is of primary importance for your health. Make it your duty to allow yourself time to engage in your chosen actively on a regular basis. If you are feeling stressed, these ‘meditative-like’ activities are even more health-promoting than a reluctant trip to the gym...and most certainly more fun!