For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

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This is meditation

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If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent. – Ani Pema Chodron

Jumbled thoughts,
A plethora of images;
An old-fashioned movie reel playing at high-speed.
Silence where are you?
Chatter
Flash
Picture
Chatter
Image
Sound bite
And on and on the reel goes.

This is meditation.

Today I got nothing, went nowhere
Could not find solitude.
Events of the week came crashing in
an explosion of colour, shape and sound.

Alas.
What is one to do but observe,
Watch
Notice
Accept.

And now the day dawns
A crisp and clear morning
Perfect for a walk, to shake off the detritus of the week.
Time to centre
Regroup
Energise.

This too is meditation.

The magic of mornings

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

I’ve been interested to learn about the morning routines of various entrepreneurs from as far-reaching backgrounds as science, fitness, entertainment and politics. All of these high-flying high achievers have a ritual they perform daily that sets them up for a winning day. Many of these morning routines have some common features such as meditation or focus time, movement, journalling and healthy eating.

My well long-standing morning routine has suffered some neglect of late and slipped into a regrettably haphazard, hit and miss, come what may state. I feel the lack of it weighing on me like a heavy wet cloak. Determined to reinstate my winning beginning to each day I have distilled my leanings, reflected on what has worked for me in the past and considered some new ideas.  My intended routine is fairly simple, it’s nothing ground breaking or earth shattering; I don’t have a cryogenic chamber or cold water plunge pool like Tony Robbins (though I could just take a cold shower to boost my immunity though I’m not terribly excited by this water torture technique), nor am I going to be as obsessive as Beethoven was in counting out precisely 60 beans of coffee for his morning java.

First thought:  On waking and before opening my eyes my first thought is always one of thanks and gratitude for another day on this wonderful planet. Test the difference between holding a thought of gratitude and holding one of wishing to sleep longer, being bummed the alarm has gone off, cranky it’s a work day.

Meditation: Always before this step I clean my teeth and wash my face. It just doesn’t feel right to settle into a meditation without having cleansed in some way. I’m not a great meditator but I do enjoy the peace it brings me, even if I spend only 10 minutes in this state.

Journalling: My journalling usually falls out of my meditation practice.  Thoughts and insights that have arisen in that time are written down. Sometimes I draw an tarot or oracle card to provide some guidance or insight for the day ahead or an issue I am facing and journal a stream of consciousness piece that arises from that stimulus.  I have explored Julia Cameron’s morning pages idea and engaged in that regularly for a period of time. Now, though, I am keen to explore some new ideas with regard to my morning journalling that include a focus on gratitude, guidance and intent. Check out the five minute journal.

How do you think you’d feel if you began your day by identifying three things you were grateful for, reading a poignant quote, piece of poetry or spiritual guidance and zeroing in on one thing that must be accomplished in the day? Would you feel more present? Mindful? Full of intent? I’m going to experiment to see what impact it has.

Movement: My steady yoga practice stagnated and died a slow and agonising death when my enthusiasm waned in the absence of a much-needed injection of new inspiration and stimulation. Sadly, my yoga mat languishes in a dusty corner.  I wish to reclaim my morning movement regime, my body is demanding it and my mind needs it, so I am going to experiment with a combination of yoga, stretching and brain gym.  Rather than leap back into a full on hour  and a half Ashtanga yoga practice I will commit to a half hour session of whatever postures feel right combined with some strength training exercises such as basic push ups, sit ups, squats and isometrics, along with some brain gym movements.

I avidly used Braingym routines many years ago in classrooms to increase student performance and focus.  I’ve begun using these again recently and I am keen to pull out my books and charts to refresh my memory to contribute to a vital and healthy morning practice.

How long will all this take? That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? How early does one begin, how much time should one commit to a morning routine? I don’t believe there are any rules. People’s morning routines vary in length from 10 minutes to 90 minutes and longer.  When rethinking my morning routines I allocated 20 minutes to meditation and journalling and 40 minutes to an hour for movement. An hour forty sounds like a lot of time before heading off to work at 7am when showering, dressing and eating breakfast all need to be achieved before walking out the door. Being an early riser helps but a more realistic estimation may be 10 minutes, give or take a few, allocated to the first two areas and then 30 minutes for movement. That’s definitely achievable while allowing room for expansion as the need and desire arise.  To be honest, I don’t think it matters how much time you commit, and I don’t believe you need to be rigid in following each step faithfully each day. Joy in life comes from being flexible and open to spontaneous redirection. Five focused minutes of setting your intention for the day is better than rolling out of bed, eyes half closed, mindlessly and robotically beginning the daily grind.

How might a more focused start to your day change your life?

 

How twenty minutes of meditation changed my life.

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So things heated up around here this week and I’m not talking about the weather either. My days went from relaxed quiet pottering to scheduled, busy deadline filled activity.  It has been a zero to one hundred week, in the blink of an eye.

But something interesting happened. I began the week with a positive frame of mind and resolved to remain positive and I watched as slowly the jobs, expectations and commitments rose. I watched too as the road blocks were laid down – such as no working air con, computer access issues and a myriad of other little stumbling blocks and challenges that popped up left, right and centre.

I was tired out and began to feel an all too familiar anxious stirring in my gut. Yet, at the same time, I still felt a sense of calm sitting behind it all.  I realised I was noticing my reactions to what was going on without grabbing hold of them or letting them grab hold of me. I was being the silent witness as we are taught in meditation.

This was a truly surreal experience for me. I can easily go from calm to overwhelm in next to no time but I realised I was not buying into that. Things have changed and I owe it to my twenty minute morning and evening meditation.

I’ve meditated for some time now with varying degrees of success but it wasn’t until the end of last year that I committed to sitting twice a day. Right now twenty minutes morning and evening is perfect for me. It allows me to centre myself for the day and to let go and return to centre of an evening. Instead of begrudgingly making time or skipping meditation, using tiredness as an excuse as I have in the past,  I now relish this time for myself and I haven’t missed a session since I began. I knew this simple commitment was having a great effect on me but I hadn’t realised just how powerful until I witnessed the change in my behaviour to the busy, full throttle week I’ve had.

Meditation, and my yoga practice, have been my safety nets. They have bolstered and buoyed me, they have nourished and nurtured me and they have helped me to retain my centre, my poise, my ‘self’ when it could have, as it indeed has in the past, so easily been snapped away in a whirlwind.

To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things happening around you.             Thich Nhat Hanh

Blessings of peace and calm to you this week. May you return ‘home’.

Shannyn