Get in touch with your own thoughts

In my last post 10 Ways to Get Back Your Missing Mojo the 10th way was “Get in touch with your own thoughts”.  I know some things that work for me and am more than happy to share them including meditation, walking, writing, and yoga. I am keenly aware that these might not be your thing and if you don’t already have a way to get in touch with your own thoughts you are going to need to find an activity that helps you clear your mind. Maybe you find that peace of mind from running. I know a lot of people that run and they tell me that it clears their mind and provides an opportunity to analyze an issue with new found clarity brought about by the physical nature of running, especially when done alone. Here is a key, if that activity can be done alone and provides some sense of peace you stand a much better chance of analyzing your thoughts and making choices more inline with what you really want. You cannot really generate any introspective insights while interacting with other people or engaging in activities that don’t by their very nature lead to clarity of thought.

yoga-party

So why do I need to understand what I am thinking? Doesn’t all this seem like a lot of work? I’m pretty happy the way I am or maybe I’m not. Here are a few reasons why self analysis and introspection can enrich your life:

  • Understanding that you may be repeating patterns of destructive behavior is right up there on the top of the list. If you never take the time to analyze why you continue to do these things they will be repeated until they bury you, destroy your relationships, or both.
  • Your insights will lead you to making choices instead of oscillating back and forth or standing still. This will ultimately assist you in determining what is most important to you and moving in that direction.
  • These activities or disciplines that lead you to self analysis will be themselves provide benefits such as improving your physical and mental health. So for instance if yoga is my way of connecting with myself I will also become more flexible, stronger, and mindful. Maybe those moments of clarity come from running and I will improve my cardiovascular endurance and muscle tone. Maybe I like to paint and it allows me to express myself in a way I could never do before.
  • Introspection will lead you to be more present by increasing your awareness. If you analyze your thoughts you will begin to realize that many of them are focused on the past and the future, and you will begin to understand how this is destructive in appreciating today. Once you reach this realization you begin to live in the now and less in the past and the future.

Here is a list of activities that may depending on your interests lead you to introspective thought:

  1. meditation
  2. yoga
  3. running
  4. walking
  5. painting
  6. writing poetry
  7. writing fiction
  8. blogging
  9. Tai Chi
  10. knitting
  11. pottery
  12. sculpting
  13. listening to music
  14. playing an instrument

You say well I would never be interested in writing poetry, and I would say have you every tried, or I can’t do yoga I have no flexibility. Don’t limit yourself to what you do today especially if you don’t already have an outlet that provides an opportunity to think. Give yourself a chance to understand your thoughts and behavior. I understand we are all very busy and have a to do list a mile long, but if you don’t take time for yourself no one else will. Carve out a little time each day to listen to your own thoughts.

Namaste

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10 ways to get back your missing mojo

I would suspect that most of us go through phases in our lives where we have seemed to have lost our interest in what we do and much of the routine aspects of our existence. Maybe we are losing our mojo.  Webster’s defines mojo as:

“a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.”

wheres_my_mojo

It would be nice if everyday was a big adventure, but for most of the world consists of rituals and a fair amount of work. After all we cannot all be Anthony Bourdain and travel the world-embracing new cultures and cuisines, or maybe we can. From my personal observations, it appears the vast majority of the modern world experiences this malaise and has lost their mojo. Some symptoms of lost mojo include:

  1. It is difficult to get out of bed in the morning and when you do you still feel tired
  2. Your productivity is suffering, you are beginning to feel like the guy in Office Space who only does 15 minutes of actual work each week
  3. The highs aren’t very high and the lows aren’t really that low anymore, you are stuck somewhere in the middle
  4. You are not interested in things that were pleasurable in the past
  5. You don’t feel good, even though you are exercising and eating well

Now you might want to go get a checkup from a physician just to make sure what you are experiencing isn’t due to some medical problem, but if you have a clean bill of health you will need to do something to regain the mojo you once possessed. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Maybe you need to consider a career change to get fired up again. Being on a steep learning curve can release some of that hidden mojo.
  2. Start breaking some routines, even if it is simple things like when you workout and what type of exercise you are performing. Change from a 3 day split to a 5 day split, throw in some cardio (running, biking, walking, kayaking).
  3. If you can change-up your schedule, start work an hour later, or work at home a couple of days of week if possible.
  4. Do something for your state of mind like meditating, praying, inspirational reading, or walking.
  5. Take up a new hobby or re-discover the one you quit 10 years ago when your mojo was beginning to fade.
  6. Write down something you are grateful for everyday. Sometimes the malaise begins with a lack of appreciation.
  7. Take a vacation, which of course will allow time for a few of the things I mentioned above.
  8. Do at least one nice thing for another person everyday such as paying them a complement, holding a door, helping someone at work or at home. Remember you’re not the only one that has lost their mojo, and paying it forward can help you and someone else.
  9. Just say no, and maybe even drop some non value added commitments. It may be that you just have way too much on your plate and need to scale things back a bit at least for a while.
  10. Get in touch with your own thoughts. I mentioned meditation which helps me, but there are many ways to become more introspective such as journaling, blogging, writing poetry, spiritual practice, or just taking long walks.

Above all you need to jump off the hamster wheel for a bit and try to understand what is important to you. Your mojo is not gone, it is simply suppressed by routine and not caring for yourself. Do as many of the things above as you can during the course of the next few months and you will start to feel that magical power again.

Namaste

Avoiding Criticism

Found a great little quote today.

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Elbert Hubbard

Everyone wants to be liked as a co-worker, as a friend, a spouse, a sibling, and we often govern what we say to avoid any criticism and to just get along. For fear as someone might labeling you as opinionated or not a team player; god forbid. So you curb your tongue, hold back your opinion, your critique, and all to avoid being criticized as a cowboy, rebel, non team player. In effect you will do nothing, say absolutely nothing nodding your head, and stand for nothing. They will say he or she is a great team player, possesses a positive attitude, a real company man or women. Unfortunately this attitude is all to common in corporate settings around the globe, bloated payrolls full of yes men and women. I’m not advocating that you should go out of your way to be a pain in the ass to everyone around you, but don’t let the possibility of a little criticism turn you into one of the living dead.

Zombies_NightoftheLivingDead

Here are a few ways you can be a more valuable co-worker, friend, spouse, or sibling:

  1. If you see a bad process then call it out and offer up a better one.
  2. If it looks like a train wreck is coming it usually is, so let those around you know about it.
  3. If someone’s behavior is intolerable then confront them.
  4. Do some research and offer up solutions and not condemnations.
  5. Instead of being nothing, stand for something in your professional and personal life.

What would history be today if Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln were afraid of a little criticism?

Maybe you won’t help end World War II or pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, but you certainly don’t need to amount to nothing just to avoid the inevitable criticism that comes with having some strongly held convictions.

Stay in the game!

Seriously

After suffering a fair amount of anguish and getting myself all worked up about things going on at home and at work I came to a simple realization that I was taking everything too seriously. The not so amusing thing about this is that it had been going on for some time now, maybe a couple of years. I look back and haven’t taken a vacation in almost 3 years, focused intensely on a number of goals, which I achieved, but all this even made me more focused. I also realized that not only did I skip vacations, I quit playing golf, and quit playing guitar. What was interesting is that these things were replaced with more study and physical fitness activities. The truth was I forgot how to have fun, or do something just for the hell of it.

seriously

Most of this stems from a kind of all in attitude, or taking things too far. So it is good to exercise on a daily basis, but when all your free time is devoted to it you become very one dimensional, and yes a bit too serious. So not only did I forget how to have fun, but I myself was boring everyone else to death. While it is always nice to move in a new direction, sometimes you abandon things you really love. I blame myself for this all or nothing approach, and all to serious attitude. So another side affect is that you become judgmental, because everyone else doesn’t share your enthusiasm for blogging, Buddhism, meditation, or yoga. Becoming too focused also narrows the acceptable things you are willing to experience because they can’t possibly compete with your path to enlightenment.

Realizations:

  • The world did not come to an end when I skipped my yoga practice yesterday
  • Enjoying what you are doing at work will not cause you great harm
  • Instead of rushing off to meditate or exercise, it is perfectly acceptable to show some interest in others first
  • While it might take a bit longer to learn something dictated by your quest, you are probably a better person for being less inwardly focused
  • You don’t have to be 100% dedicated to something to make progress, meaning you don’t need to quit doing everything else that made you happy to pursue a goal
  • As much as it pains me it is not necessary to accomplish everything on your list, especially on a weekend
  • I have been taking everything way to seriously, from my exercise routines, to my Buddhism studies, and my elimination of vices

All this seriousness and laser focus only made me more judgmental which resulted in anger and resentment instead of understanding and compassion. I couldn’t live with the fact that I was flawed and had weaknesses, and maybe even liked some of the things the common man or woman did. So I vow to lighten up a bit, have a beer, skip a few workouts from time to time, and maybe try to enjoy things a little more, and yes become less serious.

Have a great weekend!

Early or Late?

women doing cobra

Should you engage in your yoga practice first thing in the morning or later in the day? Many of the experts out there would say first thing in the morning is the best time, and if that’s not possible then later in the day is also acceptable. I used to go on that premise and once I was fully awake I would be on the mat starting with sun salutations. I also tried performing my yoga practice after work and found there are pros and cons to both approaches:

Morning Practice

Pros

  • You get it done first thing in the day, and don’t have to worry about something else coming up.
  • Yoga done first thing in the morning sets the stage for morning meditation by breathing and stretching before sitting.
  • Both the yoga and meditation enhance your frame of mind as you start your day.
  • Early in the morning is usually quieter for both yoga and meditation.

Cons

  • You are the least flexible first thing in the morning.
  • You must make time for it and you may have lots of things to take care of first thing in the morning.

Evening Practice

Pros

  • You are the most flexible later in the day. I found this particularly true for me as I was much more flexible at night versus first thing in the morning.
  • After working all day you may really need some physical activity and yoga is a great way to re-awaken your body, especially if you have a job where you sit all day.
  • It sets the stage for an evening meditation session.

Cons

  • It is more likely that something else may come up and you end up skipping your practice.
  • If you are also performing some other form of exercise you will need to determine how to fit this in. I personally had to move my strength training to the weekend so I could concentrate on yoga during the week nights.

I am currently performing my yoga practice in the evenings as soon as I get home from work, and when I’m done I spend about 20 minutes meditating. I would also note that while I don’t practice yoga in the mornings I do other forms of exercise and about 10 minutes of meditation. My strength training routine had to change as I went from a 6 day split to a 3 day split, with the majority of this being done on Saturday and Sunday.  This leaves me 5 days a week to devote to yoga in the evening. I guess you have to ask yourself, what works best for you and your lifestyle? Can I get up early enough and have the uninterrupted time needed to perform a morning practice or is it more convenient to do it after work? Neither of the approaches is optimal for people with demanding careers, but choose the least objectionable one and make sure you make it a priority.

Namaste

Define Happiness

In my last post I wrote about how you might bring some happiness into your life with meditation, but I neglected to really define what happiness is. I looked up a number of definitions and they used words like a joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or satisfied to describe the elusive happiness. For me it is probably a more neutral feeling where I am not one of the following: angry, jealous, envious, entitled, critical, or dissatisfied. So is happiness just the opposite of some of these negative emotions or thoughts? I often have issues defining something like happiness through my own experience because I do not possess the intellectual maturity to experience a consistent state of mind for any prolonged period of time, making it difficult for me to be an expert in it.

Happiness is

So if happiness includes joy, good fortune, pleasure, contentment, or simply feeling satisfied with life then I look to those that seem to be in that state of mind on a consistent basis. I only know a couple of people that fit that description, and though I cannot read their mind I can describe some of the behaviors they exhibit.  Someone very close to me is probably the happiest person I know, and frankly they have no more reason than you or I do for that state of mind, but here are a few of the things I have noticed:

  • They seem to start each day the same, calm and positive
  • They do not let little things like traffic and other stuff bother them
  • They rarely complain
  • They spend most of their time helping others and do not feel taken advantage of
  • They don’t think they are better than anyone else, in fact if anything they undervalue themselves
  • They work hard, but they are not ambitious in a classical sense (money, position, power)
  • They feel blessed that they can do what they enjoy for a job
  • Each day they seem to experience joy, pleasure, contentment, and some sense of satisfaction

Now these people are clearly not the majority on this planet, but they seem to be able avoid or minimize times of anger, resentment, envy, and being critical better than the rest of us. As you remember in my last post I advocated meditation as means of acquiring some happiness in my life, and I stand by that recommendation, but there is something different about these happy people I’ve mentioned. They do not necessarily meditate, they are not monks or nuns, instead they walk among us, and I’m not even sure they know why they are so happy. Maybe if we emulate their behavior we too can begin to enjoy some of the day to day serenity that comes with happiness.  From the behaviors listed above let’s see if we can boil them down into some things we can do everyday, maybe even as an affirmation:

  1. I will meditate for at least 10 minutes every morning
  2. I will ignore the  small stuff
  3. I will stop bitching and whining
  4. I will do things for others without feeling they need to reciprocate
  5. I will stop thinking I am better or worse than anyone else
  6. I will find something I love to do and do it every day
  7. I will write down something I am grateful for each day

Again I’m no expert, in fact I need the above list more than most. I have a lot of respect for those people that can lead a happy existence, and I am determined to follow in their footsteps and achieve some sense of satisfaction and contentment myself.  Ready to join me?

Make Yourself Happy

We often wish for something that we are experiencing to change so that we can be happy. Maybe we think if I had a better job and made more money, or my relationships were more more fulfilling I would be happier. You know the drill if something in my life would change I would experience more happiness, so we go about trying to make those changes, get that new job, trade in one relationship for another, take up another hobby, and still any lasting happiness seems elusive. I would agree sometimes these changes are for the better, and may enrich our lives in numerous ways, but they do not lead to happiness.  Why?

Can you please take me there?

Can you please take me there?

We are all looking for something or someone to make us happy, and unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. You can’t make yourself happy with things or people, this only leads to seeking the next conquest. Ever got a promotion at work? This may have given you some sense of satisfaction for a while, maybe a sense of validation for all your hard work. How quickly did it all wear off? A week, a month, or maybe just a couple of days.

Alright smart ass so what is the key to happiness? Well for me I have found only one answer and it will cost you nothing, but pay you back in so many ways. You must sit and meditate. A couple quotes from Buddha might help.

There is no path to happiness: Happiness is the path.” Buddha

So you cannot seek happiness through those things we think will make us happy. Only you can make yourself happy. My claim is that meditation sets the stage for you to acquire the happiness yourself.

Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing!” “However, Buddha said, let me tell you what I lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old Age and Death.”

Meditation will help you lose those things that affect your ability to be happy. After you have been meditating for some time you will begin to notice that when your meditation session is complete you immediately become less judgmental, critical, and on the flip side you become more compassionate, more connected to others, and more present.

Try my free happiness prescription, after all what do you have to lose?

Namaste