Here is a great quote about the value of living in the present. I couldn’t have said it better.
Here is a great quote about the value of living in the present. I couldn’t have said it better.
In “It’s a choice” I discussed the need to make a conscious choice each day. The choice you must make is to choose a positive outlook over potentially negative behavior that is in response to the stimuli around you. Seems pretty simple, but as mentioned in the previous post it isn’t. You need to set the stage for choosing a positive response to life and the challenges you will face on a daily basis. I mentioned that you will need to nourish your mind and your body to prepare yourself for this transformation; failing to do so will leave you susceptible to reacting instead of controlling your behavior. I’m going to make a few suggestions on how you can prepare yourself to begin making those positive choices:
Yoga – practicing yoga can calm your body and your mind. It is more than a form of exercise, and can lead you to discover many things about yourself that few activities can offer. Yoga is also a great prelude to meditation, which I will discuss next.
Meditation – I would recommend that you meditate for at least 10 minutes in the morning, preferably after you have done some form of exercise and before you start your work day. Meditation can help you control your mind by actually quieting it. Over time you will have the ability to center your mind on the present and turn off some of the noise that goes on in your head.
Affirmations – I was not a big fan on using affirmations until recently. I think they are most effective when they follow your meditation session. You need to come up with a list of 3 to 6 statements that reinforce what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t just read them, say them out loud. Here are the ones I say each day when I’m finished meditating:
This is what I have found effective, but you might find that running is a good substitute for yoga, or taking the dog for a walk, riding a bike, or doing Pilates. The key isn’t so much what you do as long as it is a physical activity that can be a precursor to meditation.
I know you are busy, and don’t have time for a yoga practice and 10 – 20 minutes of meditation, but what if you could make a 30 – 40 minute investment every morning. Maybe you would have to get up a little earlier to fit these things into your day. Remember you are investing in yourself, in your piece of mind.
I’m guessing that in your heart, you know you are worth it.
In “It’s a choice Part 3” I will write about why it is important to understand how your diet influences your ability to make positive choices in your life.
Yes, this title is a bit dramatic, but there is more than a little truth to it. I am also somewhat ashamed that I haven’t posted any of my own writing for some time, and I’m working on getting something posted, once a week.
After some time off work, I joined a company, and found myself more unhappy than I have ever been at work. It turned out to be a combination of extremely poor leadership at the company and work that I didn’t enjoy. My stress levels were skyrocketing, and I leaned on some familiar ways of coping including a lot of binge drinking, which of course did little to relieve the growing anxiety and displeasure with my situation. When I wasn’t medicating myself, I began delving into other ways to help control my emotions, including reading about Buddhism, adding yoga to my daily routine, and meditating in the morning. I even started to listen to things like The Law of Attraction or classical music on my way into work to prepare me for the mental war that was being waged in my mind while working.
My somewhat sporadic use of yoga and meditation, finally turned into a daily ritual, and then it replaced drinking as a way of coping with my situation. After a couple months I quit drinking all together. The stress at work only increased, but my negative reaction to it began to become less severe and the amount of time I was upset by it started decreasing. There have been other times in my life when stress and anxiety were my close companion, but never to this extent. I can honestly say that my utter dislike for this work situation was probably a blessing in disguise, and led me to making a really sincere effort to cope with it. I really had two choices at the time; quit the job or find a way to deal with the stress. While this job led me to a regular yoga and meditation practice, which allowed me to cope with this situation, it also made me more resolute to do something about it. This led to pursuing other opportunities and I recently landed a new job and resigned eliminating the stressor part of the equation, well at least that one.
The question is why do I credit yoga and meditation for allowing me to cope and even take action. I won’t go into all the physiological reasons why yoga and meditation seem to work so well, as you can Google that yourself, or read some of my earlier posts. What I can say is there is a synergy when combining yoga and meditation. Your yoga practice is the perfect precursor to meditation as it depends upon an awareness of your breath, relieves tension through stretching, and thus sets the stage for sitting in meditation for 10 – 20 minutes. I find it much easier to meditate after my yoga practice, allowing me to reach a calmer state of mind much sooner than without it.
I don’t think that my experience of dealing with stress, anxiety, and other forms of mental anguish is unique. In fact I’m not sure anyone is immune to the stimulus that manifests itself in negative thoughts, sleepless nights, and all the self torture that is often the result of how we decide to cope with it all. Notable exceptions might be monks, young children, and those of you in the 1% category that have your shit together. For the rest of us that might want to consider another way of coping; I can heartily recommend giving yoga, followed by 10 – 20 minutes of meditation a try. Be committed to your practice, and within a couple weeks you begin to the see results. Here a few things you can expect from your yoga and meditation practice:
A couple days ago I was having a conversation with my wife, well it was more about me discussing how I would like a newer house, a vacation home, or to live somewhere else. The typical future oriented ranting that I do from time to time, mind you it was not negative, but it was relatively pointless in many ways. If you read this blog you know I try to study Buddhism, practice yoga, and meditate, all in an attempt to be more focused in the present and quiet my mind. Well back to the conversation with my wife. After I had went on for some time about things I might want in the future, she said to me “I choose to be happy” and then she said “It really doesn’t matter where I live or how much money I have”. Well there, and without any obligatory condemnation of my 10 minute diatribe about things I might want in the future. I don’t think she was trying to imply what I was saying was pointless or incorrect in anyway, instead she was just stating her own views.
This comes from someone who has never studied Buddhism, doesn’t meditate, and isn’t all that focused on self improvement from a philosophical perspective. It occurred to me that try as I may to enhance my state of mind, there must be a predisposition to happiness or what might be considered mindfulness. Why do some people with little or no training in mindfulness seem to effortlessly live in the moment, and do it with a high degree of happiness? This predisposition is not based on social status or wealth, as you see examples all around you of people that don’t have two nickles to rub together that are perfectly happy. Maybe it has to do with a persons background, but I’m beginning to think it has something to do with genetics.
Don’t get me wrong those of us who study what the Buddha taught, meditate, and practice yoga are probably those that need it the most. This may be why we were drawn to these things in the first place.
Look around you there are plenty of examples of those you can model yourself after, and they are real people that live among us. They enjoy life the way it is, and ask little of this world to be happy. Some might even consider these people enlightened, or at least a lot further down the road than I am.
In the meantime if you’re like me you need all the mindfulness philosophy, yoga, and meditation you can handle.
I started this practice of writing what I am grateful for everyday some time ago . This sounded like a good idea, except that I was repeating myself writing things like:
Maybe I’m a bit slow, but it occurred to me that I was writing about being grateful for macro level things in my life, and missing the little things in life. It all seemed a bit forced, and it appeared I really wasn’t grateful for anything I was just writing it down because it seemed like a good idea. You know everyone tells you that if you can express how grateful you are you will be happier and more content. It is also true that life is not so much made up of big events and accomplishments as it is small things that happen everyday that often go unnoticed or unappreciated. There is a quote I like that makes this point.
If you take this philosophy and start applying it to your grateful journal, you begin to look at things with more of a mindful approach, paying attention to those little events that make up your day. Now instead of repeating those macro level themes or conditions in your life, you now begin to record those little experiences. Here are a few examples that help make my point:
See the difference? These are little things, but they are positive events that compose your day and should be things that you can appreciate. These little things bring you closer to the world you live in, and as you begin to notice these things you are beginning to live in the moment, where real appreciation resides.
Hopefully you can begin to notice these little things, the people, and events for your own grateful journal. If you can’t find time to write them down at least notice that they are occurring and be grateful.
I was reading a post on LinkedIn the other day and the person said that they meditate twice a day for an hour each time. To me this was a long time to sit as I am now sitting 20 – 25 minutes in the morning and this took some time to reach even this modest amount of time. When I first started meditating I was lucky to reach 10 minutes without completely losing focus and thinking about all of my issues, concerns, dislikes, and problems. I guess the message of this post is that you need to be patient and not compare yourself to those who sit for long periods of time. In my own practice it took me several months to work my way up to comfortably sitting for 20 minutes at a time. My advice to those starting out would be as follows:
Above all, give yourself a break, even 10 minutes of meditation per day is extremely helpful in centering yourself and becoming mindful. Like I mentioned it took me months to work up to 20 minutes a day, as there were lots of things going on in my mind and it can take time to stay seated for longer periods of time. What I can say is that being consistent helps, if at all possible meditate on a daily basis. The more you sit the easier it becomes.