My friend wrote recently about practices that are not luxuries, but necessities. I appreciated her approach to thinking about things that we sometimes treat as nice to have when really they are mandatory for our health and well-being. I really resonated with the example she shared about giving herself time to re-charge between busyness, travel and big projects in life. I definitely need that too, and when I don’t give it to myself, I tend to get sick. My body finds a way to make me rest when I don’t make that a priority.
Another practice that has become absolutely mandatory for me is mindfulness. That term can encompass a number of different things, but it really means taking time every day for just being present.
Mindfulness can be as simple as being totally focused on whatever you are doing in each moment – something we rarely do in our busy, fast paced, multitasking world. I find it almost automatic to pick up my phone to play a game while I’m watching television and have had to be aware the past few weeks that I’m not really watching the gorgeous Olympic figure-skating that I only see once every four years if I’m focused on my phone. These athletes have trained for years to do what they do and if I want to fully appreciate the athleticism and artistry they bring to their discipline, I can give them a few minutes of my attention. When I do, I am truly present to how breath-taking it is that they can do what they do.
As I get older, I notice that I benefit big time from a slower pace of life. I can appreciate a quiet weekend at home with a good book, and a more thoughtful approach to my work. I even like going to bed earlier. I have found a way to create a life that works for me, even if it is fairly unconventional. As the outside world seems to get crazier and crazier, there are a few things that help me manage all the bad news that we are bombarded with 24/7.
If you listen to even a little bit of the news on a daily basis, it feels as if the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It is tough to balance a need to be “informed,” with your own well-being. News, by its very nature, is almost always negative, and today we hear about every bad thing that happens anywhere in the world instantly and exhaustively. But it is actually the safest time to be alive in the history of the world. Really. Google it. Deaths from war, disease and poverty have seen sharp declines in the past few decades particularly, and though there is the threat of global nuclear destruction hanging over our heads, sure, we mostly enjoy a great deal of personal security and safety in the modern world. If you want to control your perspective on the world, control what you put into your mind by choosing to limit your news intake and focusing on those sources (podcasts, TED Talks, The Daily Good and TUT.com Notes from the Universe - just to name a few) that share good news and inspiration.
I know that when I actively practice mindfulness, I am a happier, more well-adjusted and peaceful person. So I make time for meditation and Qi Gong every day. Yes. EVERY DAY. I set my alarm for a little bit earlier (or in many cases these days, I don’t even set one), and I don’t even get out of bed. Well, I actually practice what Deepak Chopra suggests: the RPM method. Rise. Pee. Meditate. After my morning trip to the bathroom, I crawl back under the covers and lie in a prone position and meditate anywhere from five to 60 minutes usually. There are great apps like Headspace to provide guidance if you need it, or YouTube videos of 528mhz music (very meditative and healing) to set the tone. Or you can find a practice (or several) that work well for you. The most important thing is actually doing it. I didn’t always make time for this until someone said to me, “This is important! It doesn’t matter what position your body is in. You can do it lying in bed.” Bingo! That was all it took. Now I rarely miss my morning practice, even when I have a 6 a.m. flight to catch, I take five minutes to meditate before getting out of bed (or I do it on the plane), even if I’m sharing a hotel room with someone else I meditate (they think I’m still sleeping).
Lots of people will try to tell you the “best” way to be mindful or what works for them (even me in this very blog =), but it is really important to find what works for YOU. When the practice is personal and fits with your lifestyle, you will be much more likely to actually do it. There really is no right or wrong way. You can’t mess it up. Find a practice that you like, that makes you feel peaceful and connected, that clears your mind and allows you to tune in to what is most important. The more you actually feel the benefits, the more likely you are to practice regularly. Experiment, research, try new things. It’s ok to switch it up too.
Remember the three P’s:
Get some perspective and take control of what you allow in.
Practice. Nike was onto something when they advised us to Just Do It!
Make it personal. No matter what works for me or others, find what works for YOU.
You can even add a fourth P with persistence. Forming a new habit takes energy and time. Keep searching and trying new things until you find what you like, and give it at least 2-3 weeks to really stick. There are a number of apps that help you form new, healthy habits. Fast Company reviewed