I am not that person interested in meditation and being zen and chilling out. I always appreciated yoga, but not for the meditative practice. Quite the opposite, I thought I thrived on excitement and constant movement and deadlines. However, as our family has grown and we strive to raise good healthy children and enjoy ourselves at the same time, we chose to look at ourselves and how we lead our lives. And what we found when we did that is that we are actually better people when we slow down just a little bit. I am a better person when I move a lot. I am more creative when I take the time to be present and engaged in the activity I am doing. My reactions are better and smarter when I pause to breathe.
Meditation/being present and mindful began for me with two catalysts:
- MindUp at my daughter’s elementary school and their “Mindful” breathing and tasting during the Nutrition classes I teach thanks to Beach Cities Health District (BCHD). This by the way is one of the cutest things ever… When you ring a chime and lookout over 20 or so 2nd graders who are squinting their eyes closed (some peeking), wiggling in their chairs, or pumping their arms up and down with a concentrated, furrowed brow as they strive to breathe and relax.
- Then a friend sent me a link to a free online weeklong meditation summit with MrsMindfulness – this was a really big tangible week of instruction that I devoured. What I really learned here is that different type of meditation works for everyone. And some of the speakers who stood out to me and information I walked away with are:
- Mindfulness – what does it actually mean? Re-engage with moment to moment living, process what is around you as it is happening
- What can you do in the next hour to be mindful – something small, making it a habit
- Getting spontaneity back, don’t take everything you do for granted. This one resonates with me greatly. Taking a different route to school or work, instead of the same mindless path (or you could argue taking the same path is meditative!); or challenging yourself to do something that scares you – this means putting yourself out there and really feeling everything that happens – the rush of anticipation, anxiety, a touch of worry, confidence, excitement and feeling every aspect of that experience.
- If you are interested in any of these subjects, take a look at what some of these experts have to say – their ideas and suggestions resonated with me most: Mark Williams, Russ Harris, Mirabai Bush, Michael Chaskalson, Richard Burnett, Danny Penman, Judson Brewer
In a nutshell, it’s not a one size fits all, but I knew I was ready to bring this attitude and these actions into my life.
One year since the initial “formal” introduction, two years since our big move from the NYC area to the west coast, several self help books (about the 4-hour work week and habits of highly effective people, Cameron Diaz Longevity, etc.), multiple conversations and of course me coming into my own, here’s where I am:
- I now journal two times daily (it’s been going strong for three months now). It’s just a few words jotted down (based on a recommendation from a podcast) and I frequently miss a morning or evening journal (travel derails it too!), but you can bet I am thinking it. Has it made me a better person? I don’t know for sure… but I know it turns my attention to the good things, it makes me acknowledge the accomplishments and it reminds me to be thankful for the small things and special people in my life.
- I try to meditate 10 minutes most weekdays. This doesn’t always happen and when it does, it happens at the playground, with one eye open (and my daughters think I am “feeling the force” lol!), but it’s what works for me now. The point is to clear your mind. I have other activities during the day that do that for me as well, including prepping for the day in a semi-dark kitchen while sipping warm water with lemon, or a hard, focused, sweaty workout.
- I draw – yes, sometimes before I brainstorm, I take the time to play with some adult coloring books and just let my mind wander. Also, when my kids ask me to color with them, I do. Even if it’s five minutes, I throw myself into the task.
- And, instead of just reading self help books, I am doing more. When I am doing an activity, I just do. And when I need a break, I dis-engage. When the focus is no longer there, I walk away and start the laundry or run an errand, or simply take a few minutes to move. And I hug my kids, hard, frequently.
All in all, I feel good and I would recommend trying a few of these items. If you’ve wondered where to start or looked for ways to slow your mind, take a look at this piece from the LA Times.