Stress is a part of life. It is a natural response to the pressures of the world around you. It is the modern outcome of your brain's ancient fight-or-flight answer to the threats of the world, your brain's way of protecting you. The adrenaline rush that once helped you get out of harm's way was designed to last a few minutes, not the weeks and months that happens in today's world. Today, what once helps us survive now builds and builds, eating away at the human body, leading to exhaustion, anxiety, ulcers and even death.
The key to living a healthier, happier life is not to eliminate stress altogether, but to learn how to manage it so that it doesn't become a poison that makes your life unbearable. Yes, traditional practices like yoga and meditation can help reduce stress, but the real answer to living your life in balance and with a healthy sense of calm is not about spending more time on the mat or on a meditation pillow, but taking your practice off the pillow and bringing it into your everyday life.
When I teach modern meditation at The Simple Truth Project, I teach students a simple approach to living the life they want. This includes a morning meditation practice of 10-20 minutes that works for today's busy schedules. (Instruction for this can be found at http://simple-truth.com/instruction-guided-meditations.) It also includes a series of mindful moments that help to reduce stress before they can build up and undermine your balance and your life. By turning small moments of your day into escapes, you can easily find the balance, strength and stability you need for the life you want, no matter what the world throws at you.
Each of these mindful moments has one purpose: to help you refocus your attention and your awareness away from the issues and distractions that undermine your day and back to the here and now. In doing so, you can reclaim your life and direct it in the direction you want it to go. Here are a few to start with:
- Start Your Day With Intent. When you wake, don't jump straight out of bed and start running. Take a few moments to set the direction you want your day to go. Allow yourself to wake slowly. Place your attention on your breath. As your mind settles, focus your attention on one thing you want to accomplish today. It doesn't have to be work or even a domestic chore. It can be simply maintaining your balance or your calm. Let that lead your day, rather than the panic of what you didn't do yesterday.
- The Doorway to Calm. Every time you move through a doorway should be a reminder that that your life is not a constant stream, but a series of moments. It should be a reminder to leave the nagging voice in your head right where it was -- in the room you just left. When you enter a new room, take a deep breath, look around, and ask yourself why you are there and what you want to take with when you leave.
- Mindful Tea or Coffee. When your mind is spinning out of control, stop and take five minutes for a mindful cup of tea or coffee. Don't just gulp it down. Take a slow, deep breath. Breathe in the aroma. Feel the warmth and weight of the cup. Be aware of the anticipation you are feeling. Allow your breath to slow down. Allow yourself to settle into your seat and into your cup. As you sip, let the warmth spread through you and enjoy the calm that travels with it.
- Schedule a Meeting With Yourself. You spend so much time rushing to the next big thing, the next big meeting, the next big email, the next big job, --take a moment to schedule a 10-minute meeting with yourself. Actually block out the time to just sit and breathe it all in. Look around you. With every breath, name each item you see -- table, desk, chair, floor, wall -- and allow each to draw you back to the present. You have 1,440 minutes every day. You can afford to take 10 to get yourself back on track.
- End Your Day With Intent. At the end of the day, fight the urge to fall asleep to the drone of the TV. Give yourself half an hour of non-TV time before drifting off to sleep. Create a separator in your day and take a few minutes to contemplate what you want to dream about. It could be an issue you need to solve, it could be a goal you want to reach, it could be what you want tomorrow to bring. Put your subconscious mind to work when you sleep, and your brain on the path you want it to be on.
You don't have to implement these mindful moments all at once. Try one each day. Be aware of the changes you feel. Be mindful of your new relationship you have with the world around you.
That is what modern meditation is about at The Simple Truth.
For more by Jeff Cannon, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.