Why Is It So Hard to Be Still?

be still

Why is it so hard to be still? With everyone practicing social distancing, a lot of us are stir crazy after just a few days inside. We have a golden opportunity to breathe, be still, release stress and anxiety, and see into the depths of our being – and we’re not taking it!

So, I am issuing this challenge. Be still for fifteen minutes a day for as long as social distancing lasts. It’s fifteen itty, bitty minutes out of 1440 in a day that suddenly became massively uncluttered for many of us. That leaves 1425 minutes to worry, talk, plan, exercise, clean, work, solve problems, meditate, be emotional, argue, surf the ‘net, play, eat, sleep, bathe, or do whatever you want.

Why Be Still?

I am sure your practice of stillness will generate its own benefits. Here are some of mine.

In stillness you gain space for reflection. Most of us are reactive. Something happens and we have a habitual reaction because there is no pause, no space for something new to come in. Stillness gives you that space. It helps you to slow down, savor, and be. You see things you didn’t see before. You have options that didn’t exist before. All because you stopped for a moment.

We all have a light inside. When we are still, it’s easier to feel it warming us from the inside. Once we tune into it, it’s easier to see it shining when we’re not looking. This light can guide us when we’re keyed up so that we act from our center, our true self, not our emotion mind. So stillness helps us to be in tune with our highest and best self more of the time.

Stillness also helps us to see the light outside of us – in small things like the colors of the sky at sunset. But also in big things like your values and the importance of family. It helps us to live on purpose.

I don’t have any evidence of this outside of my own experience, but I believe that stillness also helps to balance us. We live in a world dominated by left brain energy. Stillness is feminine. Fifteen minutes of stillness helps poetry, softness, creativity, and connection to creep into our lives so that we’re more balanced.

How to Be Still?

Okay, so you’re convinced to give it a try, but you want to know how.

  1. Create or find a stillness place. This is an actual place or a place in your mind that is uncluttered, quiet, comfortable, and where you won’t be disturbed for fifteen minutes. If it’s an actual place, consider the feng shui. Simple, clean, with soothing colors works best. If outside, a place in nature away from traffic and manmade noise is ideal. Use this same place each time you go into stillness. Over time it will create an association in your mind that when you are here, you are still.
  2. Set the timer for fifteen minutes. This way you don’t have to stop your stillness to check the time.
  3. Create your “zone.” The zone is your way of stilling the mind. I live on the river, so watching the water go by is perfect for that. Rocking in rocking chair is also hypnotic. Conscious breathing works well. Staring into a candle flame could work. Walking while humming mindlessly could also work. Knitting might work. The more active you are, the trickier it gets to stop your thoughts. If you’re singing a song with words or if you have to watch your step while walking, these ideas won’t work so well.
  4. Do no thing. While your body may be rocking, your mind is doing no thing. It’s not thinking about whether or not you’re comfortable or what’s for lunch. It’s just present with you. If you have a thought, observe it. Don’t entertain it. Just notice it and let it go. It’s like passing scenery when you are on a train. Just let it go on by. If it’s important, you can pick it up later.
  5. Don’t judge. If you were only still for half the time, so what. Skip a day? So what. If you did three days perfectly and then lost your rhythm, it’s okay. No judging allowed. It’s not a contest.
  6. Commit to a routine. Do this at the same time in the same place every day. This makes it easier to create a habit.

I’d love to hear how it went for you. Drop me a comment and let me know.

Taming Your Monkey Mind

monkey mind

Is your mind like a monkey jumping around here and there and never sitting still? If so, there is a way to tame your monkey mind.

Why Tame Your Monkey Mind

Why bother? A wild mind leads to anxiety and stress. While some people like the exciting feeling of being mentally busy or active, it’s really not all that healthy. We can get used to anything until it just feels “normal.” However, staying revved up creates brain wave patterns that make that the set point so that relaxing is no longer easy. Everyone needs to have daily downtime. So, let’s look at the habits that create a calm mind.

Do One Thing At a Time

Stop multi-tasking. If your brain is used to flitting from thing to thing, that’s how it will operate while on cruise control. It won’t learn how to focus and concentrate, so when you need it to do that, it won’t know how. Another reason to avoid multi-tasking is that it is inefficient. Studies show that you get more done when you do one thing at a time. Living mindfully also brings more enjoyment to life.

Write Things Down

The mind brings your thoughts back to things that it feels are important so that you don’t forget or put yourself in danger.  Your mind is processing many things every second. Writing things down makes space for other things because that particular thought is filed away where it can be easily retrieved instead of floating around inside your head cluttering things up. If you write things down, your mind will relax. It gets the message, “I’ve got this.” Check lists are a great way to make sure that you complete things.

Spend Time Mindfully Thinking

Your thoughts deserve respect. If you spend some time thinking things through, this will also file them away and help them to be “done.” Journaling is a great way to do this. Talking mindfully with a friend, therapist, or coach is another good strategy. This is not the same thing as venting or complaining. It’s done for the purpose of hearing yourself. We rarely do this. Most of the time we are speaking for others to hear us. Listen to yourself. You’re smart! You’re insightful. Lots of your problems can go away if you just hear yourself and get clear on your feelings and needs.

Get Grounded

If your energy is buzzing around in your head, it can make you top heavy. This ungrounds you. The goal is to pull the energy out of your head and get centered in your body so that you’re more balanced. Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. Sit comfortably. Inhale and imagine that fresh, clean air is coming in through your crown and into your heart. As you exhale, breathe from your heart and out your feet into the earth. Do this for a minimum of five minutes.
  2. Imagine a bubble surrounding your body. Now fill this bubble with a color that starts at your feet and grows slowly towards your head. If you don’t see it, that’s okay. Maybe you feel the warmth of it or just somehow “know” that it’s there.
  3. Lie on the earth.
  4. Hug a tree. I know this sounds hippy-ish, but there is a good reason why people hug trees. It’s very grounding.

Everyone can get caught up in monkey mind sometimes. If it’s where you live, it’s not efficient. Changing a few lifestyle habits can make a huge change in your results, productivity, connection, and happiness. Looking for a new year’s resolution? This could be it.

Four Things that Create a Luscious Life

luscious life

Mindfulness is a practice that brings peace, centeredness, and acceptance to whatever is going on in your life. This open up a river of other things like calm, strength, resilience, courage, passion, and so many more things that create a luscious life. Reality is all about perspective after all.

I’ve blogged a lot about mindfulness. The steps to practicing it are really easy to understand and implement. Here are some mantras that can help you bring it into the real world in a meaningful way. These come from Harrison Owen. He calls them The Four Immutable Laws of Spirit.

Whoever is Present Are The Right People

It’s holiday time. There are lots of parties. I see a lot of grumbling about whom to invite, whom not to invite, and who did and didn’t show up. It takes a lot of preparation to create a party, workshop, meeting, presentation, and sometimes even just a two person gathering. When someone doesn’t RSVP, arrive on time, or just doesn’t bother to come at all, it can create disappointment, judgment, and bad feelings. Don’t let it.

Remember that whoever is present are the right people. Maybe these are the people who care about you, your presence, your effort, your message, or what you’re offering. Or it could be that these are the people whom you most need to see to teach you something. Why on earth would you want anyone else there? These are the people who will make this moment all that it needs to be. Trust that the universe always provides exactly what is needed – even if that is feedback that you don’t particularly like.

Think of it this way. Let’s say that you bought tickets to a huge extravaganza of an event and twelve people showed up. Or twelve thousand. Either way, those people have something to share with you. If it’s a great time, it could be that they share in your joy. If they end up being really different than you in some way, it could show you that you’re investing in something that is not really a reflection of you. Pay attention. If you don’t pay attention, you may miss the gold.

Whenever It Begins is the Right Time

I know a lot of people are in a rush to make up for lost time. They look at others and feel that they’ve wasted so much time. Whenever it begins is the right time. The sun doesn’t rise a moment earlier than it is supposed to. That’s just how nature works. If you aren’t starting now, it means that something needs to fall in place first. Sometimes it is up to you to make that happen. Other times it has nothing to do with you. Be open to the magic. Do your part to be ready. Accept the present moment and trust that it will lead you to the next one when it’s time.

Whatever Happens is the Only Thing That Could Have Happened

When we see things that we don’t like, we can do a lot of “what iffing.” When we aren’t sure of what might happen, we can spin ourselves up into an anxiety attack under the weight of so many possibilities. There is no need to invest in all that because whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. The next moment is influenced by all the million things that we, and every other being in the universe, put in motion before this moment. How could this moment be otherwise?

When you accept this, no mental gymnastics about the past is necessary. All we need is to accept this moment and perhaps ask ourselves what we want to do next. If it’s a great moment, embrace it. So many people push away joy because they don’t feel worthy of it, don’t believe it’s real, or fear it won’t last. That’s nonsense! The present is so temporary. Live it now or you will miss it. This goes for unpleasant moments too. There are always lessons for growth when we get something we’d rather not have. We can look at how we contributed and fix it so that we don’t manifest that moment again.

When It’s Over, It’s Over

Life, like the sun and moon, is always moving. Things begin and end. When they are over, they are over. Humans have a way of trying to hold on to things – youth, security, jobs, love, and life. That’s not how things work. Life flows from one thing to another. When you stop moving or try to hold back the natural progression of things, you create stagnation for yourself. Let things die so that new things can be born.

All of these ideas are examples of mindfulness in motion. They can bring grace and meaning to all that happens, both positive and negative. They remove all need for worry, judgment, and blame – three life destroying practices. The year is coming to a close. It’s time to turn the page to a new beginning. These are four great ideas that can help the next chapter be a lot brighter. Why not try them out.

Information + Mindfulness + Application = Effectiveness

effectiveness

Every day people ask me, “How do I…” Fortunately there is a formula for this. It’s very simple. It’s information + mindfulness + application = effectiveness. Let’s walk through this to see how it works.

Information

When you’re dealing with something that you don’t know how to do, solve or understand, the first thing you need is information. The better your information, the easier it will be for you to be effective.

What information? Well, that depends on what it is you need to know to get from the problem state to the resolution state. If you need to know how to replace the water filter in your refrigerator, you will need to know what size filter you have, how to remove the old one, and how to install the new one.  Some questions you might ask yourself to figure out what information you need are:

  • what am I trying to do? Or what is my end goal?
  • how do I get from the starting point to the end point?
  • what tools do I need?
  • do I need any assistance? Who can I ask?
  • are there any skills I need that I don’t already have?

Mindfulness

Mindfulness comes into play because it helps you to discern whether your information is valid and useful. If you are doing something concrete like replacing the water filter, this usually isn’t a problem. If you are dealing with interpersonal issues, can be! Why? Because things may not always be what they seem.

For example, if I think “He doesn’t like me” that’s my opinion. Unless he actually says it and his words are a reflection of his true feelings, I can’t rely on that information. It’s not a valid. It’s not useful. If I apply mindfulness to the equation, things could change significantly.

Mindfulness looks at what can be observed. So, if I observe that he responds politely when I initiate contact, but initiates none of his own; his conversation sticks to superficial topics; he’s never said he likes me; and he has never asked me out, well that’s information that can be used to draw an effective conclusion. Looking at it this way, you might ask yourself, “Is it reasonable to believe that there is no interest there on his behalf?” It sure looks that way to me!

You may also ask, “Are his words a reflection of his feelings?” If his words are polite and superficial, you may be able to talk yourself into believing that there is a chance. However, if you look at the fact that he doesn’t initiate contact and hasn’t asked you out, the whole picture is skewed in the direction of the friend zone. Doesn’t that make the picture clearer?

Application

Application is about using the information and mindfulness to address your issue. If you are replacing the water filter cartridge, you just take the old one out and put the new one in. If you are clarifying whether or not someone likes you and decides that he doesn’t, you respect his boundaries. Without application, you can’t have effectiveness. Knowing something isn’t enough. You have to use it to be effective.

Effectiveness

So why is effectiveness a goal? Well, people are really creative at problem solving. We have all kinds of ineffective ways of dealing with things. For example, we might overeat to avoid intimacy or feel good. We might drink too feel more socially comfortable or avoid feeling pain. We may work too much to avoid our home life.

Those are legitimate strategies that can meet our end goals, but they come at a high price. This is why they aren’t effective. Being effective means that you meet your needs, don’t create any problems for yourself or others, and you meet your short term and long term goals.

The other thing about effectiveness is that once you start to think in this way, you become more and more effective in all that you do. Then life gets easier and more enjoyable because you have fewer problems, more connection, more time, etc. Life is just better. So it’s well worth it to put this formula into practice. Go for it!

Thirteen Reasons to Cultivate Mindfulness

mindfulness

Mindfulness is the foundational skill for a well lived life. That’s no exaggeration. It takes some time to really get there. Once you have it figured out, it’s something you have to keep doing over and over. Yet it adds so much to your life that you will get far more out of it than you put into it. Like what? Here are thirteen reasons to cultivate mindfulness.

  • Pain relief. This may be because some professionals feel that all pain is psychological. If your mind is still, your pain is either reduced or it disappears!
  • Thinking is faster and more efficient. Yep, you blow past all that clutter and can cut to the chase better.
  • Better sex. The tendency is to pay attention to what is new. This is why honeymoon or “new” sex always seems more exciting. Mindfulness makes every time new because you’re fully present.
  • Better mood. When you accept that things are as they are and let go of what you can’t change, there isn’t a whole lot to feel anxious or depressed about.
  • Increases a sense of connection with others and the universe as well as a sense of belonging. This reduces loneliness.
  • Lower stress. Those who practice mindfulness have more of a “chill factor” than those who don’t.
  • Less obesity. As high stress is related to belly fat, perhaps it is because those who practice mindfulness have less stress that they also are less inclined to be obese.
  • Empathy increases among those who practice mindfulness.
  • Less distraction. If you’re one of these people who can’t finish things because your thoughts go everywhere, this is a way to lessen or end that.
  • Better overall health. Lifestyle is a huge factor in overall health. Those who cultivate mindfulness have fewer heart, gut, blood pressure, cancer, and other health problems.
  • More emotional resilience. Ah, and you thought this was genetic! No, you can train your brain to bounce back and be flexible. Imagine all the scenarios where that can be useful.
  • Keeps you mentally alert. There are some that say that mental slowing is age related. Nonsense! If it were, we’d all experience it. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to keep the mind working as it should.
  • Boosts creativity.

Give Up The Need to Know

need to know

Curiosity is a great thing. It leads to new inventions and breakthrough discoveries. But some things that are unknowable.

  • Why did he leave me?
  • How could I not know my friend was going to commit suicide?
  • Does she love me?
  • Is God real?
  • What happens when we die?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Why was I given this life instead of some other life?
  • Is there life on Mars?

If you let your mind spend time pondering the unknowable, you can drive yourself crazy. Why not give up the need to know?

Some of the answers that you think you really need to know aren’t that important. For instance, if you were molested by a family member, you may think you really need to know why this person did that. I promise you, you don’t. You can heal and move on with your life without ever knowing. It won’t give you closure. It won’t give you satisfaction. Answers are often just a stepping stone to more questions.

What about questions like, “Am I doing the right thing?” Let’s say that there was an envelope with the answer to that question inside. All you had to do was give up your free will to have it. Would you take it? Most of us would not! Rightly so!

You are here on this earth to live your life. That means you get to take control over what happens. You get to choose what time to get up, whether to eat, what to eat, and how to spend your day. All those choices create results. Some of those results will be pleasing, others will not. It’s all good. When something pleases you, enjoy it. When something displeases you, make adjustments and move on.

Basically what I am saying is that all you need to know is inside of you. Check inside. See how you feel within your soul. Not in your belly where your fear resides. Don’t check your head where logic resides. Don’t look in your heart where your feelings are. All these things can lead you astray. Check your soul. What does your soul or wise mind say?

Listen to that. Be in the moment. Commit, then see it through to the next moment. When you get there and something shifts, be in that moment. Keep doing that until you get through the day, the week, the year, the lifetime.

People spend a lot of time spinning their wheels pondering questions that either have no answers or the answers are inaccessible (like trying to talk to the dead or someone you can’t find). This is a form of avoidance of living. Another tactic would be to think like Erika Harris who said, “I’m less interested in why we’re here. I’m wholly devoted to while we’re here.”

If you stay curious and open, you will likely learn far more than if you look at life as something to study or figure out. Let it go. You really don’t need to know all you think you do.

What Acceptance is NOT

acceptance

A lot of “stuckness” could “loosen” if the person feeling stuck could get to a place of acceptance. Acceptance is the first step to moving on. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who resist acceptance because they don’t understand what it means. So let me tell you what acceptance is not.

Acceptance is Not Resignation

Some people think that if you accept something, you just throw up your hands, put up your feet and live with it. For just one moment, imagine that “now” is a slice of time that is constantly shifting. In each moment of now exists all the power you ever have. You can’t use any power in the moments that have already passes nor any that have not existed yet. Acceptance is about being fully present in this slice. It’s about agreeing that everything in this slice is as it is versus what we’d like it to be or what it could have been. This doesn’t mean that it always has to be this way. It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything different in the next moment.

Acceptance Isn’t Passive

Accepting that this moment is as it is isn’t passive. It’s active! It’s about being in life, not watching or waiting for it to go by. Maybe that means you allow your pain to overwhelm you while you cry your eyes out. Perhaps it means you tune the world out so you can live vicariously through your romance novel heroine for a while. The whole world is moving towards something right now. If you let it do what it’s doing without resisting what’s going on out there or inside, you’re in acceptance. Not passive at all.

Acceptance is Not About Condoning

There is a lot of bad stuff in the world: murder, lying, stealing, raping, manipulation, and the list goes on and on. Accepting it isn’t the same as condoning it. Condoning is giving approval to and/or allowing something to continue. Accepting is just acknowledging it. You can’t advocate for change without accepting that something needs to change.

Acceptance is Not About Not Caring

Some people feel that if they moved to a place of acceptance, it would mean that they’d have to stop having an opinion or stop caring about a situation. This could be because acceptance requires that you be nonjudgmental. You stop saying this is good, and this is bad. It’s adopting a framework of “Things are as they are.” This actually frees you to care more because judgment is one of the ways that we block love, validation, respect, and other good things from coming into our lives.

How often have you heard something like, “I will give you respect when you earn it?” When you do that, you withhold respect until someone does what you want them to do. That’s manipulation. It’s also demanding that someone conform to your standards before you will give them respect. This gives you a lot of power and robs them of their own. That’s not caring, that’s controlling.

If you let go of that and let people be who they are, life becomes a lot more free. You only have to set standards for yourself. Maybe you choose to live up to your own values. Perhaps it can help you to love people for who they are. You can be loving to all. So you see, it sets you up to be far more caring.

Acceptance Doesn’t Give Outside Forces Control

Some people feel that if they give in to acceptance, outside forces will dictate their lives. If economy is poor, they had a unstable childhood, and didn’t get a good education, for example, they are doomed to perpetually be in that situation. The only way to overcome it is to fight against it.

Actually acceptance neutralizes the past and present. It doesn’t trap you. How? When those things are just what they are, there is no fear, anger, or resentment holding you down. You’re free to act as you will. Each moment is new. This may seem like a small thing, but this is where confidence, courage, and follow through come from. If I am fearful that the economy will tank, I can let that hold me back. When I am fearful that someone won’t like me because it happened in the fifth grade, I may never give another person a chance. If I am present now, I am better able to judge what is happening now without the taint of the past.

Acceptance is a gift because it allows you to see all that is there. You see the things you don’t like as well as the possibilities without the taint of your past programming. This gives you unimaginable leeway to choose your thoughts, emotions, and responses to what has already happened. It gives you the freedom to enjoy this moment anyway and make the next one more to your liking. It’s almost like magic. Embrace it.

How Do You Escape?

how do you escape

How do you escape? Do you know? It may not be anything you spend a lot of time thinking about, but it’s a really important thing to know about yourself! Why? Because many people don’t know what they are doing when they are doing it. When your mode of escape is conscious, it can be a more effective tool for coping with whatever you need a break from.

This may make more sense with examples, so let’s start by looking at some ways that people escape. Here is a short list:

  • doing nothing
  • doing too much
  • playing sports
  • playing video games
  • procrastinating
  • dancing
  • shopping
  • becoming ill
  • gambling
  • playing music
  • sex
  • using intoxicants
  • cheating
  • gossiping
  • watching tv

So, let’s say that my mode of escape is playing video games. If I am not aware that this is the function that playing video games serves for me, I might just think that I am a lazy, antisocial slacker. This could make me feel ashamed and want to hide or defend my behavior. If I see playing games as adaptive, I may interpret my reaching for the Xbox as a sign that I need a break. I may indulge in game playing fully so that I give myself a chance to feel restored. I may actually spend less time playing games because now I view it as purposeful. So I may stop once I realize that the purpose has been achieved.

Playing video games is certainly not the worst thing in the world, but let’s say that my mode of escape is something more destructive. Maybe it’s cutting or unleashing a torrent of verbal abuse. There are some really negative consequences for those behaviors. One is self-destructive. The other destroys others.

If I become aware of the underlying need for the behavior before it happens, I can choose something that is a bit more healthy. I can honor my feelings without indulging in things that hurt. Let me give you an example of how you can transform an unhealthy escape pattern to a more adaptive one.

Before – The Unaware Escape Pattern

Ron asks Dave when he will receive the estimate that Dave promised him yesterday. Dave starts to feel frustrated because he feels Ron is pushing too hard. Dave screams that Ron doesn’t understand the amount of work Dave has to do each day or how hard it is to get his people to perform. Ron yells, “I want that estimate by the end of the day!” then storms out. Dave turns and yells at his employees before going into his office and slamming the door behind him. Instead of working on it, Dave starts checking his email. At the end of the day, Dave finally remembers the estimate and gets wound up all over again.

After – The Mindful Escape Pattern

Ron asks Dave when he will get the estimate that Dave promised him yesterday. Dave starts to feel frustrated because he feels Ron is pushing too hard. Dave tunes into his body and his feelings and realizes that he could use an escape from the pressure. He agrees to get the estimate to Ron by the end of the day. This is a totally reasonable timeframe, but Dave is too keyed up to work on it right that moment. He knows he will feel better if he can get centered first, so he consciously chooses to switch gears and responds to some emails. After about fifteen minutes, he realizes that he’s no longer anxious and can work on the estimate. He turns his attention to that and gets it to Ron well before the deadline.

Stress happens. We all get tweaked by big and little things. We all need to escape from time to time. Sometimes we just need a few minutes. Sometimes we need a few days! The person who is aware that he needs a break is more likely to take one in a healthy way. The person who has no self-awareness may do whatever he can to relieve the pressure – even if it means creating a trail of destruction along the way.

If you know, “I do X when I am stressed,” you’re more likely to acknowledge your sensations. You are also more likely to view your stress relieving activity as something beneficial. You may even be proactive about reducing the frequency or intensity of the trigger that is creating the stress in the first place.

Mindfulness has many practical uses. Using it to learn how to cope with stress and escape in a productive way is just one of the ways it can help you.

To Be or Not To Be

to be or not to be

I travel often and take others on spiritual journeys. Every tour is rejuvenating. Every experience provides growth. Every one helps me to feel both more grounded and connected with everything else. There is always a theme. Usually I decide ahead of time and set that intention. With this last trip I didn’t do that, and I didn’t realize what the last trip was about until a client said to me, “I wish I had spent my childhood learning how to be.” That’s exactly what we did – we experienced what it was like to be.

Everyone has a choice about whether they are going to be or not to be. I don’t mean in the Hamlet sense. I am not talking about contemplating suicide. I am talking about whether or not you decide to live here now. If you plan to actually live your life, you start by being conscious. It’s not easy.

We teach children to focus and spend time on so many things that don’t matter. We spend our childhood getting ready for something that is always in front of us. We go to school to learn so that we can either get into a better school or get a good job. Then we work hard so that we can get a better position. We save money so that we can get a car, house, or vacation. And then we work to get a better car, house, or vacation. We’re always getting ready. We’re always reaching for something ahead of us. We’re never here now. We put off that moment when we will relax, be, and enjoy life until X happens.

So let me tell you what it was like to just be. We got up with the sun. We went to bed when it was dark. We ate when we were hungry. We laughed when something was funny. We lingered over our meals and delighted in the company. We watched the sunrise, the clouds move by, and the moonrise. We listened to the crickets. We felt the sun on our skin. We walked barefooted in the grass. We savored sweetness. We listened to the wind. We felt sadness and horror. We allowed our hearts to be moved. We danced. We allowed ourselves to be human beings instead of human doings.

What we didn’t do was live by a clock, rush to meet a deadline, or think about next week, next month, or next year. We didn’t withhold our joy, fear, or sadness from ourselves or each other. We didn’t grasp for knowledge that we might never really need. We didn’t give in to fear of judgment of not being good enough, coordinated enough, or smart enough. Despite being surrounded by utter poverty, we didn’t talk about the comfort, clothes, or status symbols we left back home. It wasn’t important.

When you get to the last day of your life, it won’t be important then either. This moment is what is important. Right here. If you squander it with worry, thinking about your limitations, or by scrambling to get more you essentially trade it away. Don’t. It’s too precious a gift.

When you are still enough to feel all the things we felt, you find that there is a LOT more to it than just that. Things that don’t have words to describe them. You can feel so much more alive when you have that than all the bling, pretty women, or titles will ever give you.

Once you have it, you will yearn for it. You won’t be able to live without it. All the things you thought were important will fade in significance. And you will find that happiness is so much easier to attain than you ever believed possible.

You probably had glimpses of this as a child. Remember when you just did something for pure pleasure? Remember giving it your whole attention? You didn’t judge it. You just did it with all your heart. Maybe you played with Legos, read books, climbed trees, or went fishing with your dad. There was no purpose to it other than just to experience what you were experiencing. That’s how you do it. That’s what it is like to be.

If you are feeling angry, be angry. If you are feeling confused, be confused. If you are having coffee with a friend, be there. Don’t let your mind wander to the laundry pile you left behind or the yoga class that is coming up next. Be here. If you are working, work. Enjoy the moment – for whatever it is. It’s only here once.

The lovely thing is, you don’t have to go anywhere to be. You can do it at work. You can do it on the way to work. You can do it in the shower. You just have to center your mind. So, you can do this all day or for snippets throughout the day. The more conscious moments you have, the more meaningful your life will become because it makes you more aware of when you are acting in alignment with yourself. So you choose to be more authentic because feeling inauthentic hurts. Being helps to get you out of ineffective habits because it creates a natural feedback loop. If you don’t like how something feels, and you take the time to feel it, it encourages you to make changes. When you shift when it’s time to shift, you create a life of growth. Your life looks more like a reflection of your true self.

So to be or not to be. That is the question. How will you answer?

The Downside to Mindfulness

mindfulness

Mindfulness is all the rage now. You see it in universities, corporate America, therapy offices, as well as New Age establishments. We all hear about the benefits that come from chilling out. And why not? It’s really great stuff, right?

What you don’t hear about is the missing warning label. Yes, like all things, there can be a downside to mindfulness – you get to see your life as it is. Seriously, that’s it.

For most of us, most of the time, that’s a good thing. We all have goodness inside. Sometimes, it’s tolerable. For a few, it’s unbearable. What you haven’t dealt with is still inside of you. When you relax the pressure on a door that you’ve been holding shut, everything on the other side comes tumbling out. Maybe you feel how disconnected you really are. Maybe you face some traumatic memories from childhood. Maybe you feel bored or that your life is fairly meaningless. Mindfulness doesn’t cause that. Mindfulness exposes that. What is powerful is always potentially unstabilizing.

Learning to be mindful is not a panacea. It doesn’t give you a magic bullet to never feel pain again. It just allows you to live with more clarity so that you have a greater range of choices and experiences. If you discover overwhelming emotions or see things about yourself that you could use some help sorting out, it’s time to ask for professional help. There are things that we can do alone and things we can’t. Wisdom is about being able to tell the difference.

One of the keys to mindfulness is to be nonjudgmental. I know it’s hard to say that about something that is causing you pain, but rather than seeing mindfulness as something hurtful, you could view it as a sign that you’ve become both soft and strong enough to stop hiding from what was always there. The pain wasn’t gone. The effect was just beneath your awareness. Now you can deal with it.

If you encounter tough emotions or memories during mindfulness, you don’t have to stop doing it. Perhaps it’s just time to convert it from a self-help practice to allowing a trained professional to help. You’d do the same if you got great information from a book or video series and reached the limits of your understanding or skill, wouldn’t you?

One other word of warning – moderation is the key to everything. When I talk about “mindfulness,” I don’t necessarily mean meditation. I mean being aware. If you are using meditation to experience mindfulness, keep it to a sensible time limit. Too much of a good thing make it no longer a good thing. Water is fabulous. We all need it to live, but too much can throw your electrolytes off and kill you. Everybody needs oxygen, but too much can make your brain go haywire. The same is true with meditation. All things in moderation.