Sometimes you have to find a new way. Too often we get stuck on our paths even if we know they’re not taking us where we want to go. There’s lots of reasons for this, the familiar is easy and comfortable, change is hard and scary, or we simply don’t know any other way. We even fight to stay on the old path when it’s very clear it doesn’t work anymore. So how do we change paths then?
When you’re feeling stuck there are several helpful tools you can use to help you find direction. The first is the practice of mindfulness. The regular practice of mindful meditation and self-awareness can help you let go of the unhelpful thinking that holds you back, those thoughts that tell us we’re not worth it, it’s too dangerous to change, or simply that we can’t do it. A second approach is journaling. While there are many methods of journaling, the approach I find most helpful is the Morning Pages routine from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. Morning Pages are simply three hand-written pages completed first thing in the morning before your brain switches all the filters on. Just write whatever comes to mind and don’t stop until you finish the three pages. Doing this consistently every morning over the course of several weeks you’ll begin see with better clarity what’s holding you back, which in turn allows you to begin identifying steps you can take to create change in your life. Another helpful tool for opening yourself up to possibilities also comes from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. She calls this tool the Artist’s Date and you don’t need to be an artist to use either of these. The Artist’s Date is simply taking yourself on a solo outing each week to a place that intrigues you in some way. This could be to an interesting shop you always pass but never stop to go into, a museum, a park, a class, or whatever seems interesting or different. By doing this you’re opening up your mind to new possibilities. Walking is another simple tool that is readily available to most of us. Not walking the dog or with anyone, but simply walking alone with awareness of what’s around you and what you’re thinking and doing.
Now you can expect resistance with all these activities. Your brain doesn’t like change and it’s going to provide a multitude of reasons why you can’t do these things. That’s OK because it’s to be expected, you just have to be determined and soon whichever of these tools you use will become something you look forward to. If your resistance to starting remains high, I suggest you take a sheet of paper and list out the reasons or excuses you have for not doing things. Write out every one and you’ll soon see that most of the reasons are frivolous and just another form of unhelpful thinking. Plug in “unhelpful thinking styles” into google and you’ll get a good sampler of unhelpful thinking patterns, we all have them and once aware of them we can counter them.
It’s not too late change tracks in your life, but it does take some work on your part. Intentions are good but it’s the actions you take that make the difference and take you where want to go. Small steps can lead to a great journey. Let me know how it goes.
It’s one thing to talk about meditation and quite another to make a daily practice of meditation. We all set out with good intentions, but when things don’t work the way we expect, or take too much time to work we often give up. That’s true for meditation when we expect immediate benefits, or perhaps we don’t what to expect and quit because we really don’t know if it’s “working.” In this post, I will give you some things to keep in mind so you can build a successful meditation practice.
The first thing and perhaps most important practice skill is to simply show up. We can assume at this point you have a basic idea of how to meditate, if not let me know and I’ll set you up. The next step is to begin the practice, showing up every day to sit and actively engage in your practice. Some days your experience will feel wonderful like everything worked just right and other days it might seem that you spent the whole time thinking about stuff. That’s OK, just show up tomorrow and do it again. There is no good or bad, right or wrong, each meditation experience is a singular experience and there’s nothing gained in comparing one session to another.
That leads right to the next point to keep in mind which is to keep a nonjudgmental stance and to be kind to yourself. This is especially important as you’re starting, as that nagging voice in your head may well be trying to get you to stop telling you you’re no good at it. Let that voice go and come back to your center of breath or mantra. Keep in mind that each time you sit and meditate your experience is going to vary a bit and that’s OK. And does begin to feel more natural as you know more what to expect.
Another helpful way to build your meditation practice is to rethink your morning routine. Too often our mornings have no real routine, at least not one we’re in control of, or we have one that works against what we’re trying to achieve through meditation. We watch TV or go right into the endless scroll on our phones, building up our anxiety right as we start our day. There are some simple steps you can take to build a healthier routine, and this may include waking up a few minutes earlier each day. Morning routines would be a good topic for another post, but for our purposes here a morning routine should include time for reflection, time for intention, and time for meditation. This is of course in addition to the tasks of self-care we often neglect. Reflecting on how we’re doing, what we need; setting intentions for our day–how can I make today a good day, how can I influence what happens today? And meditation to center ourselves and calm our mind and bodies so we are prepared to put our intentions and reflective knowledge into to action.
Try adding these simple steps to your practice and you’ll find that regular practice is not only possible but helpful in many ways. Reach out if you have questions, I’m always happy to help someone along on their journey.
Mindfulness is a common phrase these days and offered as kind of a cure all for stress and the key to living a happy, productive life. While mindfulness may be considered the latest thing to fix us, the concept has been around since ancient times and simply involves being present in the present moment. One of the founders of the current mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” This means not only paying attention to who we are with and what we are doing, but also to what we are thinking and feeling. Learning to pay attention in this way takes practice, but when we learn to pay attention we begin to see things in new ways and we can begin to make positive changes.
One of the best parts of mindfulness aside from helping us be more present, is that it can be practiced anywhere at any time. Nothing special is necessary—no sitting cross legged on special pillows, no special robes or rooms, and no apps, though plenty of all of these can be found. The simplest mindfulness exercise is simply paying attention to your breath. Practicing a mindfulness breath meditation 5-10 minutes a day can have a powerful effect in lowering your stress and help you be present for the important moments in your life.
This two minute video gives you the basics and will help you get started. Please let me know what you think in the comments here and if you have any questions or want to learn more. Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide Animation
Some days we’re like a ship lost in the darkness. Some days we’re like a light of hope in the night. While it’s good to serve as a beacon offering hope and guidance, leaving the safety of solid ground allows us to seek new adventures and understandings. It’s when we get lost on these journeys that the best learning and growth often takes place. The light to guide you safely around the rocks will be there when you’re ready to see it. So be a beacon when you can be, but don’t forget to set your sails for new adventures to keep your light bright. And remember it’s alright to get lost at times.