Well, let’s start with this past week’s reflections, shall we? Good. Here we go.
Alright, so this past week, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon inspiration. What is inspiration, where does it come from, how can we get more of it, and what do we do if we run out of it. Very important questions. And?
Well, this week I’ve also been reflecting upon the creation of a new series. A series that can encompass a multitude of topics, and, yep, this is it, and inspiration will be the first topic.
Some of these developmental discussions will be longer, and some will be shorter. It will depend.
Alright, for this entry, let’s tackle the first question on inspiration. Ready? Good. Let’s go.
Where Does Inspiration Come From?
I really do love this topic, as it seems so simple, right? Inspiration, well, it’s all around us. Some people say they find nature inspirational, or other people in their lives, such as their friends and family, or coworkers. And, that is beautiful. Truely. Yet, there is something missing here. Do you know what it is? Hm.
It is the viewpoint. Meaning?
That inspiration does not live outside of you. Nope. It lives inside of you. We look outward and place inspiration onto other things and people, yet that inspiration comes from within. Always has come from within, and always will come from within.
Why does this matter to your development? Good question. Here is one, of many, reasons why.
When we know inspiration comes from within, we stop looking outside of ourselves for our own inspiration. Being aware of the source of our inspiration is important to our development, because when we fully realize that our inspiration comes from within, we are not bound to the changing tides of people and things. Simple. And?
Well, we know that change is inevitable. It is part of life. Yep. And, when we get clear on the fact that inspiration does not live in the changing world, that, in fact, it can be developed, and maintained, regardless of external circumstances, we become more powerful. Really.
Does that mean that we don’t ever feel down, or stressed, or sad? No, it does not. We are meant to feel all of our emotions; to feel them, know them, and learn how to talk about them.
And, yet, we can still find our inspiration even during the most stressful times. Why? Because even though we may consider a situation stressful, we know that our inspiration is always there. Waiting for us.
Alright, so what can we do to connect, or reconnect, to our own inspiration? I think there is one thing we can all do that will assist in making our connection, or reconnection, to our inspiration stronger. What’s that?
Make time for yourself. A must.
When we create time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, just for ourselves, we get to know ourselves better. And, the more we know ourselves, the more clear on our own inspiration we become. Really.
Next time, then, when things are really hectic, and you are feeling overwhelmed, stop. Stop doing what you are doing, and go for a walk, sit down under a tree and look around, or look up at the beautiful stars in the sky. Stop and just be.
For it is in this space, where your inspiration will find you.
The Leadership Psychology of How We Think and Feel
This past week a colleague of mine and I were talking about leadership. Well, to be more accurate, we are always talking about leadership. Fun.
Anway, this colleague was talking about the upcoming leadership group training they would be facilitating, and they were talking about how important it is for leaders to understand how they think, feel, and act.
After reflecting upon the concept of thinking, feeling, and acting, which I totally agree with, another concept occured to me. Speaking. Also important.
Thus, the idea for this first-half of the two-part article on Developing the Self was created. Before we get into our discussion, however, let’s reset the first installment in the Leadership Series.
We also discussed 2 things that are very important to be clear about early on in any leadership development journey, which are
Understanding your leadership style.
In this second installment, we will discuss understanding yourself as the very first step in a leadership development journey. Why? Good question.
Let’s take a look, shall we.
There are two ways we will approach this discussion.
Ready? Good, let’s go.
Right, so, what in the world is leadership psychology? Well, in this context, we are going to address two main concepts. Thinking and feeling. Both are very important to understand for anyone in leadership.
If you don’t know why you think and feel as you do, you’ll never be able to understand how and why others think and feel as they do. Simple.
And, as a leader, you must understand how the people in your team, organization, business, and or family, or friend network think and feel. Very important.
Having an impact starts with us. Each of us. Understanding how and why we think and feel as we do is a necessity in any leadership role. Any and all leadership roles.
An entire article, nay, book can be written about how we think in regards to, well, just about everything in life. Leadership included. It’s that important.
In fact, how we think drives everything else we will discuss in this article. It all starts with the mind. The quality of our mind. Meaning? Good question.
As I’ve written about in other articles, human beings are meaning-makers. Meaning, pun intended, that we take in data, information or stimuli, and we convert those stimuli, whatever they are, into narratives.
We do this to make sense of the world, and our place in it. A simple example can illustrate this point.
If my thinking is about the past, and all of the wrongs I’ve suffered, or bad things that have happened, I will bring these thoughts, feelings, verbalizations, and actions into the present moment. And?
I, in essence, will recreate the past. Reliving, as possible, past trauma again and again. And, so will everyone else I am interacting with and in relationship with.
However, if I am aware of my thoughts, and how I think, I can work on the thought impressions, called samskaras in sanskrit, and, over time, release them.
When they are released they stop showing up as a thought. It takes time.
These samskaras, thought impressions of old patterns and habits, loose power when you inquire into why they are there in the first place. Meaning, that creating self-awareness for a leader is a crucial aspect of leadership development.
When we have some sense of our own self, we can step outside of those thought patterns or habits and create new ones.
And, it is in the creation of new thought patterns where true empowerment is found for leaders, first, yes, for themselves, and then for their teams, organizations, families, and friends.
There are four things I do on a regular basis to increase my self-awareness.
Each of these contributes to self-awareness in unique ways, and they combine to increase clarity, calmness of mind, well-being, and insight into who you are as a human being, and how you relate to yourself and everyone else. Very important.
As was aforementioned, how we think really does affect, even predict, how we feel, speak, and act, and how we feel on a general level and even on a more specific level, which is very important.
Important to how we relate to ourselves and everyone else.
I grew up in a household where people definitely displayed emotion, yet it was still hidden, and definitely not talked about. And, that’s not a demerit. Why?
Because my parents were not shown how to understand their emotions and then how to constructively talk about them. It is far more normal, especially in the United States, than people might imagine. And?
Not helpful to your own development, nor is it to your teams, organizations, families, or friends. If you don’t know why you feel the way you do, you will not understand how others feel.
And, if you are unable to understand how you and the people around you feel, you cannot talk about feelings in productive and constructive ways.
However, when you know how you feel, understand why you feel as you do, and learn how to talk about emotions in healthy ways, you can navigate more complex conversations and situations as they arise.
And, in leadership roles, nay, in life, complex situations and conversations happen all the time. Sometimes every day.
In addition to meditation, diet, exercise, and weekly coaching, there are a couple of other things I do to understand my feelings and emotional state.
Journaling, and reflecting upon how you feel, is a very important process; especially when we are truly interested in understanding how and why we feel as we do. Some questions I typically ask myself are as follows.
What is the feeling that I am feeling?
What is the thought that is driving that feeling?
Where did that thought come from?
When you understand what you’re feeling, what thought is driving the feeling, and where the thought came from, you can begin to acknowledge the feeling.
When we can acknowledge how we truly feel, we can then release that feeling once we’ve gained true understanding. And, true understanding may mean working on a thought/feeling combination for some time.
Now, I’ve written most of this section with an assumption in mind. That, the work we do to understand how we feel, is needed mostly when we experience “negative” feelings, or emotions.
The emotions and associated feelings that bring us pain, discomfort, worry, and anxiety, for instance.
Why is it important to work on these “negative” emotions and feelings?
Because if we don’t understand how we feel and why we feel as we do, we will regularly give out all of that “negative” emotion to other people. And?
And, then, yes, we are giving out all of our anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever other feeling we have to everyone around us, and we are doing so unintentionally.
If you want to see an example of how this looks, just go to the grocery store and hang out for a while. You will encounter someone that is completely unaware of their emotional state. It won’t take long.
It happens all the time, every day. As was aforementioned, especially in the United States, where there is still, yes even in 2020, stigma about talking about our emotions. Not helpful and extremely unhealthy.
Now, understanding our feelings does not mean that we run out and tell everyone that we meet that we are frustrated, for instance, and here are the reasons why. A paradox? Yes?
Understanding your emotions and why you feel as you do, helps you do the exact opposite.
When we understand why we feel as we do, we can hold our emotions more, and find the right times to talk about them in appropriate ways; meaning healthy and constructive ways. Very important.
Alright, though I have more to say on both of the aforementioned topics, for now, that concludes the first part of this second installment in the leadership series. Next?
We will take a look at Leadership Sociology. And, yep, you are correct, Leadership Sociology and Leadership Psychology are connected. They influence each other. A reciprocal relationship, if you like.
For now, remember, leadership psychology as defined here, understanding how we think and feel is an important first step in developing ourselves, yes, as leaders, and even more importantly as human beings.
When we are open to our own development, we can create contexts that are growth-oriented for everyone. It works that way.
Remember, it starts with you, with me, with each of us. Therefore, when we catch ourselves looking outside of ourselves for answers to why we think and feel as we do, we must remember to look within.
Because, my friends, within ourselves is the only place we will find the answers.
Meditation is and has been an experience that, well, quite frankly, has transformed my life. How? Yep. Here are three ways.
Increased focus – the focus you develop in meditation, focusing on the breath, or some other object, carries out to every area of your life.
Developed patience – sitting for any duration of time, free of people and distractions, can be difficult, thus, doing so, greatly develops your ability to be patient. Both with yourself, and, of course, with others.
Greater presence – when you sit in deep concentration, you also get to know your own mind much better. Meaning, that you can see your mind as your awareness grows. And, with a more expansive awareness comes an ability to shift your attention from yesterday and tomorrow to today.
When we intentionally create quiet time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, away from all people and distractions, we are able to breathe, reflect, and just be.
It takes time and assistance to develop a meditation practice. I mean to really develop a practice that is sustainable.
Meaning, learning from someone that has been schooled in the art of meditation is helpful. I still see someone regularly about my meditation practice, and, well, as I’ve written before, about all of life.
Remember, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. Example? Sure, here you go.
My initial meditation practice, what I then called breathing, was only once or twice a day for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. I could literally only sit still for that long. Yep. Today? Well, today, my meditation practice is much longer.
It just takes a dedication to practice. Practice daily, get some coaching, and it will come. Really, it will.
Someone once told me, we are what we put into our bodies. I know, I know. A very common saying, and you’re right. Yet, it is also very true.
I spent a lot of years putting very unhealthy things into my body, yet have learned the truth of the aforementioned statement.
It’s really about energy and clarity. When you eat more whole foods and put less refined sugars into your body, you do have more energy, and equally more clarity.
What does that look like? Well, there are countless iterations of healthy diets. Really. What does mine look like today? Sure. It’s pretty simple.
Fruits and veggies
Beans, nuts, and some grains
That’s basically it. Now, there are other things I do eat, for instance, I removed dairy from my diet about a year ago, so I now eat a dairyless oatmeal yogurt product. However, the core of my diet is listed above.
Now, also know that diets iterate. For instance, though at the moment, I’m not eating eggs, for example, eggs have been in and out of my diet several times in the past three years. Yep.
Well, when you combine eating healthier with meditation, guess what? Your ability to be present also increases. And, there is another benefit. What, you ask? Yep.
Clarity. With a healthier diet and regular quiet time for ourselves comes more clarity. Fun.
This is a fun one, as there are two ways I think about exercise today. Ready? Here we go.
Cardio and exercising to exercise – sounds funny, maybe? Well, what I mean is exercise, such as running, jogging, or hiking, lifting weights, if you like, and biking.
Contemplative exercise – yep, really. What I mean here is taking a walk, by yourself, no headphones, phones, or other distractions, and just walk. Just like that. Contemplation time, just for you.
Both are important. Why?
Well, being active, and in motion, is good for the body and mind. It gets all of your muscles and joints moving, and gets your heart rate up.
And, spending time with yourself on a walk, for instance, is very healthy for your mind, and yes, your body too.
We all need time by ourselves, to contemplate, to just be present to all that’s around us, free of the myriad of distractions that typically hold our attention. Very helpful.
Okay, this is a very important one for me today, and, well, it is also important for you, and for everyone.
When we spend time inquiring into why we feel the way we do, we gain insight on what’s happening with ourselves, yes, true, and we also gain a better sense of our own humanity, and our shared humanity. Truth.
When we ignore our emotions, regardless of the type, guess what? They just sit under the surface, and sort of fester, if you will.
They don’t just go away, especially those emotions we would associate with “negative” experiences, thoughts, or feelings, such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Yep.
Spending time writing out how we feel daily, if possible, has been a helpful practice for me. When we do this, we can ask ourselves questions, such as, why did that incident or situation, bother me?
We can then trace it back to where the originally thought, experience, or feeling originated. Takes practice, yet is a super helpful and therapeutic experience. And?
As we work through our emotions, we become lighter. Really. We end up carrying less emotionalness inside of us. And? Yep, we also become more present. True.
Alright, so we’ve covered 4 areas that contribute to our overall well-being, and presence. That was fun.
Here are some closing thoughts to round out our discussion.
Meditate, or create quiet time for ourselves
Watch what we eat, reducing our intake of refined sugars and increasing our intake of whole foods
Get exercise, including contemplation time
Work on our inner-selves and our emotional well-being, well?
We understand ourselves much better. And?
When we understand ourselves better, guess what? We know when we are present, and when we are not; and, when we catch ourselves being distracted, we can let go of that distraction, regardless of what it is, and refocus on the present moment.
After all, it is really only the present moment that we ever have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Really. And guess what?
The more present you become to yourself, the more present you become to everyone and everything. It works that way; and is presently beautiful that way.
I’ve written several posts about the need for quiet time. Time just for us, to reflect upon our day or week, and to just be. Important. Do you take time for yourself? I didn’t for a very long time. Not the case today. Too important.
If you do, great, if not, it’s not a demerit. Rather, it is an opportunity. An opportunity to take time and learn more about yourself.
When we stay busy all day, and don’t create the space for quiet time, we are quite literally burning out. Burning our creativity, and potential. We must rest, and have time to think, reflect, and be. When we recharge, we get more.
More insight, and more resilience. Both.
It is when I am most quiet that more insights show up. Much more. When the mind slows, receives the time it needs, you open it up to more insight. You also recharge your resiliency levels. Also very helpful.
There are many ways to create quiet time. If you’ve never created this space for yourself, it can be hard. It’s okay. Take the time you need to create it. It can also be hard for people around you. Setting boundaries around your quiet time is needed and necessary.
As you practice, you will create a healthy habit, and people around you will respect it. Be persistent.
Today, up at 4 am, I worked on my website, then a little Extended Learning work, time with a friend, and a hike in the quiet. 7.2 miles. Was lovely.
Here are some pics from my hike.
This first one was early on in the hike, maybe mile 2 or so. As the trail winds around the hill, you get to experience trail portions that are shaded and cool, and trail portions that are exposed and in the sun.
I took the above picture not long after the first one, and, as you can see, it is a nicely shaded portion of the trail. Very tall trees on this trail, beautiful.
This picture is not quite at the top of the hill, yet it is very close. The banner picture on this post was close to this spot, and, as you can see from the banner picture, I caught a hawk in flight. Super cool
There are three things I do during my quiet time. If you have never created that time for yourself, give it a try. I know it can be hard, especially if you’ve never done it before.
And, when I write quiet time, I mean time away from distraction and stimulation, such as computers, televisions, books, and other people.
Here are those three things. Walks, hikes, and meditation. That’s it. Well, for today anyway.
If you like walking, walk. If you like hiking, hike. And, if there is something else you like to do, do that. It matters less what you do, than it is you get the time you need to rest and recharge.
I would also invite you to calendar it, especially if you are just starting out. Start with once-a-week. You can increase as you go. Start small. One step at a time. Then increase it as you go, until you get into a habit that works for you.
Alright, a reflection today on creating quiet time for ourselves. So important. Create time for yourself. When you do, you get more back, and you are able to give more to yourself and everyone else around you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships this week. In fact, I am always thinking about relationships in some way, as I do believe they are one of the most important things in life. So very important.
Yet, when you think of relationships, what is your first thought?
Is it of yourself, or someone else? Most people will say someone else. Why? Because, I think, we are in many ways programmed to think externally first.
However, it is always, and will forever be, the ways in which we look internally first that we will then be able to turn our gaze outward.
Meaning that how we think about and treat ourselves is exactly how we will think about and treat other people. What to do?
We must learn to take care of ourselves, love ourselves, be good to ourselves, and find ways to make time for ourselves.
It is very common, however, to think that by taking care of others we are, in effect, taking care of ourselves. Not so. When we “take care” of others at the expense of our own self-care, or at the expense of their own development, we help no one; and, no one grows.
What can we do?
We can begin to develop a healthy relationship with ourselves now. Today.
It is through developing a relationship with ourselves that we can begin to love ourselves for the human beings that we are. And, guess what? As we develop a loving relationship with ourselves, our external relationships will become more stable, and loving.
It is then that everyone in our sphere, starting with ourselves, has the ability to grow and develop. Does this mean that our relationships will be easy? No. It might mean that some of them will be more difficult.
Especially if we have created relationships with people that have superseded our own relationship with ourselves.
However, once we begin to look inward, and make choices about what’s best for ourselves, we can begin to move ourselves forward.
And, create that loving relationship with ourselves that is absolutely necessary and needed in order to have healthy relationships with anyone.
Alright, so how and where do we begin? And, what strategies can you use to get in touch with yourself, and begin to create, develop, and maintain the most important relationship in your life?
Let’s take a look at a few that I use daily.
Until about three years ago, I was always on the go. Always. I didn’t ever really stop until it was time for bed. And then, I would not sleep well. When I started to incorporate quiet time into my day, I immediately noticed the health benefits.
If quiet time was so beneficial, why didn’t you incorporate it into your life earlier?
Because I didn’t know how. When you live one way, that is what you know. Sounds silly. It is, however, very true. Unless someone else shows you another way, you will continue to do things that are not beneficial for you.
All the while, there is another way, you just don’t have access to it yet.
If you are always running, I suggest building in quiet time into your day. How? Any way you can. Know that when I write quiet time, I mean any time you can get away from technology and other people.
As much as I love people, and all of my relationships, as I’m sure you also do, we all need a break from the constant stimulation. Needed.
Journaling and Writing
Journaling and writing are also helpful. As I’ve written in other posts, I’ve been writing for some time, however, I only began to write introspectively these past couple of years.
Writing about how you are feeling, what your hopes and dreams are, and how you intend to achieve them is a totally different type of writing.
When we write as a way to understand ourselves better, we open up the possibility of actually getting to know ourselves better. And, to have a quality relationship with ourselves, and everyone else, we must know who we are. Very important.
When we get to know ourselves, really know ourselves, diving deep into why we feel as we do, and getting clearer on the things that have happened in our past, which we are still holding onto, we can begin to heal.
And, it is inside of this healing where our deepest and most profound transformation can occur. Learning to love the person we were, are, and will be. Special.
I’ve written about my meditation practice in several posts now, and, indeed, on this topic it is no different. The health benefits I’ve experienced from learning how to mediate, and to incorporate meditation into my daily routine have been, and are, profound. Why?
Because it is your time. Just for you. A time for introspection, to learn about yourself. What makes you, you, and how your humanness works. When you sit, you get to know more about how your mind and body work, and how they work together.
And, inside of a learning like this, you have more access to understand yourself and all of humanity in a whole new way.
In the article, Creating a Meditation Practice: 3 Steps in 4 Minutes, I write about some simple steps you can take to create a meditation practice. It takes time, dedication, and creating the habit. If you are a beginner, it is also helpful to have someone coach you along the way.
What is most important? Taking the time you need to begin a meditation practice if it is something you’ve been interested in. Why wait?
For the longest time I didn’t focus on my diet. In fact, it was one of those things that bothered me terribly, as I was very overweight, yet, I continued to eat poorly.
Not loving myself for a long time.
It is important to eat well. What we put into our body has direct implications for how our mind and body functions. Really. When I began to focus on my diet, which started slowly, I would take one thing out of my diet at a time that was unhealthy for me. Then, I would take something else out. Takes time.
The amount of clarity you gain by removing foods loaded with artificial ingredients and high levels of sugar is profound. Not something I ever really understood or knew about. It is loving yourself to create a diet that is rich in nutrients.
A high-quality diet will fuel your mind, body, and soul. Believe me.
There are plenty of articles out there about creating a healthy diet, and you can also work on your diet with your doctor. What do I know? That eating more naturally produced foods, vegetables, beans, fruits, and nuts has been very beneficial for me.
My diet has been totally plant-based for almost a year now, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, except, the change that comes from continuing to learn about new ways to purchase and prepare new foods.
I’ve always believed in exercise, and through most of my life have enjoyed walking. However, I never really developed a healthy exercise habit until about 2 years ago. Exercise is important. We all need it.
Further, exercise also gives you time for yourself. Time to explore your own needs when it comes to being with your body. You can develop a healthy exercise habit or routine by simply creating the space in your day to do so.
I know. It sounds easy, and yet it can be difficult. Understood. Many people ask or wonder about how to develop the motivation to keep up a regular exercise routine. In the article, Motivation: Is it an inside or outside job?, I write about the fact that motivation comes from within.
Motivation comes from the doing of that which you want to do regularly. Simple. People often say they aren’t motivated, so they can’t get to the gym, or that they are too busy, so there is not time to go for a walk. Normal.
However, the only way to become motivated is to actually go to the gym, or make the space in your day for a walk. That’s it. And, after you’ve done so, and continue to do so, in time, you will find your motivation.
You will also have developed another healthy habit, and routine. Loving yourself.
Sleep is so important, yet in the United States in particular, we often disregard our sleep in favor of other activities. Though I sleep better than ever before, I still struggle in this area.
It’s like that though. You develop yourself, loving yourself, a little at a time. You learn, you create new habits, some old habits hang around longer than others, then they also eventually go away. All the while I am inviting you to persist.
Persist in loving yourself, and allowing yourself the time needed to recuperate from your day. So very important. When we do not give ourselves that time, we will not be our best the next day. It’s just not possible to be your best when you are tired.
Believe me, I know. I spent many years sleeping poorly. Staying up very late, drinking too much, and sleeping, well, like you would imagine. Not well.
And, like the rest of this article, it takes creating the healthy habit of loving yourself enough to ensure that you get the rest you need.
When you are fully rested, you have the opportunity to be your best the next day. For yourself, first, and then for all of those around you.
Alright, there we have it. There are 6 different tips that when worked on, over time, can bring you more time, energy, rest, peace, and overall well being.
And, inside of increasing our overall well being, we are practicing the art of loving ourselves.
For, it is inside of the love that we show to ourselves first, that we can really begin to love other people. When we don’t show ourselves the love we deserve, by taking care of ourselves, we cannot really love other people. Not really.
Loving starts with the love you show yourself. Show yourself love today, then, by taking up a healthy habit you’ve been avoiding or putting off.
It takes creating the time, and taking action. Remember, developing your new healthy habit will take time. Yet, I am inviting you to persist in your quest to develop your healthy habit. Why?
Because you are worth it. Learning to love yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. And, it is also one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other, and all of humanity.
Have you ever tried to meditate? Been through classes on meditation, yet continue to struggle to do so? You are not alone. It is too often the case that people take “meditation” classes or yoga classes, and yet struggle to have an experience they feel should be reminiscent of meditation. Sound familiar?
Well, let’s take a look at three simple steps that you can take to create the space you need to take up a practice that’s been on this planet for thousands of years. And, we will take a look at these three steps in just four minutes. Ready? Alright, let’s go.
Step 1: Quite Space
First, you must find a space that is quite, away from distractions, as much as possible. Then, let those around you know that you need this time to be alone. One of the biggest challenges in creating a meditation practice, is creating the space you need to do so. And, you are the one that needs to create this space.
You can create this space, by creating a new boundary with those closest to you. Let them know that this is your time, and is needed, and necessary. Sounds simple, yet most people have boundary issues, and may push on the boundry you are creating. Hold firm. This is your time, and you deserve it.
When I started meditating almost three years ago, the above referenced boundary issue was something that I struggled with. Yes, you also have to hold yourself accountable to create that boundary within yourself. Important. If you don’t hold to the boundary you are creating, no one else will. And, you will be continuously interrupted. What will it take?
It will take you creating that boundary over and over again. Eventually, those closest to you will get that you are serious, and leave you alone. Be persistent.
Step 2: Focus on Your Breathing
The first year of my meditation practice, I called it breathing. Why? Because I didn’t know how to breath properly. Most people don’t. That’s okay. You can learn.
Here is what my first year looked like
3 to 6 months – breathing for 5 minutes at a time, several times a day.
6 months to year 1 – breathing 15 minutes at a time, twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.
And, here is what years 2 and 3 have looked like
Year 1 to 18 months – meditating 20 to 30 minutes at a time, twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.
18 months to year 2 – meditating 30 to 45 minutes at time, twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening.
Year 2 to today – meditating 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time, mostly once a day, though sometimes twice. Second time being 30 minutes in the evening.
The important thing to note, and remember, is that it’s taken almost 3 years to go from breathing for 5 minutes, to meditating for an hour most days. Slow. Creating a meditation practice is not about how fast you can do it. It’s about taking your time, yet being persistent. Building the healthy habit, slowly and methodically.
Alright, when you are ready, here is a guide to your first 5-minute breathing exercise
Sit comfortably. You DO NOT have to sit in the lotus position. Actually I recommend not sitting like that. Simply sit in a sturdy chair, back straight, yet relaxed, hands resting on your thighs.
Set a timer, or a meditation app, if you have one for 5 minutes.
Close your eyes, and take a couple deep breaths, breathing in through your nose, and out through your nose. Slowly, deeply.
Now, breath normally, still in through your nose, and out your nose. And, as you breath in focus your attention on the air making its way through your nostrils – can you feel the cool air coming in? If not, that’s okay, then focus on the tip of your nose. If you can, focus on the air coming in through your nostrils.
As thoughts arsie, let them. If you begin to focus on them, that’s okay. When you begin to focus on a thought, simply bring your attention back to the air coming in through your nostrils, or back on the end of your nose.
And continue to repeat the above again and again. Thoughts arise, you notice, may even engage with them, then notice you are engaging, and refocus on your breath. Again, and again.
If you’ve just completed your first 5 minutes of breathing, nice job. You are on your way.
Step 3: Practice
Whether you are meditating for 5 minutes at a time, or an hour. Creating and maintaining a meditation practice, takes just that, practice. You must be willing to make meditation a priority in your life. It is like any healthy habit we want to develop; it takes persistence to build a regular habit.
The coolest thing about developing this habit, is that once you’ve done it for a couple of months, you will demand that space of yourself. Really, you will. You will hold yourself accountable to create that space; and, as you hold yourself to that standard, those closest to you, if they aren’t getting it, will.
And, the more you practice, the more benefits you will realize about incorporating meditation into your life. There are many. One of my favorite benefits, is that I have time for myself. Time to be quiet, away from all technology, and all people. We all need that time.
Practicing meditation is about learning how to focus your attention, as your mind continues to be busy. And, believe me, it will be. Yet, as we’ve discussed, let the thoughts come. It’s okay. And, as they come, notice when you are paying attention to them, instead of your breathing, and then refocus your attention on your breath.
Remember, creating a meditative practice takes time. Building this practice is not something that will happen overnight. It won’t, so relieve yourself of that pressure right now; and when you are ready, find a quiet space, focus on your breathing, and practice.
What do our emotions have to do with our relationships? Do they really matter that much? And, how much of our emotional selves do we share with those that are closest to us? Not sure, well, this is one area that I’ve been exploring a lot the past two years, so, let’s take a look.
Here is how it worked for me prior to 2 years ago. Something would happen, and I would react to my emotion. Didn’t really matter what the situation was, the event happened, and I would react. Sometimes the reactive emotion would be sadness, sometimes frustration, and sometimes anger.
Not helpful. Why?
Because when we react to our emotions without the time to process that emotion, we are in effect causing a possible chain reaction, especially if your partner is like you. Think about it. How many times have you gotten angry about something, and then you lashed out, unintentionally, and then your partner, or friend, lashed out right back at you? Happens all the time.
Action, reaction; or, reaction, action; or reaction, reaction. A vicious circle, and cycle.
What can we do?
One thing we can do, which I’ve written about in other posts, is slow down our reaction time. How? One way is by adding reflection, and meditation time, into our daily lives. Having the space and time to consider all of our options when confronted with any situation is needed, and necessary.
Though most people don’t prioritize reflection and meditation, there are many benefits, which suggest that doing so is beneficial for our daily lives, and for our long-term health.
What happens when we add time for reflection and meditation into our lives?
When we choose to intentionally slow down, and create more time and space for ourselves to be quiet and to think more thoughtfully about our lives, we actually become less reactive to ourselves. And, when we are less reactive to our own emotions, and thoughts, we are less reactive to other people and their emotions. We create more time, space, reflective possibilities, and actually choice, instead of reaction.
What other benefits are there to making time to reflect and practice mediation?
There are many benefits of making the time to reflect on our lives, and to practice meditation.
Here are a few
We are less reactive to ourselves, and all of those around us.
We have more time to fully consider all of our options
We better understand our own thoughts and emotions
We create the space to become more resilient
When we are less reactive, have more time, understand ourselves better, and become more resilient, we are able to hold more and handle more. We are also able to do more, to create more possibilities for ourselves and those around us.
Does this mean that I will never again react?
No. Reaction is needed and necessary when there is danger, or when something urgent is occurring, and a choice is needed right away. However, what I’ve come to realize is that time for reflection can be added into most situations that arise.
As you practice meditation and make time for reflection, you are able to make choices with more clarity. You, in fact, have more clarity. Why? Because you know yourself better, both your mind and your body. You are in touch with yourself on a deeper level, which, in and of itself, creates more time.
What does all of this have to do with my relationships?
When you understand yourself on a deeper level, you also understand those around you better. Why? Because we are all human. We all have the same set of emotions, and thinking mechanism, our mind.
Knowing yourself well, is one of the most important parts of having a healthy relationship. Which does not mean, however, that all of your relationships will be easy. In fact, it may mean that some of your relationships will be harder. Why?
Because as you understand yourself better, you may find that you are less compatible with someone you’ve always been compatible with. It can be hard. However, overall, I think you will realize that understanding yourself better creates the opportunity to have the strongest relationships possible.
And, that is the case, because you have created a stronger relationship with yourself first.