I have been practicing Yoga and Mindfulness for over 20 years and have a regular daily practice each morning. I should be fully equipped to deal with our current pandemic predicament, right? Maybe, and to a certain extent I am. And, I can still recognize symptoms and periods of exhaustion, overwhelm, isolation, feeling vulnerable and generally burned out! We’ve been in this for a year now! I worry about how I am doing and about how my family, friends and colleagues are doing. How is it for you? Honestly.
I am not throwing a pity party here. I just want to be honest with myself and with you that sometimes I struggle. That doesn’t feel good but, when I catch myself and witness my own struggles I know
from my Mindfulness practice, that I have in that moment a massive opportunity to learn more about myself and to consciously apply some of the tools I have learned to help me lift my spirits and move forward.
It sometimes comes easier than other times but I know that I have the power to change my experience in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment. It’s working for me to find more balance and deal with the ups and downs, ebbs and flows we are all swimming in so I wanted to share some tips in the hope that it will help you too:
1. Radical Acceptance
What I have learned is that a large part of my struggle comes from fighting against what is. Buddhist writings refer to the Sallatha Sutta which uses the metaphor of being struck by two arrows. One arrow represents the thing that has happened and the second arrow represents our reaction with it. We have little control over the first one but we have much more control and influence over the second arrow. The first step towards that is a radical acceptance of whatever we are experiencing and feeling in that moment. It is called ‘radical’ because it is something we don’t do that often and because it is an empowering acceptance and not a caving in kind of acceptance. Radical acceptance of our situation in the present moment positions us most powerfully for clarity and insight into what will be most helpful for us right now and going forward.
Reflection: Sit quietly, connecting to your breath, noticing the connection to your chair and the floor through your sitting bones and feet and slowly allow yourself to feel whatever is there to be felt in your body. Allow all struggle with your current situation to just be there, without judgment and without trying to push it away or work it out. Simply be with it. Just in this moment. Consciously remind yourself of our innate capacity to be with what is in this moment. You have taken a massive step. Notice what is different.
2. Bringing Clarity
The four areas of focus in my life. This is a big one. With our routines, ways of working, education and connection to family and friends all disrupted it has become super challenging to have a sense of what we need to do, where we need to allocate our time and how we manage care for ourselves and others. One way to bring back this clarity is to consider that we have four main areas of our lives in which we inhabit: family responsibilities, work, spiritual practice and self care, service in our communities. You can do this in your mind or with paper and pencil. For many of us, work and family commitments will take the lion’s share of time that we have available to us each day. Consider the things you need to and want to do in those areas and acknowledge your efforts. There’s a balance of knowing that we are taking care of our responsibilities and the self nourishment of our interactions, connection and achievements in our work and family life. Self care / spiritual and community service can often be what gets overlooked and it is super helpful to address that. Taking time to most days to devote to a personal practice (meditation, journaling, intention setting, prayer, yoga, being in nature) helps us connect with something bigger than ourselves and take a broader perspectives. I often feel that as having more space between my ribs and a sense of grounding into the earth. We’ve included a link to our website here where there are some practices that you might want to try. Consistency is the key here. Spending 10 minutes each day is far more beneficial than spending one hour every Saturday for example. And don’t forget to build in other elements of self care - taking a bath, giving and receiving massage, healthy food and reduced alcohol and caffeine intake. Experiment and work out what makes you feel the best.
Reflection : With kindness, assess where you stand currently on self care and spiritual practice. What actions can you take this week to enhance that? Make it easy, fun and appealing. We do not want to create another ‘to do’ here!
3. Self Discipline
There is a joy and satisfaction that comes from building self discipline. It’s a muscle we need to develop and maintain and with it we can make progress in the areas we have defined above to create more positive impact for ourselves and others. With that growing sense of influence and achievement we can start to take more control. Like any ‘muscle’ self discipline is best developed by regular and progressive practice. Start small and build some first wins. Build from there. Maybe you can commit to reducing your caffeine intake by one cup a day, to doing 5 mins of breathing in the morning before starting your day, to 10 mins of exercise everyday this week?
Reflection: identify one or two small changes you want to make to contribute to your wellbeing and health. Make a clear plan (when, how long, what will I need, who with etc) and commit to doing it or them for the next week. Start today. Tomorrow is elusive. Make sure to plan in a way to celebrate at the end of the week!
4. Devotion and Appreciation
Devotion is not a word we use very often these days but I think we could benefit from using it and applying it more. Appreciation is more familiar to us but I think we can benefit from applying it more too. As part of my daily practice I incorporate considering what I am devoting myself to and bringing into mind the things I can appreciate in my life this day. Devotion - when I google the definition of devotion this is what comes up: ‘love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity.’
There is a focus and power that comes from applying our self disciple to practice devotion to our activities in the four areas of our lives. We have no guarantee of any outcomes and that is the point. Devotion requires us only to do our best in this moment, and in this moment. It’s a journey and not a destination. And it can bring such satisfaction and purpose. Appreciation - even when it feels like we have nothing to feel appreciative for we can at least appreciate that the suns still warms and nourishes our earth and we have air to inhale to fuel our bodies. Building the muscle of appreciation is an important part of our wellbeing and resilience practice.
Reflection: Pause and reflect on what you can devote yourself to in your life? Your values will play a big part here. Allow your values to help inform what you devote your time and energy to. And Why. A key part of devoting is to do it, whatever it is, willingly and not as a chore. Make it joyful. I have done this for myself and identified my family role and spiritual practice that I am devoting myself to. For my work I know that the common thread is always helping others grow and I have devoted myself to that. For you maybe there’s some of the same and maybe some differences - maybe there is a sport or hobby or community cause you feel a desire to devote yourself to. Do so with energy, commitment and joy.
What can you appreciate today? It can be small and simple things like ‘time for a cup of tea’ or ‘yay, I found a pair of matching socks!’ Or more profound things such as family, friendships, good health, fulfilling work. If appreciation doesn’t come easy then know that the simple act of looking for things that we appreciate is starting to re-wire our brains to be more appreciative so know that you will get better at it. Appreciate that you are making the effort to appreciate.
If you'd like individual support such as coaching or to incorporate more Mindfulness into your business, get in touch to find out how we can support you.