I have been racking my brain on how to stay in contact with those that I care about more frequently as well as provide information and more importantly stories that may drive you to either start or continue a positive habit in an environment that may constantly try to break it down or put it off. If one person chooses to take action because of this email it is worth it.
Most of my clients come to embrace the changes in diet and exercise “fairly” easily. There are tangible tasks that need to be done. One must go to the grocery store and buy new more healthier items and throw all the garbage in the cabinets away. On the exercise side, our suck is evident and it may even hurt to roll around on an embarrassingly soft blue foam roller. These two pillars of health (nutrition and movement) people tend to build quickly and although sticking to them will be tough for the majority of my clients this becomes a fun journey that they enjoy and identify with.
BUT embracing the other two pillars, sleep and stress management is much more difficult for most Americans. We are brainwashed from a very young age to chase the hustle and our quietness is stolen from us in the form of screens and cartoons. Also, the results from these two pillars are less evident than movement or nutrition. We don’t have the immediacy of watching the garbage of our minds get hauled away in a noisy truck even though that is what a meditation practice helps us do. We can take the pain of the foam roller, but sometimes the pain of sitting silently is too much to bear. In fact in a recent study people would rather shock themselves than sit silently in a room alone. How sad. But, we need this time with yourselves to recharge and be able to better help those around us. We need sleep so we can heal, make hormones, detoxify, clear out the debrief of the previous day, and store the memories that matter most in the background of our mind.
Do not for a moment think that these two pillars are any less important than how you move or what you eat. In fact, what you think and do may be more important in each of our healing processes.
Thus, without further ado…the first weekly newsletter. I am sure it will get more fancy with time but you are here for the infancy. Thank you.
I have had a meditation practice for a little over 10 years now. At this point some of you may see the words “meditation” and “practice” and think – hey man, slow down with the woo-woo-ness or start yelling in your mind, practice! We talkin’ bout practice! But, meditation or even that first moment when I was able to see my thoughts as just that…thoughts has changed my life more profoundly than any other habit or principle I have learned along the road of higher education.
My practice has waxed and waned over the last decade and I have used many tools and gone to many formal Zen centers, yet the two things I love the most is the habit of lighting incense and watching the smoke lift away into the air and the feel of the hardness cushion underneath me. Now, I did not come to like these things easily. My father is an ordained Buddhist monk and found a Zen practice when I was going into high school. My brother and I would make fun of him incessantly. Are you going to the Zenery dad? to sit down?
He would smile and say yes and walk out the door. We would try to curtail his practice with obligations or other “fun” activities, but he would always shut the door softly and leave for an hour and honestly not miss that much. It wasn’t until turmoil hit my young little life that I reached for the cushion and what I found in silence I didn’t much like. Yet, you can’t run from it where there is nowhere to go in your own mind. You have to let it linger and sometimes let the hurt boil over. Yet, you learn from it and then come to accept that it is not real. Smack! Two hands clap. It reverberates through the floor. Wake Up.
The reason I reached for Meditation at such a young age was that over the years I saw a profound change in my father. He went from having a fierce short temper and underlying tinge of unhappiness to very very rarely getting mad or upset. He ate much more slowly and smiled more often, taking pleasure in simple things. He didn’t meditate to attain these attributes, you sit to sit, but they were a side effect that drew me in. Much like when one of your friends starts training and you see the changes in how they move and look, except these were much more subtle and I would argue much more important.
Recently, I have had more work stress piled on me in the form of writing an entire dissertation in less than a month. At first I thought my life is going to be a box of suck! How am I going to do this? I could see the whirlwind of thoughts and knew I needed action so I blocked off a morning and moved my entire office out to the gym. The change in environment would allow me to be more focused but I knew that wasn’t enough. I needed to train my mind to be more focused as well as give it time to compartmentalize information and reset, this meant more sleep (8-9 sometimes 10 hours every night) and more meditation (at least an hour a day). At this point you may be like bro, you haven’t even worked yet! You just moved some stuff, slept more, and sat on a cushion. Yes, and I damn near finished an entire dissertation in 2 weeks. But this was a side effect of my actions and more importantly I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks.
We believe we have to have so many hours of busyness to put in some piggy bank somewhere for god Americans, but what I care more about is how productive my hours, minutes and moments are. Am I doing the most important thing right now and am I doing it with as much of my mental or physical effort as possible. Do I get distracted? Hell Yes. Do I watch episodic (this is my new favorite word) television with my wife? Hell Yes. But you can see the distractions, enjoy them, and then choose to follow them or not. You can also set up systems that hold you accountable to your productivity at the times you are most productive.
As Russel Jaffe MD PhD, “Allow yourself the gift of doing one thing at a time.”
Now many of you will immediately think this is not doable for me and the mind will start spewing out these types of thoughts – I have kids, I have a job, I need to make money, I drive an F350 super cab. But that is just noise. What matters is what you do.
It doesnt matter if it is a minute, commit to take that minute and be with yourself. To sit in silence.
Download HeadSpace and commit to 5 minutes a day and do it. Buy HeartMath and breathe with the pacer for 1 round when you get home for work. Hell, stare at a bookshelf for 4 minutes while your coffee brews. Just do something/nothing.
And if you give that seed water, sun, and time it will grow. There will be winters, floods, and plenty of storms but that’s what happens when you are out in the wildness of your mind.