Monday mornings, the bane of my existence. Where I awaken from the comfort and calmness of my weekend to the racing thoughts of my responsibilities. My breathing is short like a staccato violin and life’s complexities race towards me as I stand still at the intersection of my mind.
Scheduling conflicts, upcoming holidays, year-end deadlines and changing weather conditions awaken me as I feel the rush of cortisol pollute my body. The pressures of being in charge and responsible I need to maintain control even though I feel a cloud of thick dense fog over my concentration.
As I recognize these are my last few minutes of rest before a long hard day I know I must regain control of my mind. As I’m quietly still lying in bed it’s the perfect scenario for mindful meditation.
The room is dark and nearly silent. The sounds of my dogs breathing in the forefront, soothing and rhythmic while in the distance, I hear the sounds of the highway traffic beginning to build up.
As I lay flat on my back and stretched out like a mummy with my hands to my side I begin to regain control of my breath. With every ounce of concentration and focus, I take in my first calculated intake of breath. As I feel the air come in I imagine it flowing down into my lungs and begin to fill them like the expansion of a hot air balloon.
I hold the air in my lungs for a few seconds as I begin to feel the effects in my extremities. I begin to exhale with complete control like opening a bottle of champagne without explosive popping.
My next breath is again focused and purposeful as I’m feeling the flow expand my chest. Slowly my mind begins to again take charge of my thoughts as each anxious thought fades away like the ripples in calming waters.
The focus on my breathing becomes consistent and autonomous as each trouble vaporizes and my body is calmly rested. Deeper in I breathe with the same timing but increased intensity as my anxieties seem ever so small and distant.
My body begins to feel rested and energized as I keep breathing and open my eyes slowly. I’m still physically in the same place however my mind and my spirit are in control as I begin to float through my day. Calmed, mindful and in control.
Every morning I do essentially the same mindless routine while I’m reading and catching up on my life. The routine is pretty simple and regimented so I can maximize my personal time. If I plan ahead properly I have an entire 1/2 hour of focused mindful reading and thinking.
Many people feel that we can all multitask however studies show our productivity and concentration struggle as we attempt to do too many things at the same time. With the notable reduction in productivity and focus, what we believe is multitasking, in reality, are rapid shiftings of our tasks while we lose concentration and focus.
By creating a daily mindless routine regiment, my muscle memory has taken over many of my morning tasks. My mind can focus fully on reading or focused thinking while I’m making breakfast or washing dishes because I’ve fallen into a groove.
Having crafted a pattern of simple tasks, my processes seem to function absent of thought. I’ve visualized myself as a kitchen virtuoso since my routine is similar to a master musician that can perform perfectly while engaged in a detailed conversation.
As I distance myself mentally from my morning routine, my mind shifts to my planned mindful focus. I can read a short article or listen to a podcast with full and complete immersion. Each word I read or hear is processed into long term memory as I lose myself in the exercise.
How I Know It’s Working
The proof is in the pudding they say. Well in my case the proof is in the cleaned kitchen, breakfast made, vitamins taken, lattes frothed as I’ll evaluate all I have done within that short period of time.
If I made any mistakes in my process such as forgetting to turn on the toaster or making the espresso incorrectly, I’d agree that my multitasking technique doesn’t work and therefore I could possibly be focusing on my mindful activities. However, what actually is happening is completely the opposite. My productivity has increased while my focus and retention have become more present and purposeful.
Having my mornings to easily accomplish my chores and desires early has begun to set the tone for the day. I’ve become more focused, fulfilled and present. My completed task list grows while life’s mundane daily routine has become a mindless passive routine.
You can multitask simply if you focusing your mind away from what can become mindless. Dishes, folding wash, raking leaves are all activities that you can remove focus from while you redirect your mind into meditative mindful exercises.
As I’ve retrained my mind to stay focused on mindful activities my productivity has increased and my presence is in the now.
I find myself very lucky that I have the opportunity daily to walk between 6 and 8 miles. My daily walks start in the morning taking my dogs for a half-mile walk around our block.
In the past, I felt the walk was a waste of time and always wanted to economize my efforts by listening to a podcast or reading emails while walking. My mind preoccupied with whatever else it was I was doing instead of mindfully walking my dogs.
One morning I decided to be present, in the moment and cherish the time spent walking the dogs and minimizing distractions. My focus would be on the path we take and our environment.
Walking around with a clear mind, the simplest of nature’s details are observed. Spring is identified by the early evidence of small buds sprouting. The smells of floral blooms.
Bird song soothes as they are vocalizing the pleasures of the early morning sun and coming warmth. Grasses changing color from a dull hue to vibrant greens. The air crisp and pure.
Washing dishes often feels like a chore however when I focus on the task at hand it becomes therapeutic and calming. The warm water hitting my hands, the sounds of a sudsy pot overfilling as I presoak it. I like to wash in patterns in an attempt to be thorough, give each pot or dish my fullest nurturing care and attention.
My mind struggles to wander as my calmness and attention remain focused. It’s my time to be one within this moment. No longer a chore but a part of my life.
Walking and Talking
I’m not going to say that I didn’t always love to walk and talk however I do feel I noticed it a bit more after reading Steve Jobs biography which was a life-changing read and my personal bible.
Connection happens when you walk and talk with someone. A natural cadence happens where both of your steps take a similar rhythmic pattern. Where both your speed and motions become as one. The words become secondary in the connectivity as you move collectively as one.
Many of my best conversations have happened on walks. My mind is focused on the conversation and this connection. The environment becomes secondary to the human element of expressiveness.
Movement and conversation opens us up to focus on the moment. You struggle to be preoccupied and lacking presence whence immersed in dialogue in motion.
Walking through observations
I’m a people watcher and detail seeker. As I walk alone I’ll often focus on people or my environment as I tell myself a story. Using the power of my thoughts I’ll focus on a person or an element and tell myself its story.
Looking at an old church I’ll visualize the passing of its time, seeing the weddings, christening, and funerals. A full lifecycle happening before my eyes. Then I’ll refocus back to the present, seeing the church standing tall and proud, having bore witness to these amazing events. What a story this church could tell.
A Tree has a soul and the mere existence of the Tree breathes life into our environment. An essential element with the power to heal and maintain life. The Tree sprouts out of the ground with just enough internal strength to bud a leaf. The richness of the soil is a requirement for the nutrients required to grow tall and strong. It’s roots spreading too far distances it gives strength and food.
When the wind blows a Tree will sway, its core holding it in a neutral position yet its flexibility a requirement for survival. Going with the flow of the wind and being present in the moment, for a Tree that refuses it sway or lacks a firm root system will often topple over.
My body is a Tree
Sometimes on walks in the woods when a slight breeze kicks up, I’ll become a Tree. Firmly planting my feet on the earthen ground arms stretched out I’ll move with the wind. My connection to my environment is pure and present as I sway with the other Trees. We dance in cadence, as we are now as one, a forest of Trees.
The details in a Trees leaves or the blossoms of flowers fuels my mind and purify my soul. Life’s struggles still remain yet they are far off in the distance, lacking much power to enter my mindful state.
Mundane meets my mind
We all must do mundane tasks that require our time. By repurposing our thoughts and minds into a positive light by finding the unique perspective in those moments a new element to our lives is born.
Once we have prioritized the tasks and remain focused and engaged we can find joy and complacency in most things we do. We can develop a connection to mundane and uninspiring while attempting to find a new purpose through presence and focus.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
A photo of the above saying hung in our home when I was growing up. I remember reading it back then and thinking I understood it as I would force my will and opinions upon others. The World didn’t change and honestly neither did I.
I’ve been blessed with the life I have been gifted and with every passing day, that fact is reconfirmed. The past year I’ve moved towards enlightenment by redesigning my life. I’ve accepted who everyone else is and how they fit into my world.
Nothing Is Impossible
Mind over matter as I daily make minor adjustments to myself and my lifestyle. For the most part I don’t do anything I don’t want to and make sure the things I do actually partake in I’m present and mindful.
The challenges I had yesterday are in the past and how I deal with situations is in the present, where I’m focused and engaged. I seek the answers to problems first within myself before I attempt to modify my surroundings.
Everyday obstacles are deemed insignificant as I refuse to become embroiled in the static of the problems I can not solve. My objective is to carve myself a path and follow my inspiration.
I remember as a child when my parents asked me to do something I’d always respond with “why?” And the answer was always “don’t ask questions just do it” or “because I said so”. Not really great advice and certainly not very enlightening.
I ask myself why? in most everything I do. And the answers, when honest are life-changing. No longer do I waste time watching the news or reading about things that I can not change. My concentration is finely tuned to the things that affect me and my effect on others.
I’m a work in progress and it’s an uphill battle to redesign my thoughts and interactions with the world. I’ve made lifestyle changes to my diet by going Whole Food Plant Based, and I’m mindful of my impact on the environment.
I don’t any longer take nature for granted and I cherish the beauty of each passing day. Every hour is maximized in a very selfish way as I make sure I’m doing the things I need to do for me. My world revolves around me and when I arrive and interact with others it’s with purity I can interact becomes I feel complete.
The stresses of life still exist and I still will lose my cool with others when I see they’ve given up or are defeated, often before they’ve ever started or tried.
Every day I work on my redesign and self-development, looking deeper into myself and further out onto the horizons. With all certainty I know I can get there and so my quest to fulfillment has become easy.
With each passing day, I do a reflection and determine my status. I’m pleased with my results yet recognize I have a long way to go. The journey to curing myself has been my greatest achievement. I keep moving the goal line as I travel deeper and deeper into my own potential and reap the rewards.
It’s 4 o’clock am and I’m awake. My mind begins to race thinking of the hundreds of scenarios and tasks I need to complete. With every attempt to answer my issues another one arises and so the sleeplessness anxiety-driven insomnia begins.
I’m always still tired at that point and would love to fall back asleep, however, my mind is racing like that overzealous running partner running in place next to you as you are gasping for air, exhausted, wanting to die.
The room is dark and silent except for the snoring of my dogs. Why is it that they can sleep straight through the night and even fall back to sleep once disrupted? Why do I wake up at this time most evenings?
I fall asleep naturally around 11 pm every evening. I’ve never had a problem shutting down or falling asleep. When my body feels tired it’s generally around the same time each evening and I try to let it do what it feels is right.
It’s easy for me to fall asleep and get a decent 4 -5 hours of good sleep before I’ll often awaken around 4:00 am. Originally I believed I was being awoken during the witching hour which according to folklore is around 3-4 am when ghosts and the devil are most active.
As I never witnessed any supernatural activety I discounted the concept. What is basically happening is the transfer from deep sleep into a light sleep. Once I’m awake and in that needing to problem solve mode, falling back to sleep becomes almost impossible.
Mindful Sleep Meditation
I’ve developed my own secret weapon to combat early morning insomnia which I call Mindful Sleep Meditation. I’ll lie flat on my back, hands to my side in a mummy position as I’ll focus solely on my breath. Slowly breathing in and out which rhythmic controlled breathing, I’ll adjust my complete attention to my breathe.
As I breathe in and out my anxieties will attack my overactive mind yet with each solid breathe, I fend them off. My heart rate will noticeably lower as I regain the calm in my extremities.
Breathe in breathe out, as I begin to feel a fading effect. Like lights dimming before a film in a moviehouse.
As I continue to control my breathing and slip further away from my stresses, the power of calm slides me back into a slumber. I’ll enter into a calm creative version of sleep where my problems I’ll answer or discount one by one.
Awakening In Control
I generally don’t set an alarm as my mind and body are my time clock. As I arise I’m alert, energized and calmed. My stresses and anxieties still exist however I’m now in full control as I’m prepared to face the day. Soothed and in control I’ll move forth with certainty that I can take on life’s challenges and win.
My confidence reassures me that weve been here before and have gotten through. My mind is pure, clear and focused. My breath is my power when I need to return to my neutral mindful space.
Every morning I awaken with energy to make a change. I’ll try to make a difference in the world by questioning the status quo and attempting to make minor adjustments to my lifestyle to help save our planet.
My short drive to work I pass through small suburban developments of semi-manicured lawns and sidewalks. Some people will walk their dogs or go for a jog however just like me most everyone jumps into their cars and drives to work.
Very few homes including mine are even close to being carbon neutral. Our lawns and home designs don’t benefit our environment nor our needs beyond basic shelter. Gone are the agrarian days where our homes were also small farms where we would grow some fruits, vegetables and raise animals for food.
Prior to agrarian times, we lived a nomadic life. Traveling and foraging for foods to survive. For centuries various cultures survived living off the fruits of the land and their diets were based on the proximity to the foods available.
My favorite foods seem to come from warmer climates closer to the equator. Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Peruvian foods and most importantly being a vegan all of those cultures have options.
My quest is to experience and witness how other cultures live and prosper. Can I witness and learn from the ambassadors of our land? Can I learn how the foods I love and enjoy are grown? Will I understand the supply chain of how those foods are transported to me in New Jersey?
I’m hoping that my travels will bring me to obscure places, guided by opportunities and happenstance. I’m hoping to learn new traditions and break bread with others after a day of wholesome hard work.
Would my soul become cleansed as I purify my mind? Will religious differences make more sense as I experience them in the environment? Can I expand my mindful meditation and enrich my existence?
As a nomad, you’d need to limit the number of personal possessions you travel with. What would my priorities actually be? Clothing, ways to document my travels, and ways to make a living.
How long would it take to obtain enlightenment is hard to guess however I visualize the process will begin the moment I leave to get on the plane. My nomadic travels are my goal and the narrative of my future.
Every morning I awaken with the thoughts of which me do I care to be today. For I have many versions predicated on the day, time of year and where I am within in my world.
I don’t set an alarm to awaken as my body and subconscious mind are on auto pilot guiding me down my daily path. If I’m complacent and at ease I’ll sleep up until that moment I need to arise and start me day. Recharged with an internal flame that revs my engine to a roar.
But then there are those mornings where I’m haunted, my fears and inner fire greying and ashen as I feel almost extinguished. My mind will race as I try to rekindle my spark but the coldness of my thoughts smolder it away.
I jump into survival mode, my thoughts are the kindling to regain my flame. Alone in the dark I seek the answers as I stare into the cold loneliness of my conscious.
I’ll close my eyes tight as I lie like a mummy in a cold stone sarcophagus, sheets over my head to warm my soul. I’ll breathe in my first warm calming breathe and feel the fuel my flame requires for combustion. My outward breathe the soot from the once smoldering flame.
I breathe in deeper like the bellows of a furnace fueling the kindling as I rage against my darkest inner fears. As if there is nothing but my fearful self tending to the fire.
As I take each warm confident breath the embers become flames, the flames an inferno as I fuel my thoughts and overpower my anxieties. I’m ablaze warm and trued. Tempering myself from my days uncertainty. Knowing who I want to be and how I shall present myself is the key.
My meditative practice soothes my back to a calming sleep. I’ll awaken charged and fearless, with only the courage to be me.
Warm mountainous air slowly fills my lungs, my heart beating slowly, my mind focused on my breathe. Slowly fragments of troubles evade me as I’m floating away. For I am a lotus, my petals to either side, my stamen erect, relaxed.
Below me, the earthen rock formation is my foundation as I’m firmly planted at the summit of the mountain with breathe taking views…I breathe in slowly, my focus, my breath.
Hawks circle me with curiosity. Am I their prey? I breathe in meditative prayer. For I am the master of my vessel, lovingly embracing my place in this world. My terrestrial being seeking enlightenment, a transcendence higher, higher. For I am a Lotus.
The deeper I breathe the higher I rise, feeling the quiet breeze cool me. Nutrients from the soil give me strength, the suns bright light fuels my soul. Enriched by my environment and the purity of the air.
Swaying slightly as I embrace the breeze, freeing to not feel rigid as I go with the flow. Sounds disappear along with the pressure I’d been feeing in my stem. Floating away as my deep concentrated breathe sending electrical impulses to my extremities.
I breathe in, I am one with my meditative spirit as I am a Lotus.
A little over a year ago I was lucky enough to take a mindfulness course created by Google called SIYLI. Developed by a team of experts to integrate mindfulness, emotional intelligence and neuroscience the course has been used within Google as well as globally by governments, corporations and non-profits.
In a small lecture room environment seated in office chairs positioned into a semicircle my coworkers and I began the coursework. After a brief explanation of the core principals of SIYLI we were told to obtain a comfortable seated position and began deep breathing exercises while focusing intently on the breath.
Slowly breathing in I felt a rush of oxygen fueled breath into my lungs with a tingling euphoric feeling. Holding my breath slightly I focused on my breath as I slowly exhaled. Again I slowly took in another controlled deep breath settling on full concentration as I felt the rush. Again exhaling with full focus and control I began to feel calmness and control.
While maintaining my controlled breathing exercises my mind clear and centered. Uncertain if I was falling asleep or entering into a transformative state, my stress and racing mind slowly subsided.
A metallic ring of a small brass bell broke our concentration as we were asked to regain focus with the instructor and explain our response to the meditation exercise. It seemed unanimous across the class that this exercise heightened levels of focus and clarity.
We then began a method of meditation called journaling. Opening to a blank sheet of paper in a notebook we were guided to begin journaling our thoughts in a 5 minute timed exercise. Our writing was to be based on how we felt at that moment in a mindful honest written form. It was promised that these writing wouldn’t be read by anyone. Our instructor range the bell and we laid down our pens.
He asked us to reread what we wrote and asked how we felt after the 5 minutes writing. It was an enlightening experience as I learned how I was feeling personally after an extremely stressful year.
Our next exercise was an honesty writing exercise where you wrote about our ideal future. It was another timed writing practice in which we had 5 minutes. I saw my Dream Future unfolding in written form materializing before my eyes. Immersed in my narrative the bing of the bell stopped my writing.
Completely amazed at what I had written down I was very proud. Imagine that future. The instructor broke us up into groups and told us we needed to tell people about our Ideal Future.
Telling people about your plans so they can materialize
Exchanging our ideal future ideas was relieving. As we discussed our future plans it became a bit more real.
Our instructor explained as you discuss with people about your future ideals situations start to become reality. The response of people with help and resource creates opportunities to let aspects of your Ideal Future become reality.
Everyday I’m working towards my future ideal, writing daily articles, brainstorming ideas for a new startup venture, editing feature films and some web series. New options are constantly moving me closer to my ideals.