The Busyness of our Lives
Are you finding that from the moment you wake until the moment your head hits the pillow your mind is constantly going?
Are you noticing all these thoughts running through your mind throughout the day?
Or even more importantly, what exactly are the thoughts running through your mind all day?
“I need to do this…This has to get done…I have to be here…I should do this…I should’ve done that…I could’ve done this if…Why does my boss want to talk to me…Why are the kids screaming…What am I going to do about dinner…I’m so tired.”
We live in a fast-paced world full of technology that promotes instant gratification and multitasking. Many of us look forward to unwinding, but have some difficulty doing so and end up doing mindless activities to unwind for the day or the week. There is so much going on around us that we forget what it’s like to “Just Be.”
We come home and when we accomplish all that we needed to do, we sit in front of the TV, computer, or smart phone (or all 3!), we hear family in the background, or our neighbors through the open doors and windows, the traffic outside, and the sound of nature. We take in so much from our senses. The sounds we hear and what we see – all of it stimulates the mind.
Stop and take a moment right now… where are you? Name everything you hear (music, TV, birds, power tools, vehicles, children playing, etc). Look around you and what do you see? Is what you’re hearing and seeing pleasant to you our creating a negative response?
Begin to notice how your body is feeling. Is your brow center furled? Is your mouth clenched? Do your shoulders and neck feel tense and tight? How about your core (stomach area)…does it feel tight? All this may be in response to your thoughts.
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel some ease? Breathing in, rotating and moving the muscles around your eyes, head, shoulders, and stomach while thinking of gently letting go of everything, is a good first step.
Many of us feel that our days are filled to capacity with meeting the demands of our responsibilities, work, family, significant others, working out, etc., and we “just don’t have time or energy” to add another task to our schedule.
Changing up our daily routines can be difficult, however it can be done and is well worth it when it comes to bringing some peace and rest to our lives. When we begin making small, routine adjustments to our day to include some quiet time, this promotes a release that we normally seek at the end of the day, helps us maintain self control when frustration hits, and helps us cope with patience when we experience impatience.
There are a number of things we can do to quiet the mind.
Preparing for Quiet Time
What has helped me tremendously is taking at least 5 minutes each day to eliminate certain stimuli from my environment and to sit and breathe in a space that feels comforting. Find a time that would work best for you. You can do this as part of your morning routine, a break in the afternoon, or in the evening when you are ready to wind down and relax.
Turn the lights down low or off if there is sunlight. In the evening you can even light candles, but please remember to extinguish them when you are done. I have a meditation mat (Zafu and Zabuton) I use, but you can sit “Indian style” on a pillow or on a comfortable chair, bench, or ottoman. Be in a room that has fewer distractions – no TV playing, no noise from a computer – and have an alarm clock or use a timer on your cell phone if you have one.
Dedicating this Time
I like to dedicate my quiet time or meditation as a time I’m spending with God, Spirit, or my Higher Self. In the beginning of developing my daily routine, this kept me motivated to continue on a daily basis prior to noticing the on-going benefits. You don’t have to have the same approach and it doesn’t have to be a spiritual experience for you. You can simply dedicate this time as “Me Time”, which is a great way to empower your ability to take control of your life instead of life itself having the leading role. Simply stating, “I am doing this for me,” is a great reason. You will notice positive affects from either approach as you begin implementing this quiet time on a regular basis.
Once you have your space, area, or room prepared for you quiet time, set your timer for 5 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor and your legs crossed. Rest your arms and hands comfortably in your lap. Know that these 5 minutes are yours, and everything else will be fine during this time so that you can let everything go. Your timer will let you know when to end. Close your eyes for a few deep breaths. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose; hold it for a second, and slowly breathing out release it through your nose. Do this 2-3 times, then slowly open your eyes and continue breathing regularly. Notice everything is still and calm around you. Notice your breathing pattern.
Begin counting from 1-10, breathing. With your in-breath silently count “1,” with your out-breath count “2,” your next in-breath count “3,” and so on. When you reach the count of 10 start over with “1” and continue in this fashion.
You may become distracted by nearby sounds. Be easy on yourself and identify it as sound before returning to your counting. You may notice that you start thinking about something. Again, be easy on yourself and identify it simply as a thought, and return to counting.
When the timer indicates the end of your 5 minutes, turn it off, close your eyes and take in a slow deep breath and then slowly release it. Smile and know that you are able to take the time to rejuvenate your senses.
Notice how you feel when you finish. Do you feel more at ease? Did you become aware of all the thoughts which you may not notice while you’re busy living life? These will slow down and dissipate the more you meditate. It’s not uncommon to have to refocus on your breathing if you notice many thoughts going through your mind. I have been meditating for many years and depending on my day I still will notice times when I have much bubbling up from my mind.
You can also imagine your thoughts as clouds. They will come, pass by, and disappear. The closer you are to the cloud the more caught up in thought you may be, and the further away the thought cloud floats, it becomes more observatory. Neither is good nor bad. It is what it is…thought. Gently identify this and return to counting your breath.
Developing a regular routine can result in benefits with your demeanor and outlook on life. Regular practice helps slow down the mind and can put you in a state of relaxation and calm. I find it helpful to sit on average 10-20 minutes every day. If you can do this daily, that’s great. You may decide to do this every other day or 3-4 times per week. Give yourself time to work up to 10 minutes for each sitting by adding 1-2 minutes at a time.
If you start to feel stressed and that you don’t have time to do this, that is usually an indication that you need to sit, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. If I feel stressed in the morning and feel I’m running out of time, I sit for 5-7 minutes and I find that I still arrive to work safely on time. I then am thankful as I realize I have control over my life, and not the other way around.
Your mind is powerful and can set the tone for the moment and the day – so it’s important to take good care of it.