Wherever You Go, There You Are is the title of one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books. The book is about meditation and mindfulness. The title sounds quite apparent. Of course wherever you go, there you are, however the reality is that we are so often lost in the constant trance of thoughts in our heads that we can no longer enjoy what is right in front of us.
The other evening, I went for a lovely walk with my husband. Usually, walking for me is the act of moving with purpose rather quickly from point A to arrive at point B. However, this walk was more intended to help us connect after a long week.
The walk was pleasant for a while, but I found myself getting irritated. Now, whenever I am walking with my husband, he often tells me to slow down, only he doesn’t say slow down he says, “You’re speeding up again.” (which can be quite irritating to me).
I found myself annoyed at having to alter my speed. After a few minutes of dwelling in irritation, I started to simply take a few spacious breaths and drop into the body more.
I noticed my feet touching the ground, along with the sound of each step and feeling the temperature of the breeze on my exposed skin. I began to move with more natural awareness. I began to think about why was I rushing? I didn’t have to hurry anywhere in that moment. We weren't under any time constraints, so why was I pushing so hard and fast to get to my destination. After all, our evening walk together was genuinely about connecting and talking after a long week.
When I began to ease into the stroll at a more leisurely pace, I was also able to zoom in on, being more of an attentive listener to my husband. I suddenly stopped trying so hard to get somewhere and to recognize this mindful moment of being present with where I was. It made me think back to one of Jon Kabit Zinn's book titles Wherever You Go, There You Are. This book title is such a great phrase to repeat to yourself as a reminder to not only arrive in the current moment but to try to stay in it over and over again.
After few more blocks, the pace felt good, I allowed the tension in my shoulders to drop and I even noticed my mind relaxed into the ease of just walking and enjoying my partner's company.
My husband stretched out to hold my hand as we walked. I softened some more and noticed again what was most important at this moment. This moment was allowing me to connect with a loved one and be here in my body and mind in this ever-present moment.
In reflecting on this moment, I can look back and understand that I had underlying stress and anxiety lurking below the surface which was manifesting itself during our walk. It wasn’t the actual pace of the walk that was my actual cause of irritation. However, when the feeling of irritation arose, I was able to put specific mindfulness practice into place that allowed me to better understand myself in that moment and to fall into the state of being more present and connected during the walk. And with this came a sense of gratitude and appreciation for not letting this wonderful moment be lost.
Even on difficult days, mindfulness can help us to find that sense of peace and calm if we are willing to put it into practice.
Follow Neila on Twitter at: @neilasteele
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~John F. Kennedy
The act of gratitude is an act of self-love. On the surface it may appear as an act of love towards something or someone else but in reality the benefit is ours. Being grateful is the quickest way to pull ourselves out of a negative mindset, a poor attitude, a feeling of hopelessness or a general outlook of despair. A changed outlook can happen instantaneously through the practice of gratitude. The light bulb of gratitude brings with it an instant awareness of what is good in our life. Hopelessness, negativity, and despair cannot exist in one's thoughts at the same moment of gratefulness.
In this regard, mindfulness and gratefulness are very similar. In most cases one cannot be mindful and stressed at the same time unless you perceive the moment you are being pulled into as stressful. Most stress happens because of our perception of an event that has already occurred or one that might occur. Being present in the moment eliminates both possibilities. A grateful mind cannot exist in peace with a desperate one and a negative outlook cannot share space with a grateful one.
But this takes practice and momentum. It takes practice to become grateful when your mind is telling you how many things are going wrong. It takes practice to be grateful when you find yourself in conditions which your mind would perceive as harsh, negative or stressful. That is why you might consider making gratefulness a habit. There are always things to be grateful for. Did you know that 3 in 10 people on this earth lack access to safe drinking water at home? Or that 6 in 10 lack safely managed sanitation (World Health Organization)? If you are reading this, my guess is that you have access to both. But when is the last time you thought about how clean water is available to us and who is responsible for it? That is something to be very thankful for every day. You only need to look at all that surrounds you to find things to be grateful for and being in a grateful state brings peace and a much less stressed existence.
Gratitude does take daily practice. It takes no time at all to be grateful for the shower, razor, shaving cream, soap, deodorant, clothing, car, roads, train, bus, plane and all the systems that go with it to make your daily routine possible to create your professional life.
"Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some."
Making gratitude upon rising your priority can create a dynamic day and a different way of living. Choosing just 5 things to be grateful for everyday and listing the reasons why - this is where the emotion comes in - has the power to transform your life. Creating the habit of being grateful in the morning will lead you to be grateful for more and more throughout the day and you will notice a difference in how you feel. For now, the next time you feel out of sorts and stressed, find something of which you feel grateful for. You will be grateful you did.
Follow Mike on Twitter at: @kinestheticlass
Consider two people who may be be experiencing the same predicament. Let’s call them Person A and Person B. Both are at work needing to get stuff done. Both need to print off a bunch of copies of a document for an important meeting they need to be at. Both go into the copy room and even though there are multiple photocopiers in the room, all of them are not working properly, so no copying can be done.
Person A responds by letting out a noticeably loud sigh of frustration and anger making it obvious how incredibly inconvenient and untimely this situation is for them. They go on to mumble profanities under their breath and even try pounding down on the buttons of the photocopier thinking that this will magically solve this problem.
When this doesn’t work, Person A storms out of the room and angrily heads back to their office or wherever it was they came from. On the way, they can’t help but think about other injustices that they have experienced that week. Their mind floods with recent memories of people who have annoyed and irritated them or treated them disrespectfully. With every one of these negative thoughts, their level of frustration and anxiety deepens which unknowingly begins to increase their heart rate and spike levels of cortisol in their bodies, triggering a cascade of neurological responses that only complicate and cloud their ability to think rationally in that moment. For the rest of the day, no matter what happens to them, everything that Person A experiences will just confirm the negative emotions they are experiencing. As much as they want to stop feeling this way, no relief is in sight for them as they are hooked into a negative loop of emotional response.
Now, consider Person B. Upon finding out that the photocopier is broken, they immediately feel a surge in frustration levels and can’t help but think how bad this timing is. They recognize that it’s the last thing that they need in this moment. Their day has not gone particularly well, so this certainly doesn’t help.
Instead of beginning to rage and go into emotional overdrive, Person B understands that doing so will serve no purpose. Over the past year, they have made a strong commitment to themselves to live more mindfully and to learn and practice specific mindfulness techniques with more consistently in their day-to-day life. One of the things that they’ve really worked on is breath control, particularly in difficult and stressful moments. Recognizing that the broken photocopiers have caused them to feel quite stressed and anxious, there’s no better time than now to tap into the breath.
Person B makes a conscious decision to just stand there and be present in this moment. They choose a specific technique called the 7-11 breath. They commit themselves to practicing this breath, in silence, for the next 2 minutes accepting all of the sensations that they are experiencing.
They inhale for a slow count of 7 full seconds and exhale for an even slower count of 11 seconds. They repeat this cycle of breath for the entire two minutes without trying to solve their problem or think about what they need to do next. After a few inhalations and exhalations, they begin to feel a slightly calmer state starting to reveal itself. What’s actually happening below the surface is that their focused breath work is having a direct impact on reducing levels of cortisol in their body. Cortisol is a hormone in our body that is activated when we are stressed. It serves an important purpose to us, but when too much cortisol is released, it can impact our ability to think and respond rationally to stressful situations that arise.
After the 2 minutes of focused breath work, the reality is that the photocopier issue has not been resolved. Person B still needs to figure out what to do next, however, they are in a much calmer and more rationale state in order to problem solve and identify actionable next steps.
Mindfulness and breath work are not about solving difficult problems that we experience or making stress and anxiety suddenly go away. Mindfulness and breath work can be used as our anchor points to better deal with difficult emotions when confronted with challenging experiences in our lives. Mindfulness and breath work can be practiced and over time we can improve on our ability to apply these skills and techniques in our personal and professional lives.
Are you the first person described in this story or the second person? If you are the first person, rest assured in knowing that we’ve all been there, felt that way, and responded to difficult situations in the same way. However, practicing mindfulness with regularity is a great way to learn to respond differently. The 7-11 breath described in this blog post is just one of many breath techniques that can be applied in our life.
The point is that nobody consciously chooses to be the first person described in this story. Nobody consciously sets out to have a terrible day and to seek out stressful situations. However, every one of us does have the ability to prepare ourselves for days and situations such as this. We can choose to be more mindful and to practice specific techniques and skills that can be improved on in order to allow us to respond more rationally to these experiences.
Living more mindfully can change our for the better if we are willing to take the plunge and try it out.
You can follow Andy on Twitter @andyvasily
An anonymous source once said, “If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.” I could not agree more, but continuously watch people put their own health near the bottom of their personal to-do list. This not only impacts the quality of their life but the quality of what they can provide others.
Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” If you’ve not quite made it to the bottom of your to-do list, what is gaining is not pretty. With one simple decision, today, you can change all that.
"It’s an act of love to take care of your body."
Simply stated, the greatest gift is one of loving yourself. Whether you realize it or not, this gift impacts everything you do, every action you take, every conversation you have, and every person you meet. People often put everything else ahead of their health and well-being only to be not as effective at life. We take care of our children, spouses, employment, pets, finances, friendships, homes, cars, and lawns but often pay little mind to our bodies and health. If you want to be more effective, loving, productive and useful, you must begin today by putting yourself at the top of the list.
The case for wellness in a purposeful life cannot be overstated. Realizing that everything flows back to how we feel can change your life in an instant. There is no denying that maintaining health and wellness can seem overwhelming and that it is a daily practice, but once we raise our level of living, living raises us. Think of it as “getting on the front end of things” because usually we work from the back end, where everything is a bit more difficult; frankly, a lot more difficult.
Once you get on the front end of things, life flows. What once seemed like a chore is accomplished with vigor. The end of the day no longer brings exhaustion but a rested, peaceful feeling of accomplishment and balance. More gets done and less energy is expended. What used to be tiring is now energizing. What a relief. You can be on that track. It is a choice. Change your mind, change your life. The greatest gift is one of health, wellness, energy, and vitality that you give yourself. Move yourself to top of the list right now and everyone around you will say, “thank you.”
The greatest personal gift is also a consideration, examination and implementation of the benefits of a well lifestyle. In doing so you have the potential to:
At the end of your life, all you will have is the person you’ve become. That individual will not be realized to your fullest potential if the needs of your mind and body are ignored. You are inherently well-equipped for every wellness challenge that lies ahead. With a clear destination, a lighted path and the proper tools for the trip, you will match your journey with eagerness and a new outlook which will empower your way. Here's to changing your life forever.
Follow Mike on Twitter at: @kinestheticlass
Inspiration today comes from the English poet David Whyte.
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
Do you ever ask yourself when is it enough?
Why is that I’ve finished everything on my plate and I’m still looking for something more to eat?
Isn’t it enough that I have a full belly?
Why is it that I’ve been at work all day and I’m still on the computer answering and sending emails in the evening?
Can’t it wait till tomorrow when I am back at work?
Isn’t it enough that I’ve put in an 8-hour day?
Why is that when I find myself arguing with my loved ones, why do I still feel the need to get the last word in?
Isn’t it enough that I have communicated my perspective?
Isn’t that enough?
Will I ever be satisfied with enough?
This poem is a great reminder to all of us to reflect on what we have ‘enough’ of in our life and to seek comfort in knowing that we are enough, as ourselves, in any given moment. If we are to live authentically, what we bring to the world is enough. Be aware of what our ‘enough’ is and stand by it. Understand and accept when we’ve done enough, said enough, listened enough, loved enough, eaten enough, and have been kind enough to others.
If our reflections help us to understand that we genuinely haven’t loved enough, been kind enough, listened enough, worked hard enough, paid attention enough, etc., then we must change our ways. At least reflect on our 'enoughs' and be satisfied when we've done enough to make a difference to ourselves and to others.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily