Tag Archives: Live in the Present

Are you full of…discipline?

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I always catch myself in the excuse, “I don’t have enough time.” Frankly, to a degree it is true – I pack my life to the brim and expect nothing less than to be busy and to live my life to the fullest.

And yet, what does it mean to be full? What is the use of consuming everything if we don’t take time to digest what we are going through? What is the point of another experience if we cannot recall it or harness it for a purpose – big or small?

As I get older, these are some of the questions I sit with when I have time to think. So what am I going to do about it? Of course…I’m going to add one more thing to do on my to-do list: I’m going to stop do-ing for the sake of being full and start be-ing…more disciplined with my actions.

There is a difference between “getting things done” and being disciplined. We often confuse accomplishment and task-oriented lifestyles with success, when in reality, when we are not present in what we are doing, we are simply performing a series of acts without awareness to ourselves or to others.

Discipline is something that has gotten a bad reputation over the years. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting results is insanity, right? And it’s boring, too. Well, not totally true. We need discipline in order to build character and in order to build anything, really. Even Pablo Picasso had a systematic routine behind his creative process. Discipline seemed to take him to some interesting heights.

So I ask myself and other wanderers and dabblers out there, what prevents us from acting with discipline in our lives? Why do we fill our days with experiences and things without putting much thought into what we are doing?

I keep a yoga mat at work in case I feel inspired to take a break and practice.

I have my theories, but that is not what this post is about. This post is about my declared commitment to getting back into a routine. My first step began a month ago when I finally took the leap of faith and signed up for a 9-month yoga teacher training. For those that know me, you may wonder what makes this training any different from all the other programs I have done. I asked myself the same question.  With this sign on, it’s different because  I am not just moving literally and figuratively through the motions, I am being present, and I am finding yoga is a great conduit for creating the discipline I need in my life.

For those interested, feel free to join me: I’m starting with 5 minutes of yoga a day for one month (3- A Sun Salutations: see photo below). Seems like an unfortunate dedication for a yoga teacher-in-training, but the point is not the quantity of the exercise, but it is the commitment that I am after. Don’t get me wrong, nice abs would be a bonus, but it’s the character and stable foundation that I want to build. As a result of this practice I am finding two things already:  I do have enough time to do what I want to do;  I just need to be more aware of the way I spend my time. When I am present, I can make sure that what I “do” aligns with who I want to be.

Practice: Where do you lack discipline in your life? Where do you have discipline in your life? When can discipline be harmful and when can it be helpful as it relates to your health and well-being? …To your relationships? … To your career/personal development? What is one thing you’ve wanted to commit to but haven’t had the discipline to do? Can you find the time to carve out 5 minutes a day to do something you care about 5 days a week? Try it out for a month. Journal about your experience. If it brings you joy and the results you need, consider continuing with it. If it doesn’t then try something else. Remember the point is to practice discipline, the outcome is less important.

My practice if you want to join: Sun Salutation A

1) Inhale 2) Exhale 3) Inhale 4) Exhale 5) Inhale 6) Exhale – then stay for 5 inhales/exhales 7) Inhale 8) Exhale 9) Inhale 10) Repeat.

 

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The Summer Day(s)

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Wherever we live, summer time tends to push our biological clocks at a faster pace than during the other seasons. I certainly never seem to avoid the busyness that accompanies summer, and unlike many businesses and fairs that are booming around town during this time of the year, my blog closes up shop for three months. It’s truly a slow season here. And that’s okay. Although summer is busy and full of fun activities, it is also a season meant for relaxing and noticing. It’s a time to take life in at it’s fullest – even if its taking a deep breath in the quietest of moments.

This past weekend I spent some time in the garage going through some boxes that have been untouched since we moved to our new space in March. I came across a crate of various papers, articles, and business cards that I have been collecting over the years and found this poem by Mary Oliver, which I think captures the moment.  I am posting the poem mainly so I can toss out the paper, but also so I can remind myself to take time to soak in the rest of summer, not judge myself too harshly about how I spend my days–just as long as I am being present and honoring my one wild and precious life.

Good Summer Day(s) to you!

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

The grasshopper; I mean–

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and be blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver~

 

Success ≠ Happiness

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How do you balance the challenge of what it means to be successful? Does success mean working harder? Does success mean striving to be better? Does success mean “doing” more? According to the way we are socialized, the answer is typically, “Yes,” to all three questions. Yet, this view-point is so far from the truth, because it fails to celebrate and acknowledge the joys that occur in the present moment. Which is why I decided to put my work away today and visit this neglected but dearly loved, blog of mine.

Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk nails it. Our society tends to believe that the external world can predict how happy people are. We see someone with a nice job, a new car, a lovely house, a handsome lover, an ivy league education, etc., and we assume life must be good for them. Just like we assume, if we become more successful and have more nice, pretty things that we, too, may be happier.

This mentality is misleading, and it is time to break the spell as individuals and as a community and to start recognizing what really makes us happy. Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk mentions that 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world (things we have/things we do) but by the way our brain processes the world (our internal self/our outlook). He goes on to illustrate how our personal and collective perspectives can impact the world within us and around us.

He explains that by raising positive thinking and optimism in the present moment, instead of focusing on future-oriented/desired success, we will become happier living in the moment. This resulting happiness and shift in perspective activates all learning centers in our brain and raises our intelligence, creativity, and overall energy.

While his talk is framed around how we can improve our success at work, it really is about how we can improve and reclaim the direction of our life, health, and happiness. Which direction will you take?

Shawn’s Recommended Exercise: Train your brain to become more positive by making optimism a habit. Try out all or any of these 5 activities for 21 days, and you will be on your way to teaching your brain to scan for the positive rather than the negative.

1. Write out 3 gratitudes a day.

2. Journal about a positive experience you had each day.

3. Make time for exercise – it helps remind you that behavior does matter.

4. Meditate to help you overcome your culturally acquired ADHD.

5. Perform random acts of kindness, practice compassion. It makes you and the world happier.

If you need to be reminded how important it is to raise your optimism levels in the present moment and let go of the illusion that success = happiness, then this is the video for you. I highly recommend.