Making ‘Being’ a Priority

Wanting to do it all – is magical thinking. If one has a tendency to not only being greedy with experiencing life (and all it has to offer) but also valuing doing things for others and for oneself, it is quite clear that there are not enough hours in a day to do everything one would want to do.
We have heard it: we need to prioritize.
But prioritizing is so hard when one is up to one’s neck with projects, commitments and an overflowing To Do list – not to mention all the tempting distractions of the digital age.
Choosing to do less may well be the only way out.
One approach of thinking about managing our time is to liking it to tidying a room. The more stuff we have the harder it is to keep on top of it. So the first step is to reduce clutter quite radically. The second is to find a place for the things we really want to keep and to keep them in their place. Thirdly, we need the discipline to stop acquiring more stuff – and when we do adopt new items – we need to get rid of old ones. Lastly, and quite importantly, we need to have empty space to move around (and simply breathe).
Put simply: less stuff creates more space.
and ‘doing less’ allows for ‘being more’
Is it time we made ‘being’ a priority?

This series of posts are part of Incrementally – a 366 day writing challenge.

Photo by Damir Bosnjak 

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Taking care of ourselves

Taking care of ourselves

Looking after ourselves is a sacred act. I am not talking here about occasionally treating ourselves “because we are worth it”, nor am I suggesting emphasizing self-centred activities, rather it is about caring for our mind and body regularly as if it was a temple. But what does it mean practically to take care of ourselves?

First and foremost, it is about having the right attitude. It starts with loving-kindness. We cannot properly look after anything or anyone unless we have respect. In other words, regardless of how healthy we are, we must appreciate our bodies and our minds as they are. Being grateful is the opposite of taking things for granted. It is essential that we are grateful for that heart that is beating; for all the different functions of the body; for our senses that feel, that see, that hear, that smell and that taste; for our brains and our abilities to think and question; for our faculty of adaptation and our potential to apply our wisdom.

We need to understand who we are and to have unconditional love for ourselves, and that means letting go of ideas about how we should be. It is fine to have good intentions but much too often we spend a tremendous amount of energy struggling to live up to our ideals and feel frustrated. To accept ourselves as we are – as a fact – without identifying with it or fixing it – is powerful. It is only when we really see something for what it is that we are freed up to act and go beyond the present state.

Once we have accepted who we are, it is possible to change mindfully. A good place to start is on establishing a healthy rhythm. Some of our most basic physical needs require regularity, like sleeping, eating, exercising, and relaxing. They form the basis of self-care and what the French call “hygiene de vie”. All those needs can be improved if we put our attention to them and give them space in our schedules. Over the last few months, I have managed to establish a good morning and evening routine and I am amazed about how it has impacted my overall well-being. Contrastly, I am now away from home and I have had a very erratic  rhythm and I really feel disorientated and emotionally tired.

Finally, we need to do quite the opposite with our thinking, relationships, and active life. Habits, routine and staying in our comfort zones really does not nourish our souls. Our thoughts much too often go in circles, our relations can become stale and our work monotone. Self-care in this arena is to be creative, alert and ready to take risks. Although neither supple or strong, I am currently doing a month-long bi-lingual Ashtanga yoga teacher training course in Barcelona. Not only am I learning language (Spanish), but I am also having to adapt to a whole new way of understanding my body limits. It is of course not necessary to travel or learn a new skill to renew ourselves, it just requires the willingness to think differently and the desire to meet life afresh every day. A good friend of mine once remarked:

“The body needs regularity and routine and the mind does not – but we tend to do it the other way round. We sleep, eat and exercise erratically and feed our brains the same food”.

Taking care of ourselves is about learning the art of living and addressing our physical, intellectual and emotional needs. Our bodies need rituals and our minds need freedom.

L.

Photo: Joshua Sortino

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Impeccable intentions

Impeccable intentions

Whereas it is invaluable to stay mindful of the present moment as much as possible, we also have an ability to guide our future actions with intelligence by using meaningful intentions. What are intentions and can we ensure that they cause no harm?

This is a complex topic, and I will only attempt here to share my understanding and experience of using ‘conscious’ intentions in my daily life.

An intention is a conscious thought with an anchor in the heart. It is ‘potential’ waiting to take form. I distinguish intentions from goals in two ways: firstly they are more open-ended and less measurable, and secondly, they are more process-focused. They give a direction, but they are somewhat more detached from the results. Our intentions influence many of our actions and reactions, so it is crucial that we learn to become aware of them and to question them.

Some intentions can be misguided and can arise from ambition, fear, greed, jalousie, anger or revenge. These will inevitably cause harm, not only to others but also to ourselves. It is important that we align our intentions to our moral compass. We can also learn to let go of questionable intentions by clearly seeing  that they are not worthy of pursuit. Regular meditation and silence can help us letting go of the negative and fragmented thoughts. Our minds are our inner sanctum, and we should have respect for what goes into it. Equally, we have a responsibility not to spread the wrong kind of energy and actions with ill-considered intentions.

Another issue with intentions is that they change, accumulate and at times even conflict with one another. For us to be more effective, it is important to declutter our mental landscape and to focus on few simple intentions. Having clarity of purpose can help us focus on what is essential.

Each day, I have moments when I can reflect on my intentions. I start first thing in the morning – with writing a longhand page where I clear my mind of all sort of thoughts, and sometimes during the process new or forgotten intentions surface. Secondly, I picture the day ahead and write down a series of wishes – it is not a list of things-to-do per se – it is more like a potential menu of activities. Then, I sit quietly for about fifteen minutes and let go of my planning mind. If I have an opportunity, I lie down for a nap after lunch and again drop everything for about twenty-five minutes. Finally, before going to bed, I finish the day feeling grateful by writing one sentence that captures some of the highlights – noticing how my intentions might have influenced my waking hours.

The whole movement of thought is very complex, but the more we pay attention to it and the more we attempt to understand it, the more we can address our actions. If we identify that some of our intentions may cause harm, it is our responsibility to remove them promptly before they take root and grow out of control. This foundational work may not be easy, but I believe that it is the most valuable contribution we can make to the world.

Breather*

Photo: Vikas Kanwal

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Create Space


Space

We need space. To start understanding the chemistry of change, we have to be actively involved in the process and create the necessary space. Now that we have committed to making a change, we need to prepare the ground and establish a rhythm. Although the main intention is to create a positive habit, the process is what matters.  In the next six weeks, I am going to do my best to share the relevant learning that comes along the way.

A habit is a bit like a piece of furniture – it needs physical space. Therefore, it is important to choose the right habits if we don’t want to clutter our lives. We can, of course, try something and later realise that we don’t want it, but ideally, it is desirable to think carefully and to listen to one’s intuition before we commit to making a change. Once committed, you have to create a space for it both physically and psychologically. This may require moving other things to make space for it. This is where the Habit Plan comes in.

The advice today is to write up a simple plan that is easy to implement. Here is mine

The Morning Writing Practice Habit

Start date: 15 May 2016
Specific habit: Writing or rewrite for at least 25 minutes a day
Trigger: After my morning meditation
Reminder: Night before (reading Zen Habits book)
Review dates: 21 & 28 May, and 4, 11 & 18 June
Accountability: LYL (Live Your Legend) – Creators’ Guild
Commitment: One blog post a day for the next six weeks
Asking for support: Live Your Legend – Action & AccountabilityTeam
Potential obstacles: Taking too long to rewrite and edit the blog post
Log: Breangelo blog
Who will you share the plan with?: The readers of this blog.

Finally, there is the where and the when that still needs to be finalised. It helps to have a special space which one associates with a new habit. My desk in the study facing the morning sun is an ideal place that I associate with writing already. I can set a timer and use Freedom for an uninterrupted twenty-five-minute stretch. As far as the time of the day, I will use the already established MIT slot between my morning meditation and my run. Of course, I can always write more, but the most important to start with is to show up and stop before one tires.

Space has been created, the next step is to go up the rabbit hole!

See you tomorrow,

Breather*

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