Browsing Tag

slow down

Fitness, Health

Walking meditation for folks who can’t sit still

Who needs meditation the most? Busy people. Those of us who are not naturally calm. People who have a lot on their mind.

We know that we can benefit from time to quiet our mind, but finding the space for quiet can be hard.

I’ve had both family and friends tell me that they can’t find time to meditate. They don’t feel that they have enough hours in the day or they aren’t the type of people who can sit still easily. So they ask how they can incorporate meditation into their lives if they can’t sit still.

No judgment if people aren’t ready or don’t want to sit in a traditional meditation posture. There are other ways to get the benefits of a meditative mindset even if you don’t want to sit in one spot.

Through my yoga studies and personal experience, I have learned that we can calm our mind even when we are moving. Whether we are flowing through yoga postures, hiking in the mountains or strolling our neighborhood, we can move mindfully and create head space.

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely or to think about nothing, rather meditation is designed to help you become aware of your thoughts as they appear so you don’t become consumed by them. If your mind jumps all over the place from thought to unrelated thought, you are experiencing a phenomenon known as “monkey mind.” And you are not alone.

Many of us wrestle with thoughts that jump all over the place. Thoughts like, “I’m hungry. How far is it from San Francisco to Tokyo? I should Google that. I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I wonder what they are thinking about me. Do I have lettuce stuck in my teeth?” Our minds bounce all over the place, even when we are trying to focus on a project, a task or the present moment.

Meditation is an avenue that allows you to acknowledge your random thoughts and let them go.

We all can begin to tame our monkey mind simply by acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without letting them consume us. This consciousness can be attained through a walking meditation if you don’t have the time or inclination to literally sit with your thoughts.

How to Engage in a Walking Meditation

This is not your typical city walk. You want to reduce outside distractions as much as possible, including traffic, pot holes and other dangers. You will be turning your focus inward, so find a space with even trails or sidewalks that will allow you to do so. Also, leave the technology behind. A walking meditation is a time to be alone with your thoughts.

As you begin your walk, be mindful of the world around you. Notice the noises nearby. Are birds singing? Do you hear traffic?

Then, as you walk, tune in to sounds farther away. Can you make out specific sounds from the overall din of the soundscape?

Then turn the focus inward. Keeping your eyes gazed on the path ahead, become mindful of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow? Are you breathing into your back? Just notice.

Then see if you can maintain a rhythm with the breath. Most of us will need to slow down our breathing. Focus on making the inhalation and exhalation approximately the same length. Keep this focus for a minute or two.

And all this time, you are still moving. You may notice that your walking pace has slowed. That is ok.

Breathe.

Now it is time to turn your focus to your thoughts.

Notice what thought bubbles up in your mind, acknowledge it, thank the thought, and let it go. Bring your awareness back to the breath.

Don’t become discouraged if your mind drifts away to another time and place. Find the breath and begin again.

Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, thank it and let it go. Bring your focus back to the breath. See if you can stay in the present a little bit longer this time.

Keep walking, breathing, and noticing.

It’s a journey. Noticing our thought patterns and quieting our minds isn’t easy. But it’s worth it every step of the way.

Meditation Garden
Family, Simplify

Finding Pockets of Simplicity In Chaos

It’s already been a day and its only noon. My 3-month-old is particularly fussy this morning and my 3-year-old has managed to acquire pink eye. I have been running around the house all morning trying to wash everything that my 3-year-old could have possibly touched before we realized her condition. It got me thinking…

So many of us are busy, busy, busy. Even if you dream of a slower pace, when you currently have a full plate, how do you slow down? How do you find pockets of simplicity? Especially when you encounter periods that are especially chaotic.

Even amid our busiest, most overwhelming days, we can find pockets of simplicity. It will look different for everyone, but it can be done.

Here are a few ideas that I have tried:

  • Breathe. Do you have time to close your eyes and breathe? Even a 30 second time out to breathe can help bring things into perspective.
  • Clean one small area if you feel like your surroundings are closing in on you. If you desk is overflowing with paper or your kids have made a mess of your house, you may feel extra stress. Feeling like you have control of one area of your environment can make all the difference. Even if it is a corner of your desk or part of your kitchen counter.
  • Reduce your use of technology. How often do you have to check email or social media? Can you put your phone down to engage in other aspects of your life? Set limits.
  • Find a place of quiet. Even if for a few minutes.
  • Find the positive. What is good in your life?

Today is one of my more chaotic days. I am taking time to sit still and breathe when there are gaps between calls for Mama’s help. It helps keep things in perspective. And with a fussy baby, I am thankful for any pockets of quiet that come my way.

Let’s see if I can continue to follow my own advice today.

How do you cultivate simplicity on your particularly chaotic or stressful days?

Family, Simplify

The challenges of simple living when you run a brick-and-mortar business

I daydream that my husband and I own a business that allows us to work from home, or better yet, from any location we want.

Yet my husband runs his family business, so that is not the case. And there is nothing simple about running a brick-and-mortar small business.

When employees don’t show up, then guess who must step in? Yep, we do. When a customer demands something above and beyond, they demand to talk to the owner. And guess who that is?

No one cares as much about your business as you do.

And I’ll share with you a dirty little secret kept by many small business owners.

Once you have been burned by employees or vendors, then you become smarter, and you may hold your cards closer to your chest. This means that you are less likely to let go of work that you really should allow someone else to do. But you won’t let it go because you have been taken advantage of, and you still aren’t over it.

Sigh.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for most of us it doesn’t mean the ability to shorten our work weeks. At least not yet. Simple living when running a brick-and-mortar business

It means doing the most important work to build your business, safeguarding what you need to, and then delegating the rest.

There is an art to knowing what work you should do yourself and what to delegate to others. Sometimes it all seems too important to delegate. And that is when life really gets out of balance.

I’ll be honest. It can be frustrating sometimes.

We are learning to step away and scan the whole business system to make more strategic decisions. It is just too easy to get lost in the day-to-day details of running a business and not take the time to think of its future direction and how to be more efficient.

But if we can continue to force ourselves to look at the big picture on a regular basis, that means that we can spend more time with our family away from work.

Luckily, our home life is fairly simple.

And when you already live simply at home, it gives you breathing room when the small business isn’t quite there yet.

Just sitting on a porch swing
Health, Simplify

The Joy of Just sitting

When was the last time you found yourself just sitting?

Not sitting watching TV or surfing the web. Just sitting.

No cell phone checking. No listening to music or podcasts. All devices turned off.

No distractions.

Tuning into your surroundings with no particular conversation to be had. It doesn’t matter if you are inside or outside, sitting on the couch or lounging in the grass. The key is to just sit and be.

Sitting while  listening to the sounds of your environment, alone with your thoughts.

Just being.

Try it today.

yin yoga supported forward fold
Fitness

Want to slow down? Try Yin Yoga

Do you practice yoga? If so, do you like sweating through a power yoga class or relaxing into a slow stretch class?

After taking a 40-hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Paul Grilley in 2012, I started incorporating supported yin postures in the vinyasa yoga classes I taught. The students loved the support and deep stretch at the end of an otherwise intense practice. It was a time to slow down and just breathe.

I love taking yin classes for their deep stretch and their ability to balance out muscle groups that might be too tight from overuse. For me, this is typically my hip flexors and chest muscles from sitting at a computer all day.

Even if you are devoted to power yoga or generally prefer to avoid yoga altogether, you can benefit from slowing down in yin yoga postures on a regular basis. Yin prevents injury by stretching connective tissues like tendons, ligaments and fascia. Connective tissues don’t usually get the release they need when holding stretches for 30 seconds or flowing through postures. Using pillows and blankets for support allows you to hold most yin poses for the 3-5 minutes needed for maximum benefit.

“The” shoulder stretch

yin yoga shoulder stretchFor years my left shoulder was always injured and tight. Nothing helped, not physical therapy, not rest, not strength training. Of course, I was also waiting tables and injuring it over and over again. I forgot what it was like to have a pain-free shoulder with a full range of motion. When I started practicing yin yoga, I was able to decrease pain and move again. I could lift things over my head without a second thought. I was a new woman!

Yin Yoga Helps You Slow Down

I didn’t begin practicing yin yoga to decrease shoulder pain. I decided to try it to slow down. I was in grad school and studying consumed my life. I needed a release, a place where I could relax and do nothing. So I tried Yin. My sleep improved and I was more focused. Only then did I slowly begin to realize that my shoulder was feeling better too.

How To Yin

Though yin yoga focuses on opening the hips, my first teacher taught postures for shoulders too. I still practice my favorite shoulder posture nearly every day. And I use props, which means lots of pillows, blocks and blankets so I can feel cozy and relaxed in each pose. Truth be told, pillows and blankets from around your house work just as well as fancy studio bolsters. If you feel supported and can relax into a pose, then you are all good.

Of course, please make sure to do what is best for your body and check in with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

Have you tried Yin Yoga? What helps you relax and find center?

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