I hope you looked at the last two posts and started meditating – at least one minute per day. If you try this consistently, it will be easy to get up to five or ten minutes per day. For many people, that’s all you need until you get to a deeper level of meditation.
This post takes a step back and talks about some of the practical elements of meditation. Taken as a whole, you can consider this your meditating environment.
Ideally, you will have a regular place to meditate. This is nice because it helps you get into a meditating routine. As you begin settling in, your brain and body with start relaxing even before you sit down. You “muscle memory” for quiet time will kick in.
In the summer months, I have a wonderful spot on my back porch to meditate. It’s got a comfortable chair and a little table for my coffee. It’s not great in the winter, but during the summer it’s awesome.
The rest of the year, I have a specific chair I sit in to meditate. Again, it’s comfortable and everyone knows that that’s my quiet spot.
Your meditation spot should be a place where you can have privacy. You should be able to sit upright with your feet on the ground. Ideally, you want to ignore your body while meditating, so avoid uncomfortable positions that cause you to fidget.
When Should You Meditate?
This is obviously a personal choice. Many people prefer early morning meditation simply because quiet plus relaxing often equals sleep. If you are tired and try to meditate at night, you are very likely to fall asleep.
(As a side note, learning some relaxation exercises you can do while lying in bed is a GREAT way to fall asleep.)
I go to an evening meditation meetup sometimes. Because it’s early evening (6-ish) and doesn’t last too long, I don’t have trouble there. But if I try to do a relaxation meditation at 9:00 PM, there’s no way I can stay awake.
As with everything else regarding meditation, you need to figure out what’s best for you. Many people prefer morning because the day has not rushed upon them with a long string of demands. In fact, many people make a point of meditating before they turn on their phones, check their mail, and get sucked into the work of the day.
What Do You Need to Meditate?
Well, nothing. Some people meditate while sitting on a pillow. I have rheumatoid arthritis and that would not be very relaxing for me. Some meditate while sitting a chair. Some prefer a rocking chair or rocker glider.
Some meditations – like Yoga Nidra – are done while lying on the floor. If you try that, you will probably want to cover yourself with a light blanket. As you meditate, your metabolism will slow down and you might feel cold.
Other than that, you can do whatever makes you happy. You can light candles or incense. You can put up statues or pictures that you find relaxing or comforting. Whatever helps you to consciously slow down and “be in the moment” is good.
The teacher asked Johnny’s father why he wasn’t concerned about Johnny’s bad grades.
“Well,” he said, “I respect him for never cheating on an exam.”
Last time I started with the most basic step: close your eyes and meditation for a minute or two.
That’s pretty easy, no matter how much “monkey mind” you have. Monkey mind is that crazy blur of thoughts that jump all over inside your head when you try to meditate. Today we’re going to talk about monkey mind – and how to deal with it.
You might be tempted to say that you want to learn how to ignore monkey mind. But that’s counter-productive. Working to ignore something really means that you are giving it a lot of your attention. You need to learn to calm your mind. You need to slow down the flood of thoughts. Then you can acknowledge the thoughts but choose not to address them at this time.
Try the basic exercise from Part 1: Sit quietly, close your eyes, and try to clear your mind – for about a minute or two.
Notice that something rushes into your mind as soon as you close your eyes? It might be a worry, a bill, a memory. Whatever it is, you can choose to focus on it or to acknowledge it and set it aside. Imagine that you are taking your hand and picking it up. You might even imagine that you’re removing it from your forehead and moving it to the side. Put it down.
Now another thought enters your mind. Take note, then pick it up and put it to the side.
This is a wonderful strategy when thoughts come to you one at a time. But with monkey mind, you have dozens or hundreds of thoughts rushing in on you. It can be hard to dismiss them all. You can’t even acknowledge them all. Your focus is taken to the overwhelming list of things that need your attention.
Trust me. Everyone who meditates has to go through this. It comes and goes, but it never goes away forever. Here are some tips for addressing monkey mind. Practice them to see what works for you.
1) Acknowledge your busy mind. That is, your first step is to watch all those thoughts go by. Again, don’t try to fix anything or spend time on these thoughts, but do take stock. What does your mind want to bring to your consciousness?
Think of it like this: You’ve wanted to meet a famous person all your life. Now you’ve suddenly been given five minutes with that person. You start blabbering like an idiot, talking a mile a minute, and telling them everything you’ve ever thought about them. Your mind is doing the same thing. You finally sit down to listen to it and it’s going crazy with all the things it wants you to hear.
Acknowledge the thoughts. Take stock. See what you’re mind’s up to. Once it relaxes and understands that you’re going to do this again, the flood of thoughts will slow down.
2) Find something else to focus on. This is a key piece of mindfulness meditation. Pick a thing to focus on instead of the monkey chatter. The easiest thing to focus on is your breath. After all, you’re going to be breathing during your entire meditation! You can focus on the air moving in and out of your nose. Or focus on the movement of you chest and stomach.
When you fill your mind with something to focus on, it is easier to see the wandering thoughts as something other than the object you’re focusing on. That, in turn, makes it easier for you to pick up the thoughts and place them to the side.
3) Be mindful of the speed of thoughts wandering into your mind. When you start, the flood of thoughts is overwhelming. But after a few minutes, the flood will naturally slow down. It’s like when a water dam opens. At first, there’s a rush of water. But it slows down after the initial rush.
Your thoughts will flood your mind at first. But as you pay attention, you’ll notice that there are individual thoughts. Eventually, you’ll notice that there are spaces between the thoughts. Eventually, you’ll notice that there are more spaces than there are thoughts. Focus on the space.
Someday, if you keep practicing meditation, you will see thoughts before they are formed. In other words, you’ll learn what it feels like to begin forming a thought. As a result, you’ll be able to simply hold it off so that it never forms. As you train your mind to recognize the thinking process, it will become easier and easier to keep the monkey from chattering.
For the next week, increase your meditation by one or two minutes per day. If you want to start at one minute, that’s fine. You’ll end the week meditating for eight minutes every day. If you start at five minutes, you might finish the week meditating fifteen minutes every day.
As strange as it sounds, don’t over-do it. Don’t set yourself a goal of meditating 30-60 minutes per day as a beginner. That will be discouraging.
One minute per day is all you need.
Do what feels right for you.
You can’t meditate wrong.
Did you hear about the guy who accidentally ate soap flakes instead of corn flakes for breakfast?
He was very mad.
In fact, he was foaming at the mouth!
I have recently talked to several people who are trying to figure out how to get started with “quiet time” or meditation. So I thought I’d give you my recommendations. There are no hard, fast rules here, so relax and enjoy.
I plan to have several posts on this. So go slow and check back often. Your comments and questions are certainly welcome.
The first thing to keep in mind, if you are new to meditation, is that it’s a skill like anything else. If you haven’t done it before, you need to start somewhere. You need to learn how it feel to sit and do nothing. You need to learn how to listen and stop talking.
If you’re one of those people who always has the TV on, or the iPod, iPad, MP3 player, or some other device that requires you to have ear buds in your ears all the time, you will be particularly challenged.
Lesson one is: Be patient with yourself.
You may have heard people say “you can’t do it wrong.” That’s true if you are sincerely trying.
If you are really, truly trying meditation for the first time, I recommend you have get yourself a timer. It can be a kitchen timer or an app on your phone. Set it for one minute. I know that’s not much. But it will seem like forever if you haven’t experienced it before.
Simply sit quietly in a chair, relax, close your eyes, and wait for the minute to pass.
When the timer rings, be aware of your reaction to it. Do you say to yourself, “It’s about time!”? If you do, keep repeating the exercise every day for one minute.
When your reaction becomes “What? Already? I wonder if I set the timer wrong.” – then you are ready to set the timer for two minutes or even three.
Next time we’ll look inside your head and talk about some of those thoughts that come up in meditation.
A salesman rang the bell at a suburban home, and the door was opened by a nine-year-old boy puffing on a long black cigar.
Hiding his amazement, the salesman asked the young man, “Is your mother home?”
The boy took the cigar out of his mouth, flicked ashes on the carpet, and asked, “What do you think?”
One of the most obvious examples of “workaholism” is simply over-working. Over-working means that you continue working after you are no longer productive. You might do this out of guilt or frustration. You might just be completely overwhelmed. And that’s precisely why you need to force yourself to stop working and recharge your batteries.
Here’s the thing about too much work: Eventually, everything floats to it’s natural level. So if you exhaust yourself, your body will eventually collapse and you will catch up on sleep whether you want to or not. Or maybe you will get sick, forcing you to slow down.
Here’s what happens when you work too much. As we all know, there are “diminishing returns” from too much work. You focus too closely on what you’re doing and your brain gets tired. That’s why people who work on heavy equipment and critically important jobs (like airline pilots) are forced to take breaks. Accidents happen much more frequently when people are tired.
And tired doesn’t have to be eight or ten or twelve hours. Depending on the combination of physical and mental activities, you might be worn out after only a few hours.
Most of us don’t work on those critically important jobs. For most of us, when we get tired, there are no dire consequences. No one dies. No one is injurged. But we ARE less productive. We DO make more mistakes. And the overall quality of our work is lower. That’s why it’s important to take breaks throughout the day.
As you work day goes along, you gradually become less productive over time. So you are most productive during the first hour of work and least productive during the last hour of work. Everyone has a threshold of productivity. There is literally a point where you move from productive to un-productive. If you keep working, you will eventually be counter-productive.
Most of us are vaguely aware of the line between productive and unproductive. We tend to tell ourselves that we’re really just “less” productive. In reality, we’re making very little progress except in a mechanical sense. For example, we’re not able to write a coherent memo, but we thing we can sort files or clean up minor tasks. We don’t realize that we’re maknig mistakes.
The line between unproductive and counter-productive is essentially invisible. This is where mistakes happen. We do work that has to be thrown away, un-done, or completely re-done. We are creating re-work and don’t even realize it.
But we feel productive because we’re still working! And we feel like we’re doing something instead of nothing.
One of the biggest culprits in over-working is anxiety. You might have a deadline for work or home. (Most often, it’s work and not personal.) You may have stress related to money problems or a big project. Anxiety and worry raise the levels of cortisol in your system. (Strictly speaking, they reduce your body’s ability to regulate the production of cortisol.)
Stress and anxiety are related to sleep disturbances, early death from all causes, occupational injuries, heart attacks, suicide, risk of type 2 diabetes, divorce, breast cancer, and just about every bad thing ever in your life.
With stress, anxiety, and high levels of cortisol, your body gets “stuck” trying to address the panicky feeling you have. Your physical body wants to be “on” and to solve the problem. In some cases, this is good behavior. But the classic example of fighting off a saber tooth tiger should be enough for you to realize that you almost never find yourself in a true fight-or-flight situation.
As a long-term, chronic condition, this is very, very bad.
Physically, your body is 100% ON and wants to stay on. At the same time, you are unproductive, tired, and probably irritable. When you slip into being counter-productive, you don’t even realize it.
You’re essentially in a panic. You can’t sleep because your body is filled with natural chemical stimulants. You are making no effective progress. And you’ve into the counter-productive zone.
You can’t relax. You can’t stop.
… And that’s exactly why you HAVE TO stop. You have to force yourself to NOT WORK.
Breaking the Cycle
The best way to get yourself out of this high-anxiety over-working situation is to train your body to relax. Here are a few tips:
1) Physically put the work down. Wrap it up. Put it away. Go in the other room. Whatever it takes to be out of the work area, do it.
2) Engage in a non-work activity. This might be reading, watching TV, writing, or even playing a game of solitair on your phone. Your brain might only be half-engaged, but it’s not engage in work.
3) Meditation can train your brain to slow down. Meditation reduces stress. In fact, studies show that it reduces cortisol quite significantly. Meditation also increases endorphins – the feel good chemicals associated with love and pleasure.
4) Pour yourself a cup of tea – or a glass or wine. The ritual, along with the senses of smell and taste, will become a powerful signal to your body that work is done for the day.
Relaxation is a habit. Once you train yourself to relax, your body will learn to respond. After you learn to relax, your brain will literally pick up the signs of relaxation and help you to get there quicker. Once you’ve broken out of the anxiety/work cycle, you need to rest. Whether that means sleep or play, you will recharge your batteries as long as you are not trying to work.
And don’t try to cheat! If you say “Well, I’m *just* reading, or *just* doing this one thing …” your brain still knows that you’re working. Any attempt to work will prolong the stress and the anxiety. You have to really stop working in order to break the cycle.
Tomorrow will always be there. And it will always have work to do, and bills to pay. Tomorrow will always bring temptations to over-work.
In the long run, you will get more productive work accomplished when you are well rested. But that’s a habit you have to create.
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with RA – Rheumatoid Arthritis. This Fall is the 15th anniversary of my diagnosis for RA. I wrote the following notes to help my friend with this disease, which she will have for the rest of her life.
If you are newly-diagnosed with RA, or you are close to someone with RA, I hope this is helpful.
– – – – –
First, I am very sorry that you have R.A. There’s no fun here. I hope you were properly diagnosed by a good doctor. The single biggest problem with R.A. newbies is that they are mis-diagnosed. Either they are told they have something else, or the R.A. diagnosis is made late. In some cases – such as Kathleen Turner – patients are mis-diagnosed for years. The result is usually crippling deformity.
Here are my thoughts on treating R.A. Take it all as one person’s experience. I have been diagnosed with R.A. for 15 years this Fall. And it is pretty well under control. I have some level of pain every day, but it’s quite tolerable.
Second, I highly encourage you to ignore all “natural” medicines, potions, etc. I don’t know what your opinions are about western medicine, vitamins, or homeopathy. But here’s the truth: If you do not properly treat R.A., you will become crippled. There’s an excellent chance that you will get your disease under control with the right medications. If you treat yourself with vitamin supplements, etc., that’s the same as no medicine at all. You will become crippled if you ignore this.
Everyone you meet will tell you about glucosamine, chondroitin, bananas, akai berries, and magnets. They all mean well, but you need to nod politely and listen to your doctor. Also – remember that R.A. is nothing like osteo arthritis. R.A. is an immune disease in which your body attacks itself. Osteoarthritis is one of those diseases that everyone gets if they live long enough. It has to do with the wearing out of your joints. Whether or not you have R.A., you will probably also get osteoarthritis some day.
Third, the real medicines that actually get the disease under control are very nasty. They will make you tired. The disease will also make you tired. Some medications will make it hard for you to sleep. The pain will come and go with or without the medicines. It will just “go” more often with the medicines.
The medicines fall into two categories: Control the disease and control the pain. Do not confuse these. And always be very clear what each medicine is for. For controlling the disease you may be prescribed medicines such as Plaquenil, Methotrexate, and Arava. Each of these has side effects. Everyone responds differently.
As for pain, I highly encourage you to do everything you can to minimize the pain medication you take. Pain is not the same as suffering. You will live with pain the rest of your life. You can learn to live with it or numb yourself. Just be aware that being permanently numbed will affect every aspect of your life and can lead to drug addiction and alcohol abuse in an attempt to escape the pain.
Personally, I prefer Aspirin for pain. As long as you are religious about taking food with your aspirin, you can safely take very large amounts. It is the safest pain reliever you can find, and has almost zero side effects.
Work with your doctor. Be attentive to whether the medicines are helping, and which side effects you are experiencing. The most common approach to R.A. newbies is to crush the disease into submission with a series of horrible drugs. Keep working on it. It may take years to get under control. Ideally, at that point, you’ll move to something like Arava or Enbrel, which are true miracle drugs.
Fourth, you need a good Rheumatologist (“Rheumy”) who takes you seriously. Good means that they keep up on the literature and research. It means they understand the role of exercise and stretching/yoga as well as pharmacology. It means they listen to you and respond in a timely manner. If you have doubts about your doctor, get another one ASAP. Especially early on, time is your enemy. You need to take this disease seriously and your Rheumy needs to be your ally.
Fifth, you need to educate yourself. Subscribe to Arthritis Today. Check out web sites that are run by legitimate medical outfits. Join an email list or web forum and read what other people are going through. When you’re comfortable, talk about your symptoms and experiences. It helps to know that you are not alone in this.
Sixth, I have found that daily meditation is a GREAT way to handle R.A. Meditation has many benefits. The most important here are 1) It reduces inflammation, and 2) It can help you manage pain. There’s a great audio program by Shinzen Young on using meditation to manage pain. I highly recommend it.
I was just exchanging notes with someone about the pain I experienced in yoga today. She asked whether it was good or bad. Pain is neither good nor bad. It is just pain. Sometimes the pain makes you limit your movements. But, really, it’s YOU limiting your movements, not the pain. When you sit differently or limit your movements, you will have a temporary change in the nature of pain, but you may be permanently limiting your movements. Be careful.
Seventh, you should do yoga. Personally, I love the hot Bikram yoga for several reasons. The heat makes everything in my body feel better. In addition, Bikram yoga consists of the same postures each time, in the same order. That means I can learn what to expect and I can gauge how I’m doing today vs. some other day.
I am told endlessly (by everyone at every opportunity) that yoga is a “practice” and that I shouldn’t worry about getting it “right.” That sounds great, but I’ve been doing yoga for fifteen years and I only do one pose consistently well: Savasana.
Yoga strengthens the muscles in a gentle way. It reduces inflammation. It has a meditative quality. It can make you sore in the short term, but will reduce pain overall in the long term.
The best part about yoga is that it teaches you a mindfulness about your pain. If you do two sets of each pose, one on the left side and one on the right, then you will have four opportunities to check in with your body. In many cases I find that I can’t do the first (right side) at all; I can do the second (left side) a little; I then do the third very well; and can’t do the fourth well.
The point is: you pain moves every minute. The last stretch, which seemed unproductive, loosened things up. Don’t stop because you couldn’t do something two minutes ago. “How do you feel now?” means NOW. This instant, not two minutes ago.
Eighth, you need to work on exercise and weight control – for the rest of your life. As with yoga, all exercise is useful. You need to do what you can do. More and more, you won’t be able to jump, slam, hit, or play hard. So a lot of aerobic exercise is out. Weight lifting will probably be severely limited.
But you need to keep moving. Riding a bike, walking. Whatever keeps you moving.
Exercise reduces inflammation, strengthens muscles, and burns calories. Weight control is very important with R.A. because you can’t exercise as much as you used to. And added weight means added pressure on your joints – especially the hips, knees, and ankles.
Obviously, that means you need to watch your diet because you can’t burn as many calories as you used to with exercise. So you need to manage in-take very carefully.
Ninth, you will experience flare-ups (flares) that are worse than your normal level of pain, discomfort, sleeplessness, exhaustion, etc. As you work to get your A.R. under control, you will gradually have fewer and fewer flares.
No matter what, you need to take flares seriously. Don’t push yourself too hard. That can make the flare worse, and make it last longer.
Every flare represents a (temporary) step backward with the disease. Each flare is an opportunity for your joints to be damaged a little before you get back on track to a stable state. If you have too many flares, you will eventually have the kind of joint damage you’re trying to avoid with medicines, diet, and exercise.
Keep track of your flares and tell your doctor. If they become too frequent, it may mean that your disease is no longer responding to your medicine. This is VERY common. You may need to be switched to a different regimen. Again, take it very seriously.
I have found very few things that I can associate with flares. One is very acidic food (like vinegar and cucumber salad). Another is lack of exercise.
Overall, there’s a lot you can do with R.A. It is a chronic disease. That means you will have it for the rest of your life. Right now we don’t have a cure. So you need to manage it, even if you never become friends with it.
Consider getting a hot tub. Absolutely the best monetary investment I ever made in my health.
And remember, with all the advice on exercise and yoga and eating right: It’s okay if you forget. It’s okay if you get off track. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. Just remember to start over, get back on track. When you don’t do the things you’re supposed to do, you will have more pain, more inflammation, and more weight. When you do the things you’re supposed to do, you’ll have less pain, less inflammation, and less weight.
Again, this is all based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Comments off · Posted by karlp in Balance, Beliefs, Business, Challenges, Exercise, Family, Goals, Meditation, Muscles of Success, Patience, Positive Attitude, Relax Focus Succeed®, Vision or Mission, Wealth, Workaholism
Relax Focus Succeed®
Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both
Five Mondays – July 28 – Aug. 25, 2014
Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.
Save $50 right now with code RFSClass
This course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.
This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us donâ€™t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.
Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to managed and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.
Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.
This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.
Topics to be presented include:
- Balance your personal and professional lives
- Focus on the single most important things in your life
- Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
- Relax – in a meaningful way
- Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
- Put the past – and your present – in their place
- Build your muscles of success
- Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
- Avoid being interrupt-driven
- Slow Down, Get More Done
- Work less and accomplish more
- Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
- Build quiet time into your life
The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.
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