RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed®. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com.

CAT | Meditation

Feb/17

5

Mindfully Unplugging

I’m an amateur photographer. So when I see something really cool that I could share with others, my natural reaction is to take a picture. But there’s one important time when I can’t.

I love my hot tub. From this relaxing location I look across my back yard to a vine-covered fence where orange trumpet flowers invite hummingbirds. It’s also a resting place for birds and a playground for squirrels. And every once in awhile I see something that would make a perfect picture.

My hot tub is also a great place to meditate. I’m totally unplugged, warm, relaxed, and I have great scenery.

( I didn’t take this picture )

A few days ago I spotted a mommy and baby squirrel making their way across the top of the vines. Every once in a while they would stop and all I could see was two tails sticking up from the leaves. I thought, “What a great picture!”

But here’s the deal: I’m not taking my camera in the hot tub. It would take me less that a minute to either drop it or splash it. So I’m just not going to take the chance. And while I have a bit of frustration about that, it’s also a blessing.

There are times when you need to put down the technology and just enjoy the moment – knowing that it cannot be captured. You can choose to live in this moment or spend your time fretting because you can’t do anything but live in the moment.

Some people define “mindfulness” as emptying your mind. Dismissing all thoughts. Stopping the flow of images and ideas through your head. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Being mindful truly means to stop and notice what’s going through your head. It means acknowledging what you see and hear. And then, without dwelling on it or passing judgement, continuing the journey of being mindful.

People often ask me if their running or swimming or other exercise counts as meditation. My answer is always: As long as you are unplugged. Exercising while listening to a book or songs with words is great. But you’re filling your head with those words. And as a result, you’re not fully focused on the activity and the experience. It’s not bad in any way. But it’s not the same as mindful meditation.

Even if you don’t have a hot tub, you can choose to unplug and practice quiet time without external stimuli.

Sometimes the experience is as simple as a chattering squirrel.

:-)

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My latest Relax Focus Succeed video is live on YouTube.

Some people are reluctant to get into “mindfulness” meditation. First, they’re not sure what it is. Second, they are afraid they won’t do it right.

Along those lines, many people have tried some kind of meditation and report they they “just can’t do it” because they can’t sit quietly. You need to be aware that you can’t do anything once and be good at it! So you can’t try sitting in a chair for sixty seconds and report that you’re not able to be mindful.

Mindfulness consists of simply being aware of what is happening right now at this moment.

It takes practice to quiet your mind. But you start by being overwhelmed with monkey mind thoughts. Every step along the way from noisy to quiet is part of the process of quieting your mind. So you can’t do it wrong. You simply need to try to experience what’s happening. Quietude will happen over time.

In the video I give the example of simply sitting and being aware of what’s happening to you. You may find it easier to sit quietly with your eyes closed just because visual stimuli can be quite enticing. So it’s easier to avoid distraction if you simply close your eyes. Eventually, you will enjoy opening your eyes and add that information to your mindfulness.

Why practice mindfulness? That’s a lengthy topic for sure. But the short answer is that there is tremendous value in observing what is happening in your life in real time. In many cases, we would all be better served by taking a few seconds and evaluating what is happening to us before we respond. But all too often, we respond almost automatically. Why? Because we have no practice of stopping and observing things as they are in the moment.

The practice of mindfulness while sitting in your chair at home can be the first step at viewing the world as it is without filters. With practice, you can choose to try this when you’re going through your normal daily routine.

Please watch the video. Like it if you like it. Share it.

And leave any comments you have.

:-)

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Relax Focus Succeed®

– Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both

Taught by Karl W. Palachuk, Author and Coach

– Five Tuesdays – June 28 – July 26, 2016 – Register Now

– All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

 

DESCRIPTION:

Relax Focus Succeed (R) by Karl W. PalachukThis 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 don’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 manage 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.

In this course you’ll learn a new approach to balancing the demands in your life – and learn some strategies for building the life you want and deserve.

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.

You will learn how to:

  • 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.

Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.

Includes five weeks of teleclasses with related handouts, assignments, and “office hours” with the instructor.

 

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Over the last year I’ve consumed a large number of books on habits. Creating habits, breaking habits, good habits, bad habits, etc.

3d-businessman-with-the-brain-exposed_M1KbxcAOIt’s interesting how much we focus on the physical side of habits. For example, in your morning routine. You probably do the same things in the same order almost every day of your life. SO: Adding a new habit to that routine is difficult. You’ve created a box of time and packed it full of things that need to be done within that time. So it’s hard to wedge one more thing into the box.

Those things are physical. Get up. Got to the bathroom. Make coffee. Brush teeth. Activity. Activity. Activity.

Mental activities are also habits. And one could argue they are harder to recognize and harder to change. It takes a certain mindfulness to examine yourself in real time and explore what you’re thinking.

For example, when I’m given advice to change something in my life, I am immediately resistant. It doesn’t matter whether the change is large or small. It doesn’t even matter if it comes from a stranger or a trusted friend who is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. The strange thing is: I’m surprisingly open to recommendations and criticism. Even in my mastermind groups, I have to remind people that I’m far more open than I appear to be.

So my first reaction is resistance, followed by contemplation when I’m alone and don’t have to worry about the responses of others. Then I try to look at the advice I’ve been given. And very often I take that advice. But I still acknowledge my mental habit of resisting as a first response.

Think about your mental self-talk. Is there a lot of “I’m not good enough” or “I need to change …” talk inside your head? Those are patterns. They are habits of thinking. Spend an hour trying to keep track of where your mind wanders and your first responses to things. After all, you’re awake most of your life and your brain is always working. What’s it working on?

Mental habits are hard to change. Unlike physical habits (which are also hard to change), mental triggers are harder to spot sometimes. If a driver cuts you off and you become angry or judgmental, it’s easy to see the trigger. But what about if you’re just walking down the street or driving peacefully and your brain starts chattering on about all the problems in your life? What was the trigger? How do you step back from the current mindset and try to find the trigger?

When changing a physical habit, we first recognize the trigger. For example, stepping into the line at the grocery store. Let’s say that as soon as you do that, you start eyeing the candy bars and virtually always end up throwing one in the cart. Recognizing that trigger can help you choose to attach a different activity as your response. Maybe you’ll grab sugarless gum. Maybe look at the magazines instead. Or maybe you’ll go in the quick-check line with no candy bars.

The point is, you recognize the trigger-response-reward and begin building a different habit. You start to lay down a different response and reward.

Now consider a mental example. What triggers judgmental attitudes? What is your mental response? What’s the reward? It takes quite a bit of work to identify your responses and rewards – especially if they are purely mental.

If you’re interested in exploring this, I recommend a two-step process. First, spend some quiet time each morning thinking about thinking. Relax, quiet your mind with a few deep breaths. Then just pay attention to the thoughts that wander into your brain. When you recognize a thought, label it. For example, say the word Happy. Then set that thought aside and wait for the next. Label it. Perhaps Hungry or Tired or Frustrated. The interesting thing about our brains is that they never stop. There will always be another thought. It might be a memory, a plan, a worry, or a distraction because a bird flew by.

The goal is to teach yourself to identify your thoughts. You have millions of them every day. And if you’ve never spent time recognizing them, then you won’t be good at it. So the first step is to identify the kinds of thoughts you have. What does a positive thought look like? Or a negative one. Or a self-blaming one. etc. All of that work takes place while you are sitting quietly, trying to simply observe your self.

(The oft-quoted numbers of 50,000-80,000 thoughts per day are literally just made up numbers that got repeated again and again. We don’t have a way to measure how many thoughts we have. But even a little research suggests that it’s much higher than the mythical number.)

The second step is to practice labeling your thoughts as you go through your day. When that driver cuts you off, what goes through your brain? You clearly have a choice about how you react. Your thoughts and reactions are not outside your control. BUT you do have a mental habit of response. Without thinking about it, you have laid down a pattern of response.

You can literally observe yourself as if you are outside yourself. Watch the driver cut you off. Then STOP your brain from responding. Now choose. As you watch yourself respond, try to identify the reward. How does anger or frustration or judgement serve you in this context? What’s the reward? And remember: In the world of the mental, the reward is probably mental. Satisfaction, self-righteousness, fear, anger, pity. Something inside you gets value from a specific mental response. What is it?

Once you recognize the trigger, response, and reward, you can decide whether you want to keep responding in that way. It may be that the answer is yes. It may actually make you feel better and contribute to your happiness. If that’s the case, you are now more fully aware of that.

But if you want to change your response, you also have that choice. For example, you could simply choose to be amused by the driver who cuts you off. Maybe you’ll enjoy pondering whether you’ll catch up to him at the next light. Now you can start to build a new habit. When someone cuts you off, you can slow down a bit and choose to be amused. Your reward is tiny bit of happiness. And if the drivers where you live are anything like the drivers where I live, you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice your new pattern of trigger-response-reward!

One of my favorite sayings is Slow Down, Get More Done. This is another example of that. After all, if you choose to, you can choose how you respond to every little thing in your life.

Habits got you where you are. Habits will get you wherever else you want to be.

:-)

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I had a conversation with someone the other day about meditation. He expressed a very common belief: I tried that and it didn’t work for me.

I couldn’t help wondering, “What do you mean by try?”Yoga Pose

Whether it’s meditation, exercise, playing the piano, learning a new language, or anything else, you can’t try once. Trying has to mean that you give it a real effort. If I try to do something once I am virtually guaranteed to fail (or be very bad at it). You can almost never do something right the first time.

On the flip side, if I work at something for an hour every day, I am virtually guaranteed to get good at it. That’s true of speaking a new language, learning a new exercise, wood carving, or anything else. You get good at whatever you put your attention on.

I’m a big believer in daily meditation. And guess what? I have trouble quieting my mind – even after sixteen years of meditating almost every day. I have trouble slowing down. I have trouble emptying my mind. I have trouble sitting still. I have trouble getting comfortable.

BUT I know how. I know what it feels like when my mind begins to calm down. I recognize that because I’ve experienced it thousands of times.

Another friend of mine posted something on Facebook a few days ago. He was starting a new I.T. project and referenced one of my books on project management. He referred to the “muscles of success” regarding projects. Those are the good habits that keep your project on track, on time, and under budget. Just like anything else, consistent activity becomes a habit – even making a profit!

Take stock the next time you decide to “try” something. Trying once is essentially useless. If you’re gonig to try, you need to commit to enough attempts to actually understand and make a little progress. Don’t quit after one attempt and say you tried.

:-)

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It’s Complete!!!

The Audio Version of Relax Focus Succeed® is available right now in MP3 format.

It will be available very soon on Audible. If you have used Audible before, I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com and get started with Relax Focus Succeed as soon as it’s released.

Relax Focus Succeed

Relax Focus Succeed

Here’s where and how you can get the Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed®:

SMB Books

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Audio MP3
  • PDF

 

Amazon.com

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Soon: Audible Audio

 

Audible.com

  • Coming Soon

Thank you all for your support!

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If you’re like me, you can get the same advice over and over for years and it doesn’t sink in – until the time is right. That’s why I read all the “success” literature I can. I read to keep thinking about changes in my life until it’s personal for me.

I took a lot of statistics in graduate school. There was a recurring phenomenon with stats: I never truly, completely understood the math from one course until I had to apply it in the next course. I wasn’t alone in this. Many people found that taking a second semester stats class from a different professor than their first semester helped them understand more. And it didn’t matter which was first or second. It as a different way of explaining the math that made the difference.

hand-drawn-brain-book1kIt’s also the case that the first course prepared our minds for the next. One started laying down the pathways and the next started building the knowledge in a meaningful way. Your personal success is very much like this. You have to lay down the foundation before you can start building. When it comes to changing yourself and your habits, that means you might hear a message a hundred time – or a thousand times – before you decide that you really need to take action.

Success will never come until you internalize your commitment to your own self-improvement. This is because success is hard at the beginning. You have to change your habits, your knowledge, and your commitments. Then you begin the actual work of changing yourself.

Let’s look at how those three things are inter-connected. Knowledge is the easiest piece of the toolkit. You can listen to audio programs and read books all day and all night. You “know” you need to get up early, spend quiet time planning your day, exercise, eat right, set goals, focus on them, and execute.

You “know” all that but it’s all meaningless external knowledge until you make a commitment to change your life.

Some people spend years educating themselves on success but never take action until something suddenly makes sense and then the commitments start falling into place. Others start doing without commitment. In other words, they start following the formula even though they haven’t internally accepted that it really will change their lives.

Believe it or not, this also works. If you get in the habit of getting up early, it will make the habit of quiet time easier. If you get in the habit of exercising, it will make the habit of eating right easier. One by one you can adopt all the habits of success until one by one they are meaninful to you.

Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Neither do habits nor commitments. But if you practice these things, you will eventually achieve them.

Remember: Nothing happens by itself. You have to work on your success. If you don’t work on your self-improvement, it won’t happen. Period.

Just like athletic development, you need to work on your self-improvement until it becomes real for you. One way to do that is to read and consume self-help books and blogs. The habits you execute without commitment will gradually help you become the person who is ready for success. One by one you will internalize these habits and see exactly how they contribute to your success.

Eventually things will start to click and you will develop a true commitment to each habit. So keep reading. Keep listening. Start doing the things successful people do. The more you do these things the more you prepare yourself for success.

Nothing happens by itself.

:-)

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I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. One of the powerful effects of this disease is exhaustion. In fact, the most common way that people discover they have RA is that they wake up one day and they’re so tired that they can’t get out of bed. This gets worse and worse until it takes more than an hour to just get out of bed in the morning.

sleeping-eyes_450My disease is very well under control after sixteen years, but I have been through long spells of exhaustion. And I still have to be careful not to over-exert myself.

One of the beautiful side effects of social media is that you can appear to be everywhere at once, doing lots of things, and producing lots of “content” all the time. That’s what people tell me they see of me. In reality, I have periods when I work and periods when I rest, and I am rigorous about working when I work and resting when I rest.

From time to time, I have to take medicine that prevents me from drinking alcohol. Let me just say for the record, I like a beer now and then. Well, now and now again. I’m glad the surgeon general recommends that I have two or three drinks a day, and that other countries’ surgeons general recommend more than that.

But sometimes I have to just stop.

As we get older, we are supposed to learn that overdoing things is bad for us. That’s easier said than done for some people. And some lessons we need to keep learning year after year. In my case, there’s also a little mixture of fear. Eventually, with RA, I will have flare-ups (“flares”) that cause permanent damage to my joints. This just will happen. Even if I’m stable for five or ten years, eventually there will be flares and eventually they will cripple me.

So my goal is to avoid things that will cause flares or make them last longer. And so, I take the doctor’s advice. Whatever it is.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn isn’t about alcohol or even what most people think of as self-care. It’s simply about rest. I try to rest up enough on the weekend so that I’m “fresh” on Monday morning. I try not to over-do it all week, but I have a little less energy every day. And so – with rare exceptions – I have stopped planning anything for Friday night.

Fridays I stay home. I don’t go out on dates. I might be talked into a dinner, but I don’t let it drag on. I go home so that I can collapse and go to sleep. As a result, I can do almost anything on Saturday. As you can imagine, Friday is a very popular night for doing things. So I quietly avoid all those things.

Sometimes people push, and they push very hard, for me to break this rule. “You can sleep in Saturday.” Or, “It’s just one night.” After all, I seem very healthy and I seem to be able to do what I want. So what’s one more night?

They don’t see the cane hanging in my closet, which I rarely use. They don’t see the medicine I inject in my leg. They don’t see the yoga and the meditation and the Karl who crashes hard night after night from simply leading life one day at a time.

I’m not ready to say I’m thankful for my RA, but it has taught me a great deal about discipline. I know for a fact that my body will deteriorate. I also know that I can slow the progress of that deterioration if I am committed to certain behaviors.

Friday IS just one night. And I CAN sleep on Saturday. And I can bend the rules and break the rules all I want. There’s no one to stop me. But I have to be committed to the long-range plan. The rest-of-my-life plan. The plan that keeps me upright and working and playing.

I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga for about sixteen years. I’m pitiful at it, really. I can’t do hardly anything at all. I go and I try. It’s painful. And frustrating. But I go and I try. Why? Because everything would be worse if I didn’t.

So I go and foolishly try to stand on one leg . . . even though it feels like I’m standing on 1 x 1 Legos. I bend and stretch and get frustrated that I can’t touch my toes without bending my knees. Sometimes my muscles just give out and I lie down and wait for the next posture.

But I go.

And I keep trying.

I’ve learned that pain and weakness are literally moment-to-moment things. I might not be able to get into a posture the first time. But sixty seconds later, I can do it fine (or at least “some”).

All of these lessons have helped me in my personal life and business life as well. I have to have rules and I have to stick to them, no matter what others want to tempt me to do. I have to stick to my formulas for success even on days when I can’t see the progress. And I have to realize that failure literally lasts sixty seconds and then you’re on to the next thing.

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Your brain can't stopSo many people tell me things like

– I can’t meditate

– I can’t turn off my brain

– I can’t stop worrying

– I can’t stop thinking

– etc.

Here’s the simple truth: Your brain – your human brain – was designed to do something no other animal on earth can do: Think!

Yes, some animals are clever and they do some rudimentary thinking, but it’s nothing like complicated human thinking. We can, and naturally do, think about things in a complicated way. Here’s what I mean.

When humans consider any topic, we tend to consider things from our past and speculate about our future. Then we consider a number of possible outcomes, and the effects of the past on each of those. And then we speculate possible futures of each. Very often, we also consider how this thing affects other possible outcomes for other totally-unrelated decisions we are considering.

It’s amazing how quickly our brain can go through that complicated process. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed because we can’t help trying to think all those thoughts at the same time.

So here’s the deal with meditating: It’s not your goal to stop thinking. It’s not you goal to have an “empty” mind. The goal is simply to slow down a bit, become aware of the thoughts and ideas, to relax and observe.

Think about it like this: Your brain is no different than anyone else. People who meditate have simply practiced sitting in one spot and slowing down a bit. They’ve practiced watching their thoughts without judgement. And you can too!

People who run marathons do not have a different kind of feet. They’re just people who got up one day and decided to jog around the block. Then two blocks, ten blocks, 10K, a half marathon, and a full marathon. I might say that I can’t run a marathon, or that I’ll never run a marathon. But the truth is that I could some day if I decided to start by jogging around the block.

Don’t set your goal to stop your brain from thinking or to meditate for an hour.

But set your goal to meditate for thirty seconds, and then a minute. Eventually You will meditate for three minutes, then five and ten.

Most people who meditate don’t meditate for long periods of time. But you’d be amazed how five minutes a day can change your life.

Stop. Unplug. Close your eyes. And watch what your brain does. It’s a great resource.

:-)

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One of the challenges of someone who’s new to meditation (or is getting back into it after being away for awhile) is Monkey Mind – the chatter of your brain switching to a contemplative mode. Monkey Mind is a little different for everyone, but basically consists of the flood of thoughts that come into your head when you are trying to be calm, quiet, and reflective.

One reason for Monkey Mind is simply lack of practice. If you’re not used to quieting your mind and calming your thoughts, then you have no excperience dealing with the chatter. For most people, there are three kinds of thoughts that float into your mind when you start to quiet yourself. First, your short-term to-do list will float into your mind. Second, your longer-term worries will wander in. And, third, all kinds of random stuff floating in your brain will break into your consciousness.

Robot meditatingSome of these thoughts truly need to be acknowledged. Your unconscious wants you take in the thought and acknowledge the need it represents. You don’t have to take action right now. But once your brain knows that you are aware of the thought, it will let you move on.

Here’s a strategy for getting started on the road to meditating with Monkey Mind. I call it the 1-2-3 method.
Set Your Timer for One Minute

First, simply set your timer for one minute. Get a pad of paper and a pencil and begin to meditate. Take three deep, cleansing breaths and begin to relax. Very soon, the thoughts will begin floating in. If they’re just random images of things, or pleasant memories, acknowledge them and set them aside. If they’re “to-do” items that you need to address, go ahead and open your eyes, write a note to yourself, and go back to meditating.

Take another deep breath and relax. If things come up that require a note, make a note. When the minute is up and your timer goes off, you’ve finished step one.
Set Your Timer for Two Minutes

Next, set your timer for two minute. Begin meditating again. This time you will notice fewer distractions. The reason is very simple: You have acknowledged the to-do list. If you’ve already made a note about the dry cleaning and the shopping, you don’t need to do that again. Your brain doesn’t need to push those thoughts forward.

Two minutes is a short time. It might not seem like it when you start, but it is. And when your brain knows that you can stop and write down a note, it relaxes a little more. Feel free to do this again. Restart as needed with a deep, cleansing breath.

Overall, you’ll find a lot less Monkey Mind.
Set Your Timer for Three Minutes

Finally, set your timer for three minutes. This time you will not stop. You will not interrupt your meditation. You will learn to work through the thoughts that wander into your brain.

This time, as thoughts arise, imagine yourself gently moving them to the side to clear the path before you. Try to clear your mind. Let it wander. You will have thoughts wandering in for a very long time. It takes great practice to truly clear your mind. But now the thoughts will not be the rushing, scurrying, chattering thoughts called Monkey Mind.

With this process, you formally give your brain an “out” to interrupt your meditation. But you also discipline it to get the important stuff out first and then relax. Eventually, you may adjust the timer to 1-2-5 or simply skip the two-minute stage altogether. There is no wrong way to meditate.
Try it and see what works for you.

Enjoy!

:-)

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