I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.
I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.
- Set an intention. I have read about this one in the post by OmBarcelona (a good read about how to meditate anytime and anywhere) . She advices to set an intention the moment when you realize that you are awake. I usually miss that moment, but I catch it up later in the shower, when my mind starts to wake up (I am slow at waking up). I try to feel inside what kind of intention I need for today, and come up with a short phrase like “Just breathe”, or “Enjoy it”, or “Listen to yourself”. And during the day I try to remind myself of it, especially in the situations when I need to stop and draw a deep breath – the phrase comes up to me.
And thus, it becomes a practice of the day. Like one day I practice to just breathe deeper whenever I feel something is off. Another day I remind myself to be grateful for the moment that is in front of me.
These days I have repeatedly chosen an intention “Break the pattern”. When I notice that I want to act from a pattern, especially the one I don’t like, – and choose to do the opposite. Like picking a phone when I am bored. Or talk too much when I am not asked. Or give up when I feel like it. When I manage to notice it, I just say to myself: “Aha, I see you. Ok, here you are. But let’s not do it for a change”.
I find attractive an idea of intentional life – and this small practice helps me to test it.
- Feel-the-moment meditation. This idea I have also picked from some blog, but I am sorry to admit I forgot the source (so if it was you, let me know :)). The author wrote about “waiting meditation”: when she has to wait she says to herself: “Ah, it’s a waiting meditation”. And it helps her to accept the moment as it is, instead of being impatient and rushing mentally to the next thing. She also applies it to different activities when anything can become a meditation (“washing the dishes meditation”, “tidying up meditation”).
I often catch myself rushing mentally to the next spot. For example, I am walking to meet a friend, and I hurry up, afraid to come late, and the way feels almost like an obstacle. So, I started to pause myself and say: “Why do you rush? This is the time and place to be. Feel it”. That shifts my focus and makes me more connected to my life. Which happens moment by moment. The same way I can walk and feel the ground under my feet, notice the people around me, hear the sounds – and feel my life. Which is happening right now. I don’t know why, but sometimes it almost feels like a discomfort of being in the present. When I can notice it – and connect myself to my own experience, I feel much happier. This is my life and I am living it. Every mundane usual beautiful moment of it.
- What are my favorite stories? When I started meditating, I tried to empty my mind for thoughts. And you know how difficult it can get. It is like chasing a group of monkeys. Now, when I sit down in meditation, I can sit and think without reflection for some time. Then, when I catch myself doing that, I don’t say: “stop it!” Instead I allow myself to observe it. “Aha, this is the thought that has been bugging me these days”. Then another comes up, and I spin it back and forth, falling out of meditation – then again I notice: “Aha, here is the second most popular story of the time”.
I have come to see that usually there are 3-4 main stories that go round and round in my head. I call them “my favorite LPs” (or CDs, if you grew up later than me and don’t remember using LPs :)). It is like there are three discs of this day, or this week, and I listen first to one, and then to another, and then to the third, then I go back to the first one. And they can occupy all my mental space. When I can identify them, I can sit there and ask: “And so – what next?” It turns out that there is not so much else, when those three (or four or five, it really doesn’t matter) are spinning most of the time. And sitting like this allows some freedom and space. Where the new discoveries may happen.
Do you have a practice that makes you feel more connected to yourself and your life? I would love to hear your story!