I’m aiming to make these little missives of mine bimonthly – meaning twice a month, not every two months. Although some days – I have to be honest – every two months feels more doable. There’s a lot going on right now as the world begins to speed up again, and I find that it takes a little more effort these days just to slow down enough to consciously – intentionally – place my attention on a specific task. Returning to the breath and to the task at hand, whatever that task may be, takes practice. But I do it because consistent practice is the key to making things shift.
Consistency is one of those things that we don’t talk enough about, in my opinion. It is one thing to begin exercising; it is quite another to maintain a fitness regimen. How we show up for ourselves is how we show up for others, and that practice of showing up is perhaps the most important practice that we can undertake. Living on autopilot does not lead to personal growth; it does not enrich the lives of our loved ones or our communities. We must live mindfully, with intention. So what is our practice?
When we consciously build-out our lives, it is ultimately how we approach that - our practice - that forms the foundation. Do we care about the composition of our lives? How much attention are we paying to that? As a general rule, when we’re trying to build or create something for ourselves, whether it’s a recipe or a creative project or even a family, these things don’t raise themselves. We have to return every day to tend the construction, to till the earth and get our hands dirty. It’s a practice. Things progress when we show up every day to do the work. And so we return to our task, to our mats and cushions, and we return to our point of focus.
Consistency builds the muscle that makes it possible to maintain a habit. And our lives are ultimately the cumulation of those habits. There are things in this life that come and go, but things that we do not get back are our health and our time. Those two things are our most valuable commodities. So where are we each spending our time and attention, and – serious question – what is the return on those investments?
If it makes you prickle when I suggest we look at our lives as a practice that at the end of the day has ROI, hear me out. What are we making a priority in our lives? Most of us have heard the adage that if we’re not changing it, we’re choosing it. Now, there’s a certain amount of privilege in that statement, but also: look at something in your life you say you want to change or bring to completion. Do you ever (or often) find at the end of the day that the project or situation in question has gone untouched?
How does it feel to say to yourself, I’m not working on X right now because X is not a priority to me? Maybe it feels liberating to say that! Maybe it’s not important! But if saying that makes you angry, then consider allowing that anger to be instructive. How can you make that thing that you say you want an active priority in your life?
I’m going to suggest a mindfulness exercise. Take this for a spin every morning for a week. Don’t stress over it or make it one more thing to do. You can do this in 10-15 minutes. Just think of this as a little ritual that you’re doing just for yourself. The most difficult thing for most of you will be to not grab your phone first thing. Humor me. You’re building a muscle:
When you wake up and you’re ready to climb out of bed, draw your knees to your chest and give yourself a hug. Then sit on the edge of your bed and do some gentle stretches. No need to formalize it, just move in a way that feels good to you (think gentle neck and shoulder rolls, do a couple of side bends, gentle side twists, maybe a seated forward bend).
Sit with your feet planted on the ground. Notice how and where your body is connecting with the surfaces beneath you. Take one good solid inhale and exhale.
Stand up, notice how your feet are supporting you, then take a conscious, intentional stroll to your kitchen and make yourself a warm beverage. Grab a journal or even a piece of paper and a pen and find a comfortable place to sit.
Jot down one thing you really want to work on that day for yourself. Let’s say this is a goal. Try not to make this a laundry list of to-dos. Just write down one, achievable thing you’d like to see to completion for the day. And then break that thing down into three doable actionable steps for the day.
Write down three things you’re grateful for.
If you want to continue to sit there for another five minutes or so, just focusing on your breath, do that. Maybe wrap things up by visualizing an image of you completing your intended task for the day. You might even want to close with a little prayer of gratitude if that speaks to you.
Now you may look at your phone.
Have a great week.