How many of us have said “I don’t have time”? To go for a walk. To spend time on a hobby. To meditate.
There’s a way in. And it’s micropractice. A very short dedicated time to doing a thing. One way is to set a reminder to stop and do the thing. For five minutes. For one minute. For three breaths. For one. Get up and walk around the block. Have a picture of your favourite place or people and spend a couple minutes looking at it.
Let’s dive in to meditation as an example.
A practice that I give to clients for when they sense they are becoming overwhelmed/stressed out/just need a quick break is for each inhale and exhale, touch your thumb to a finger… index, middle, and so on. And back up. It’s helped me so many times. I believe combining the breaths with the touch helps embody a relaxation response.
There are so many ways to incorporate a micropractice into your day.
Inhale the aroma of your morning beverage, the sensation of heat or cold, the feel of the cup in your hands.
Delight in the colour of light and the play of shadows.
The sensation of gravity on your body.
Take one deep breath, and on the exhale, exaggerate with a drop of your shoulders. Or take a three part breath- two on the inhale and one long exhale. Like when a child is done crying. For some people that’s more effective than one breath. With practice you may find one breath is a great reset!
Eventually, you may find you have or crave more time to do the thing. This is part of habit formation and it’s amazing how it works.
When I want to regroup/reset/refresh, I often like to get out in Nature. If I’m really feeling wound up, I choose a route that requires some physical exertion to dispel that pounding fight-or-flight feeling.
I find a place to sit or walk, and take in my surroundings. Maybe noticing how my breathing is changing. Allowing the thoughts to flow, and usually they will settle down.
I will follow the whirls of tree bark, the swirls of flower petals, the flow of water down a stream. The shifting shapes of clouds. The dancing of light and shadow at my feet. Watch a bee fly from flower to flower, and delight as its yellow pollen pants grow fat and heavy.
I once laid on a rock in the middle of a river so long that I became both the river and the rock.
Sometimes an answer comes, if I’ve been looking. Sometimes I feel lighter. Almost always I come back from the mountain, or forest, or ocean ready to take on what’s next.
My invitation to you this week to to experiment with incorporating micropractices into your day. Set aside several of these micropractice minutes in your day. I’d love to hear how it goes!
It’s so important to make time to reset and regenerate, both for well-being and resilience. Within an organization or community, this is called a relational pause.
There’s been a huge upsurge in meditation apps and personal self care programs. I think that’s fantastic.
It’s also important to foster a sense of community, which so many of us crave, and I feel is part of what will encourage healing and rebuilding of our geographical communities, organizational culture, and the planet.
I invite you to form real-life groups for this kind of connection. I was amazed during my meditation teacher training how incredibly intimate and effective a virtual real time meeting is. In person is even better.
You can join me on Saturdays at 10 AM Pacific Time for a free zoom guided group meditation. If you’re not registered already, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the zoom link.
I can also work with you for a fee individually, or with your organization to set up a meditation practice and/or self care program.
I found a piece of writing I wanted to share here today, and while reading was instantly transported to the scene that inspired it. I was driving, and while at a stop sign, saw a man waiting for a bus. As I drove on, a whole story was born, simply from that chance encounter.
Then I thought: Oh! My theme for today is daydreaming. I did a bunch of research on the significance and importance of daydreaming, and was set to write A Big Article, and it didn’t feel right. So I did some dishes and went for a walk, and had my AHA.
This was the practice of daydreaming in action!
The default mode for our minds is wandering, which I feel in part is why so many people who sit to meditate feel they fail. Our minds have a bunch of “apps” running in the background, sorting, categorizing, resetting, and when we take time to sit, it all comes to the surface, it’s named as monkey mind, and we decide we are meditating wrong.
In this mode, we are working against the natural process of the mind. If you choose instead to get curious, you might notice a vacillation between analytic/linear and empathetic/creative processes. This is part of the beautiful syzygy of being human- the flow between opposites.
Have you ever noticed that if you are working and working and working on solving something and can’t, you get a sudden urge to do something else? Sure, it can be procrastination, or distraction. It can also be your mind telling you it needs a rest. To go deep into areas that are not accessed often and maybe even come up with a novel solution to what you were so struggling so hard to solve (or find your car keys).
Give into that urge. Set a timer if you are feeling time pressure. Do something mindless for a few minutes. Sudden remembering in the shower, anyone?
Structured daydreaming is when you select a topic. It’s a rehearsal of sorts, where you envision the entire reality, including all the steps, and any obstacles that might arise. Performers and athletes use this technique to visualize future actions all the time.
Some have described daydreaming as thinking for pleasure. Isn’t that a lovely concept? Allowing your mind to wander without a goal. Kids do it all the time. It becomes a social activity when a group gets together and creates a new reality or fantasy world together. It gives you an opportunity to explore interesting topics in new ways, and there are lots of studies showing that daydreaming can enhance creativity and productivity. It can decrease stress.
This is sounding a lot like instinctive meditation! Why not set aside some time each day to daydream. Twenty minutes is great, as it gives you a chance to really get in there. Start with five or even two minutes if twenty feels daunting. I sometimes ask “OK mind, where would you like to go today?” After things like to do lists or other issues float by, I’m often delighted to find myself remembering a time I was in Nature, or sometimes music or writing or a visual art idea will come to me.
Daydreaming has been pushed to the back, I feel. Sure, some of us get lost in scrolling on our devices, but on some level that input is still being filtered through the mind, without giving it a chance to dance about in it’s own inner library.
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. Give your mind some unstructured playtime, without expectation of an outcome. Let your inner critic/censurer take a break. Daydreaming is a great superpower to have! **************************************************************************** For those who are curious, here’s the written piece that ended up inspiring today’s theme. *************************************************************************
The man stood at the corner, hair slicked back. His grubby brown suit was tight, giving the impression that he’d been standing too long in the hot sun and had swollen up with the heat. Entire continents of sweat began to appear, spreading across the oceans of cloth. In one hand was a well-worn paper bag. He would look down the street… at his watch.. down the street.
With a sigh, he sat on the bench and opened the bag. The book was large and covered in elaborately tooled brown leather. It seemed the pages were made entirely of gold, the gilding was so heavy on the edges. He wiped his hand on the thigh of his pants, opened the book, and moved his lips as he read.
While he read, he imagined walking up and setting the book on the lectern. Now they would listen, and see his importance. After the service, the people would walk up to him, talk to him and….
Suddenly he heard the voice of his Grandmother: “The bigger the crown, the bigger the fool”.