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!
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”.
A week or so ago, while looking for something completely different, I came across some hand made paper and shibori indigo-dyed fabric samples I created about thirty years ago. Thirty years?!?!! How the heck did that happen?
I looked at the two stacks, noticed that the colours were similar, shuffled them together, and an art project was born. I would make a book of them. From there, I decided to stitch on them, creating several independent works linked together.
Beyond that I really had no plan, and have re-ordered which page goes where several times. Each time I sit down I pick up a page and allow my imagination to wander. Sometimes making my imaginary self very small and exploring. Are there hidden images waiting to be seen? Maybe technique marks to be honoured. I have picked up needle and thread with no plan and stitch-scribbled my way around, enjoying what is being birthed between my hands.
I feel if I had taken a different and more studied approach, the results would be quite different. It would have a different rhythm and flow to it. I like surprising myself during the creative process, exploring the “what if I tried this”, mostly delighting in the results, and always learning, regardless of the outcome.
This kind of creative practice is so important. It can shake us out of habits and expand our creative vocabulary. We can unknowingly become complacent in our choreography, writing, music, or however we express ourselves, and end up repeating themes and patterns without even realizing it. It’s a beautiful thing, for example, to witness two dancers who’ve never danced together before explore a piece of music together, create something new, and deepen their own knowledge of their craft.
One thing I like to do when I feel creatively stuck is to explore a medium I’ve never tried before. The materials or process may have some basic “rules”, but there’s something about not even knowing what the rules are, experimenting, and discovering what happens.
If you’re building a new brand, or making an existing brand more relevant, what would it look like if it was a person? What kind of personality would it have? These kinds of characteristics could be an interesting exploration and could even do something like uncover a target demographic that hadn’t been considered. What conveys a recognizable identity for a product category, and yet stands out from other similar things/businesses?
Liberally use the cut/paste/relocate features if you’re writing on your computer… I did it just now! Or write chunks of a story/article/poem/song on post-its or paper and rearrange them. Have a conversation with that character that seems to adding to your block. Do your choreography backwards. Play a musical scale as if it was the most soulful piece of music ever written. Pretend you’re from another planet and just opened up your box of art supplies.
The idea is to explore freely without attachment to outcome. You’re not making “a thing”. There are no mistakes to be made, because you are exploring, learning and being in flow with the process.
Even with this project I’m playing with now. I had the thought this morning that I could keep adding to it as long as it’s in my possession or I exist. I can keep stitching on it, or add or subtract pages. What feels done now could call to me later for something else. I can gift a page to someone if I feel so moved. If someone else ends up with it, I hope they feel free to do the same.
This approach can expand to other areas of life- those that we may or may not see as creative. Take a different route between locations. Go on a grocery store treasure hunt by picking up the first ingredient you see and building a meal by picking one thing from each aisle (I just thought of this while thinking up examples- I think I’ll try it!)
No matter how you explore, make some time to disconnect from all devices and let your mind wander a bit. Your to do list might come up, or you’ll suddenly hear everything and that’s OK. Let it flow by. Eventually you might find yourself in a state of relaxed awareness. And what do you know? You’ve meditated, and maybe even had a day dream or two. Or come up with some ideas/answers. Or had a much needed nap!
My invitations to you this week: If you write, what would your words look like in movement? Dance them out! If movement is your jam, what does each movement sound like? Sing and sigh as you move and see where it goes. f you create in two dimensions, focus on texture. Go for a walk, pick up five things, and create something. Or take a sketch, cut it up into random shapes and create something different. Better yet, buddy up, each cut up a sketch and then trade! If you normally don’t think of yourself as creative, write down the first ten words that come into your head, even if they are: I can’t think of anything to write; this is stupid. Rearrange them into different sentences, maybe even a poem.
Let me know how it goes; I’m excited to hear what you discover!