Monday Moment – A Productive Mindset with Meditation

There is more to a productive mindset than being focused at your desk, because there is more to your work than the time you spend at your desk. Having a productive mindset is about creating a flow that connects your work, your play, you waking and your sleeping hours together.

Having a productive mindset is about a balance between your up-time and your downtime so that your subconscious brain continues to produce the aha moments in your life when you least expect them. And that does not happen if you are filled with anxiety, stressed, or worried about your life; personally or professionally.

Those seemingly random ideas that end up being the aha moments of brilliant breakthroughs you wait for? They do not come out of nowhere. They are not sitting on a cloud that you wander into. They come, like anything, out of the hard work of your subconscious mind, and that subconscious mind only works when the noise and distractions that so often clutter it are gone. so learn to let go, not just to relax, but to open your mind up to all the wonderful possibilities waiting.

Years ago, when I was producing or ran my own agency, I found that I separated my work into several categories. The hours I actively worked on a project – perhaps two hours a day – were the only ones that “really counted,” or so I told myself. The hours I spent researching, thinking, and developing creative solutions for my client’s issues somehow did not really count as “real work.” Oh, and those hours I spent pondering in bed or during my commute – it was as if those did not even exist.

Looking back, I remember the stress and the anxiety. I also remember how there were never enough hours in the day for all the work I had to do. I remember how my anxiety often prevented me from coming up with the kind of solutions my clients so badly wanted.

Oh, how wrong I was. For it was in those seemingly wasted moments that my brain was actually free to work in its own way. It never occurred to me that the flashes of brilliance that came while listlessly staring out at the ocean on a weekend, or while feeling the water splash on my face while in the shower, only came when I felt calm and balanced and open. Rarely did they appear when I was at my desk, in my mind, “actually working” the few hours each day that I actually gave myself credit for.

It is funny, in a way, that is wasn’t until I was able to step away from my desk that I was able to see the solution that was there all along, waiting for me.

To fixate the results that end up on your desk to the time you spend at your desk is to dismiss the real work you put in all along the way. And, I equate that mindset to the post-war, industrial world most of us grew up in.

Yes, when we were an industrial nation, work was a much more physical task. The time that mattered was the time you actually spent farming, or fishing, or building. But this is the 21st Century, and your physical labor is often not what drives your results. The decisions you make at home and at play, with friends and family all influence your frame of mind, no matter what your occupation. And if your mind is filled with anxiety and distracted by the noise of your life, then there is no way that you will be able to come up with the solutions that equate to success in today’s world.

If instead, you are calm and rested, the solutions will come to you whether you are at the office every day or not. So learn to balance the different aspects of your life; both personal and professional. That includes finding a thread between work and play, health and finances, family and love and spirituality, even with your own sense-of-self. It is there waiting for you, if you know what to look for.

Only when those elements are in balance, will you be free enough to truly deliver the kind of results that you can be proud of. Only then will you be truly productive, feel accomplished, and satisfied every day and every week.

Remember that having a Productive Mindset is about more than being productive at your desk.  It is about creating a thread throughout your life in a calm and focused way.

So breathe, smile and remember to give yourself a break from time to time.  That is what will create a focused sense of calm across all of your efforts; at work or play, with family or friends, or even when you are all by yourself.

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Q+A – Meditation & Anxiety in the Modern World

A student asked me, “Why is there such angst and anxiety in the world today, and how do I cope with it?”

“Why do I worry about Russia sending warplanes over the Baltic Sea? Why do I worry when our government begins to break down? Why does my wife take a tone sometimes? Are these the same?”

My first answer is yes, they all basically come from the same place. They come from a place of fear. It is how your old brain was programmed to respond to everything in the world around you; and while you cannot change the way your brain works, you can change the way your brain processes and responds to that information.

Instead of having to respond with your fight or flight auto-response, you can train yourself to pause, to contemplate – even if for a second – and choose to take a different route than the one your primordial brain has laid out for you. In truth, you can choose to live your life your way.

The net/net is that the brain creates pathways that you live by.  We call them habits. Neuroscientists call them auto-responses; but they are so much more. They are the responses that you live your life by, and they can often lead you down a path that you will probably regret later on.

Neurologists have a saying – neurons that fire together, wire together. Eastern Philosophers have another saying, you are what you think. They are the same.

All that nervousness, that anxiousness, that angst? It is the result of the patterns that have been developed over eons of evolution. And this is the problem. Many of them date back tens, and even hundreds of thousands of years. They worked wonderfully in the past, they got us to the top of the food chain, but in the modern world you now live in, most of them have little relevance in your life.

The fear that rises when you read about other countries becoming more aggressive is no different than when a primal ancestor saw a shape moving on the horizon. The fear that rises to anger when you read about our government is no different than the worry that was felt about a field of crops failing. And the perceived tone that your wife is taking? Again, it is your old brain preparing for the worst.

If you doubt this, just think about what your brain scrolls through when any of these events take place. They are always worst case scenarios.

Always remember, there are two parts to your brain. There is the old brain that has just one objective – your survival. Then there is the modern brain, the part that most of us think of when someone asks us about the brain. It is that magnificent organ that sits on the top, the part that is responsible for the executive functions in your life.

The old brain becomes uncomfortable with anything that implies risk – taking a new route to work, watching as a new employee enters your workplace, hearing your loved one take a tone. It jumps at every ping and chirp from your mobile device just as it did when a twig snapped in the forest thousands of years ago. It keeps getting distracted by all the things going on in the world around you, looking for danger; even though most of them are completely irrelevant to your survival.

When you begin to get involved in any higher-level thinking, preparing a report, reviewing a PowerPoint file, or looking toward the future, your modern brain focuses in on the task at hand. But, your old brain is still working in the background. It kicks in when it hears a ping, sees movement out of the corner of your eye, or detects a tone. At that moment it begins releasing adrenaline and cortisol.

It starts slowly, preparing you for a potential threat, but as you respond by getting nervous, it elevates your threat-level and starts to release larger and larger amounts of these hormones [adrenaline being produced by the adrenal gland]. It is what happens when your boss calls you into a meeting out of the blue. It is what effects an architect when a client changes a floor plan.

Your modern brain realizes that taking a calculated risk is often the safest path to a secure future. Your old brain does not, and that is where the problem begins. One still thinks that the old way is best.  The other knows that in today’s world the new path is more often the right one. The result is you feel doubt and insecure as the two battle it out.

The key is to remind yourself of this when you start to feel anxious or when you feel self-doubt. Remind yourself that all that angst is simply your old brain trying to keep you safe, and bless it’s heart, what it thinks is safe is dated by more than 40,000 years.

This is why you should step back the next time you feel off and take a meditative breath to calm yourself. Then acknowledge whatever it is that is before you and label it for what it is. It may sound like “boss calling me into his office,” or “client changing something that we agreed on,” or “the one I love is using a tone with me.”

Breathe into the issue that is before you. Take a moment to contemplate just how serious it is, and then let it go. Let each issue go for now as you return to whatever it is you were doing right before it came up. Smile as you give yourself a moment to calm down before responding. If it’s on text, give yourself an hour; email? a day, because the moment you are in is probably different than the moment your old brain sees you in, even though it is right here, and right now.

Monday Moments – The Sounds in Your Life

You live in a tactile world, yet not everything is soft.

You touch the granite of the buildings as you pass.

You touch the cold glass and steel of the car before you enter.

You enjoy the hard foundation that Terra Firma provides you.

So why do you allow yourself to grow angry at the hard sounds of your life?

Perhaps it is time to rethink your approach to them.

Instead of turning away from the harsh sounds, embrace them and welcome them. Allow them to flow into the wonderful cacophony of white noise that is your world. Instead of viewing the experiences of your life as good or bad, begin to see the world as it truly is.

Learn to limit the noise in your life as you create harmony in the sounds that are all around.

  • The people talking at the table next to yours? Let it go.
  • The noise of the traffic? Let it go.
  • The annoying pitch of your boss’s rant?  Let it go.

See the world as it is all around you.  Refuse to let your brain weave patterns for you as you grow aware of the substance rather than the noise.

Take the time taste the air with every breath. Smile at the scents as they play upon your tongue. Enjoy the thoughts your mind creates. Just do not feel the need to live in them. Be aware of each, without feeling the need to respond.

Hear, taste and smell the details of the world you live in – then decide what to focus on and what to let slide into the background of your world.

Are you actually nervous, or are you smelling the pheromones of an ancient beast about to attack?

Is it your ego playing on your response based on 40,000 year old programming, or is there really a modern day threat?

Make sure the choices you are making are truly your choices, and not some pattern created by that fight or flight response that kept our ancestors alive.

Be aware of the noise in your world, and choose what you want to let it and what you want to let go.

It truly is up to you…

After all, it is YOUR life.

Why not live it as YOU want?

Modern Meditation Profile – Dina Proctor

Dina Proctor

From the start, Dina’s life wasn’t so different from yours or mine. She spent her 20s running after the same things everyone is after; a good job that meant something, a loving relationship, a sense of purpose, a sense of stability. But the more she looked outside herself for her answers, the more she realized it was the void within that she was trying to fill.

She did non-profit work in Africa, Guatemala, and with juveniles in jails – helping to heal others in an effort to heal herself.  She changed jobs every 9-months.  She changed boyfriends and moved just as often. Each time telling herself, “if I can just get a bit more money, if I can just find the right guy, if I just save one more person, it will all be better.”

It wasn’t until she moved into a new living situation in that her two worlds were forced together.  Her roommates were social drinkers and at first her life was a party. Then it spiraled.  Within weeks she became a daily drinker.  In months, she became a round-the-clock drinker.  After years of battling clinical depression and thinking, “if I don’t wake up in the morning, I’m okay with that,” she actually chose a date to take her own life.

That was 2008 and she had hit rock bottom. She did not so much pull back in that moment, as she realized she was sick of being sick of her life. She thought of suicide, but before she ended it all, she decided she at least wanted to see what real drunks looked like. That was the day she wandered into an addiction recovery meeting; “just to see.” Listening to them, she realized she was far worse than any of them.

At one point in her recovery she was introduced to meditation. She was asked to sit for 20 minutes. Her body was still detoxing, her head was spiraling, and sitting still for 20 minutes was physically impossible for her; she found she could sit still for about three minutes at a time. So she decided to sit in three minute increments until she reached the 20 minute mark. That was something she could do.

It was hard, but she was able to do it.  Then, about eight weeks into her meditation practice she had an out of body experience.  For the first time in her life, her mind was free from chatter, free from the inner voice that had haunted her. Everything she looked at was pristine and beautiful.  It was an absolutely full presence, a spiritual and physical moment that she remembers vividly to this day.

She had two revelations in that moment.  First, there is no such thing as time.  Time is something we transcend.  Second, everything in the physical world is just a reflection of the mind. At that moment she just knew that all she had to do in life was maintain the state of mind she experienced, and she could be grounded and open in the way she had always wanted.

She continued her meditation practice which eventually settled into three minutes, three times a day. In days she reached a point of ownership and non-resistance in her life. She wrote a book called Madly Chasing Peace: How I Went From Hell to Happy in 9 Minutes a Day, that turned into a best-seller, and now she teaches her style of modern meditation to hundreds of people who want to find the kind of peace that she discovered for herself.

Hers is a message of strength, empowerment and transformation.  It is one worth discovering for yourself no matter where you are in your life.

 

[learn_more caption=”See The Full Interview Here”] What drew you to yoga and meditation?

I don’t think I would say I was drawn to meditation – more like I was dragged kicking and screaming! At the end of 2008 I hit rock bottom in my life – I was suicidal and clinically depressed.  I was also horribly addicted to alcohol. I had tried countless changes to fix the emotional black hole I’d felt inside for years – moving cities, changing jobs, upgrading my boyfriends, individual therapy, group therapy, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications – you name it I tried it. But nothing worked to fix how I felt.

In hindsight (and obvious to everyone but me), I was constantly moving but always taking myself with me. Meditation was an instruction given to me when I finally fell apart. I remember balking at the idea of meditating for 20 minutes – wondering how on earth sitting in a floaty, wistful sort of way would do anything at all! But at that time I had run out of my own answers. So I tried it. And it ended up changing everything about everything (about everything!) about my life.

How have they changed your life?

There is not a single area of my life meditation hasn’t transformed. When I first started meditating I was in addiction-and-suicidal-thought withdrawal and could not physically or mentally sit still for longer than about 3 minutes at a time. Since my instruction was to meditate was for 20 minutes total I would sit for 3 minutes several times a day so I could meet my quota. After about 8 weeks of this messy 3 minute here, 3 minute there practice, I had an experience in what I can only call a state of higher consciousness.

For 3 entire days my conscious awareness was outside of my body – hovering above my body, yet tethered to it, everywhere I went! I had no thoughts in my head, absolutely zero mind-chatter, and everyone and everything was extraordinarily beautiful.

During that time I realized 2 things: that there is no such thing as time (really!) and that everything that exists in my exterior world – my body, my relationships, my financial situation – is simply a reflection of what was going on inside of myself; my world is basically a direct reflection of the quality of my spiritual life.

That 3-day experience profoundly changed my life perspective and I knew that these 3-minute meditations held the key to changing my entire reality.

At what point did you decide to teach others?

Teaching others was something I heavily resisted at first. About 8 months after my rock bottom point I had people approaching me asking me to teach them how I had used what had evolved into what I call 3×3 Meditation (3 minutes, 3 times a day) for the practical results I was achieving (a healed relationship with food and with my body, transformative relationships at home, work and with my family to name a few) and I didn’t feel ready.

I thought I needed to have it all figured out and picture-perfect before I could help guide someone else. But my mentor at the time advised me to share what I’d learned with others as soon as I was asked to – because only in giving it away is it something I can keep.

What do you find most rewarding about working with others?

There is nothing in the world more fulfilling to me than to share 3×3 Meditation with others and seeing them achieve their own results! I’ve recently started certifying people to become 3×3 Coaches and that is also deeply rewarding.

To share something I developed at my toughest point with people who use it to transform their lives is a rare and precious gift. I always knew helping others would help me help myself but when I was in my twenties I went about it all the wrong way. I worked at homeless shelters and third world aid organizations – went to the poorest parts of Africa and south America to bring food and supplies for students but even that good work I was doing did not fulfill me nearly as much as sharing a practice given to me by something greater than myself with people who are desperate to change their own lives.

What is your advice for someone just starting on their journey?

First I want to tell you that you are not alone! For so long, and especially at the beginning of my journey, I felt so isolated, so past the point of help. That feeling of isolation and hopelessness was killing me.

It stunned me when I realized that others had been where I’d been, had bettered their lives from the exact point where I stood. If you are just starting out, be gentle with yourself, accept and be open to the journey, and look forward to a life that is better than you could have ever imagined.

What should someone look for in a studio or an instructor?

The most important thing in choosing a mentor or teacher is feeling an emotional resonance. I’ve learned so much more from people without distinctions and degrees than I did from well-intentioned people who tried to help me from a more intellectual perspective. Don’t get me wrong – those who have knowledge and training are infinitely valuable and are of service to so many, but I didn’t experience my truest healing from all my doctor and psychiatrist visits – I experienced it from people who had been where I was. I will always have a mentor (or two!) and the first thing I look for – well, really feel for – is a sense of true, deep connection and a feeling of being completely understood and accepted exactly where I am.

What does the term Modern Meditation mean to you?

I would define Modern Meditation as whatever practice works for individuals as they navigate their everyday busy lives. Meditation is deeply personal – just as every workout isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, some folks prefer one meditation method over another. It’s so amazing there are so many to choose from. Modern Meditation means bringing a sense of calm, peaceful presence to everyday situations – being present as you shop for groceries or wait in line at the bank – it’s cultivating who you be not just on the meditation cushion but out in the nitty gritty of the real world.

How have you adapted traditional meditation and yoga in your life outside the studio?

Outside of my structured meditation practice (which of course only takes 9 minutes a day), I hold an intention to touch that space of inner space as I coach clients or write articles or record videos or wash dishes or clean the bathroom or eat lunch or reconcile my bank account or run errands. My life purpose is to be the fullest expression of my innermost self in my physical form, and to accomplish that I need to bring the space and peacefulness within my being to every aspect of my everyday life.

How has expanding and deepening your practice, improved your life?

It would be a much shorter list to make a list of how it hasn’t improved my life – because it has enhanced, improved and transformed every single aspect of my life. From healing addiction and depression to releasing weight to refreshing my relationships to writing a book to quitting my day job to teach this full-time and find financial stability, my meditation practice has been the key to every one of these achievements.

What is your Simple Truth?

My simplest truth is remembering and living from the perspective that my exterior world is only a reflection of what’s going on within me. If I don’t like the reflection I see in a mirror I don’t seek another mirror, I realize that I need to change the source that’s being reflected. It is all up to me.

Simple.

Empowering.

Liberating.

Inspiring!  

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Meditate to Embrace Your Emotions

Embrace your emotions
Without feeling trapped in having to pursue them.
That is the goal and the path to the calm you seek.

Emotions are not the problem.  It is how you deal with them that is.

If you lose yourself to the emotions you feel, then they become your master.

The next time you feel an emotion rising.  Love or Hate.  Anxiety or Comfort.  Lust or Disgust.  Do not respond to it immediately.  Stop.  Breathe.  Separate yourself from whatever it is that is triggering it.  Train yourself to contemplate what you are feeling even if for a moment.  Acknowledge it, label it, contemplate it, and then ask yourself if responding is really what you want to do.  Or do you simply want to let it go?

It is not the emotion that is the problem.  That is simply your brain telling you something out there is about to effect you, in here.

It is up to you to decide how you want to respond.

After all, it is your life.  Living in a meditative manner is the difference between pain and anguish, Love and joy.

 

 

Q+A – Recognizing Your Habits is The First Step To Changing Them

I met with a student last night who was overcome with the seemingly endless list of habits she was now noticing within herself.  “My God, it never ends,” she exclaimed.  “I almost wish I had never started to meditate.  Now, I see all of these auto-responses that I am living my life by.”

I smiled. Not with humor, but in understanding.  Yes, deep meditation will remove the layers that you hide behind. It will open you up to the light of truth.  You will have moments of enlightenment like this, when you see the reality of your life through the fog you have been living through; and this is not a bad thing.  Because before you can get rid of the old habits that are holding you back, you must first be aware of them.

It is usually a shock when you first see how little of your life is YOUR life, and how much of it is lived through the choices that others have impressed upon you.  The question is quickly not “why do I have so many habits dictating my life?”  It becomes “what will I do with them.”

Will you continue to live your life making the same mistakes and living by the same auto-responses that you always have, or will you begin to peel them back and start LIVING THE LIFE YOU WERE MEANT TO LIVE?

So many people turn back when they first recognize a bad habit for what it is.  That habit of yelling before thinking. Or reaching for a drink before you know why you want it.  That habit of asking for the food that, while it may satisfy you in the moment, you will regret eating for days to come.  Even that habit of listening to that small voice inside your head that leads to self-loathing.  All of these come from the same place.  And you recognize all of them through the regret that you inevitably feel after you have followed them.

The good news is, you can change, because as doctors, neuroscientists, and psychologists have found, the brain changes every day, based on the input you allow into it.  If you allow your brain to respond in anger to everything that goes on around you, you will become a very angry person – at the world and with yourself.  If you look down and deride others to feel good about yourself, you will begin to see all the ugliness in the world and in yourself, while seeing none of the beauty that is within and all around.

So the next time you feel regret for your actions, smile as you acknowledge that you have just recognized a bad habit that you can change.  If you feel yourself act out of emotion instead of logic, smile that you noticed it, and recognize that you can make a different choice in how to act in the future.

Congratulate yourself that you have taken the first step toward enlightenment.  Then stop, breathe, acknowledge whatever it is that you have done or are about to do, and let it go.

Then repeat a short mantra to yourself.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES

Because that is the way to change your life.  Simple make good choices.

Take a meditative approach to life and start living the life YOU were meant to live – TODAY.

Stop, breathe, acknowledge, and let it go.