Slow down. We are often trying to engage in more than one activity at the same time - "multitasking". It may save time, but for what? Is it at the expense of a fuller appreciation for or a greater satisfaction from whatever we are doing? The moment will never come again. Are you really saving that much time that you are willing to sacrifice a more meaningful use of your time? We are also often racing from one activity to the next. Are we so overbooked that we can't fully enjoy our pursuits? And, in our rushing, are we more apt to lose the calm control with which we'd like to live? Do we drive too fast and get cranky with others? Slow down. Immerse yourself in each task without looking ahead to what comes next in your day. Lighten your schedule. You'll be more content and get more meaning from your day. Slow down.
Smile. Have you ever noticed that when you smile at passersby, they smile back at you? Why not do the same for yourself? Numerous studies have concluded that your external movements have great influence on your mood - the "Wonder Woman" power pose, for example, can combat shyness. Simply smiling can help brighten your mood, and if you smile as a habit, then little setbacks will bother you less, if at all. Your smile will also ease tensions and brighten the moods of your family, friends and co-workers. You will appear happier and content, and by smiling, you are making it so. Smile.
Breathe. Just breathe. When people and events really agitate us, try to remember that your life doesn't need them. All you really need in that moment is the air you breathe. Not only does that air literally sustain you, but the act of breathing offers a sanctuary from all of the @#$% that the world may throw at you. Take a couple of deep breaths, then ease into normal breathing. Notice how quickly you calm yourself. After a few moments of calm, you will be better prepared to understand and address any predicaments. Rarely are they life threatening. Never can they keep you from acting as you truly choose. Breathe - you'll be more satisfied with how you react to the situation and feel better about yourself. Breathe.
I've had the pleasure for the past few days to teach 10th graders about the Holocaust. Among many other lessons, it's a wonderful opportunity to explore our emotional capacity. We read from Bruno Bettelheim, a psychoanalyst survivor of Dachau and Buchenwald. As he and his fellow prisoners suffered from constant physical and psychological abuse, Bettelheim found that the key to survival was to "protect my inner self in such a way that if, by any good fortune, I should regain liberty, I would be approximately the same person as I was before." He convinced himself that all of the "dreadful and degrading experiences were somehow not happening to me as a subject, but only me as an object." This emotional fortitude is mind boggling and an incredible inspiration to all of us who strive to be true to ourselves no matter what life throws at us. Be a calm, genuine YOU in the face of fortune or misfortune. If a Holocaust survivor is capable of doing so.........we surely can as well.
A follow up to my last post: if we cultivate awareness without judgment, then we create fertile ground for our ability to love unconditionally. Freed from the habit of labeling or prejudging people, things and events, and appreciating that every person operates from their own individual perspective, we are open to be kind, caring and compassionate toward everyone and everything. I intentionally use the word "habit", rather than the often used "need", because habits can be broken. You can train yourself to change in ways that will make your life more peaceful and meaningful.
People will act in ways that appear hurtful - why? Let's recognize that they may have been having a tough day and may also not understand how their actions affect others. They may have many wonderful qualities, lovable qualities. We can still genuinely care for their well-being. I'm working toward a life perspective that allows me to be open to loving all that I encounter.
Pay attention to the world around you, all of its details - the sights, sounds, smells. Notice them for what they are, without judgment. From this starting point, we can begin to live a life of totally objective perspective. It is only our reactions to events and things that color them and, most importantly, affect our moods. If we recognize that we control these reactions, then no event or thing can ever cause us to act other than as we choose. Traffic isn't horrible, it's just traffic - may be it gives you more time to listen to music or a podcast, or make a call. A foggy morning isn't gloomy, it's just foggy - your smile can make for a bright mood. A critical remark is just someone else's words, maybe helpful, maybe not, but only hurtful if you allow it. Things are as they what they are. Your world is what you make it.