Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, "Make sure you weave your parachute every day, rather than leave it to the time you have to jump out of the plane."
Excellent advice for skydivers and pilots. Is it also good advice for those of us who remain earthbound?
I was sitting in a room with 12 strangers, taking part in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, when I first heard about weaving our parachutes..
The reality and power of those words hit home hard.
How I chose to interpret them was life changing.
We don't have to wait till our stress levels are through the roof and we get a stomach ulcer to weave our parachute. We can take little steps every day to build up our physical and mental resilience, so that when we really need to call upon it, our parachute will open and bring us safely to earth.
When life becomes stressful, as it does and will, it sure helps to have a parachute on stand by to support us when we fall.
Leaving things until they reach boiling point, before deciding what action we need to take, doesn't cut it if our plane is going down. We're far more likely to become reactive, panicky and less focused.
So far, it seems to make sense. Right?
The thing is, I have a hunch that we don't always pay attention to common sense. That we've all been guilty at one time or another of ignoring common sense. I know I have.
Let's unpack this for a moment.
When we weave our parachute, we're taking a little time each day to nurture ourselves and build our resilience. Weaving our parachute means making ourselves a priority.
This is no easy task.
When we put our own self care first, others sometimes feel we're not attending to their needs. We frequently judge ourselves because of this. We also judge ourselves because we have so many other responsibilities and obligations to manage.
We label self care as a selfish act.
This couldn't be further from the truth and in my opinion is one of the key reasons why we don't weave our parachutes.
There's another reason too.
Research now shows, that almost half the time, our minds are 'wandering'. We're not focused on what's going on in the present moment. During these periods of 'mind wandering' we function in 'auto-pilot' mode.
We're driven by our agendas and busyness without being fully aware of what we're doing. Perhaps worrying or planning or judging and evaluating. We are literally lost in thought.
In our time-starved, stressful, busy day, it's no wonder we tend to skip packing our parachutes.
I don't think a day goes by when there isn't at least one moment of stress in my life. I suspect it's the same for most of us. While it's not always overwhelming, each day brings its share of ups and downs.
How I handle life's ups and downs today is very different to how I used to. Since I began weaving my parachute I've noticed a dramatic change in my physical and mental resilience. I call upon my resilience frequently, with encouraging results.
my top 10 weaving techniques
1. Wake up and think of one thing I'm grateful for. This helps me set a positive tone for my day.
2. Drink fresh squeezed lemon in warm water. It's an instant cleanse. Do it at least 30 minutes before you eat breakfast.
3. Do some form of exercise every day. I like to do 30 minutes of mindful yoga. I recommend lots of back stretches. I've found having a supple spine is one of the best ways to feel youthful. I also do 30 minutes of running. If you knew me five years ago, you'd know I was the last person on earth who would ever take up running.
4. Set my intentions for the day before breakfast. I set about three intentions while I'm running. I record my intentions in a voice memo, then email them to myself.
5. Pay attention to my intentions. Execute them throughout the day. It's the best way I know to avoid procrastination.
6. Eat two or three balanced meals a day. Never skip breakfast. Don't eat before 7am or after 7pm. Eat as many 'whole' organic foods as you can. Avoid GMO food, processed white sugar, processed flour and processed salt, go easy on alcohol and caffeine.
7. Drink 1.5-2 litres of reverse osmosis water every day. I've never had a headache since I began this practice..
8. Do some form of stress management every day. I like to do 45 minutes of sitting meditation every day. I also informally meditate throughout the day.
9. Create one positive memory every day. At the end of the day, reflect on it.
10. Get enough sleep. When it's feasible, I go to bed by 9.30pm and wake up at 5.30am. Good to get eight hours. If all else fails, don't sacrifice sleep.
Now let's take a quick reality check.
Nobody is superwoman or superman. It's hard to do all of this everyday. There are times when my practice suffers. Last year when we moved to a new home, it took me months to get back into routine. So I try not to judge myself. I try to let things be.
I take things one day at a time.
I also keep the following words tucked away, in my mind. They've proved very helpful on a number of occasions:
Falling off the wagon is simply a part of practice and an opportunity to start again, right now.