Here's what I tell my audiences, my clients and myself...
You can always come back to the breath.
Last year I walked away from stability and a healthy six figure income to launch Wake Up Kate, a mindfulness and stress resilience consultancy. What can I say?... It's been amazing. A truly powerful experience. It's the most incredible rewarding work I've ever done and I have to pinch myself sometimes that this is really happening. But as we all know (and sometimes forget) great things take time. You have to think of it as a 'ten year project'.... so I can assure you, there's plenty of impatience, frustration and worry to deal with as well. And not just for me, but for my family too.
When life gets difficult as it occasionally does, I always come back to the breath. My breath is always there. It's a resting place and safe harbour from challenging emotions and thoughts. Such a seemingly insignificant thing which we all too often take for granted. And yet it's one of the most powerful ways to heal the mind and body. Actually, something happened while I was writing this blog, that should have caused a complete meltdown (aka significant stress) but it didn't. Read on to hear about it....
One of my teachers, Professor of Medicine at UMASS and bestselling author, Jon Kabat-Zinn shares so much wisdom about the power of the breath and says:
“As long as you’re breathing there is more right than wrong with you, no matter how ill or hopeless you feel.”
From my personal experience facing cancer a few years ago, I realized just how much of our day to day life we take for granted. How important it is for us to be fully awake in our lives and to keep waking up every single day. Just think about it. When something good happens, many times we don’t recognize or celebrate it. More often than not, we ruminate about things that aren't going right for us.
Like when we're surfing the net at night or first thing in the morning in bed, we chastise ourselves for our lack of will power... Yet when we floss our teeth, or shower, how often do we pause for a moment to celebrate how wonderful it is that we are taking care of ourselves? Now there's something to celebrate! The gift of a reasonably healthy body.
Some scientists believe many of us tend to spend more time ruminating about negative stuff as opposed to celebrating the small positive stuff. Rick Hansen, a well known neuropsychologist says it's because:
“our brains are like velcro to negative experiences and teflon to positive ones"
Interestingly, he connects this tendency back to our earliest ancestors...
Hansen writes, some of our earliest mammal ancestors, over time developed nervous tendencies in order to notice potential threats and remember painful experiences (part of the survival mode) and then passed those genes on to us...that same circuitry is active in our brains today.
In complete contrast....according to Hansen and Mendius (Buddha’s Brain: The new neuroscience and the path of awakening. Fall 2007) much of our day to day positive experiences, are processed through standard memory systems and actually need to be held in our awareness for between 10-20 seconds for them to sink in.
So the argument goes, this kind of hard wiring has a negative impact on many of our experiences and increases our stress.
As I sat writing this blog today, my computer crashed and I lost all my work. BOOM. I'm guessing you've experienced this kind of frustration with technology at some point? It easily might have been another moment of stress in my day. But it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, I felt the initial shock and anger then my thoughts quickly turned to how much time I'd lost... (and OK, for the slightest moment I wanted to either throw up or throw my lap top in the bin!).
But I treat these experiences so differently now because of mindfulness.
I don't try to push my thoughts or feelings away, I hold them in my awareness with openness and curiosity.
I say to myself, 'oh anger is here' and pay attention to physical sensations in the body. I notice tension points and release them into the ground. And then I bring my attention back to the breath. The resting place. Breathing. Slow deep breaths in. And even slower breaths out.
Letting go. Letting go. Letting go.
That's how I stay motivated in stressful times. It doesn't take a bunch of fanfare and it doesn't require paying a fortune to a motivational coach. All it takes...is the breath and focused attention.
It's already in your power to stay motivated.
I have a challenge for you: I want you to bring your attention to one positive moment in your day today, hold it in your awareness for at least 20 seconds and as you take a deep breath in and exhale out.....celebrate the remarkable person that you are.
I hope these tips help you as much as they help me! Let me know by writing in the comments below. If you have any questions or maybe some tips of your own jot them down there too!