If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Notice any arising thoughts.
Perhaps try shifting your attention to body sensations, especially in your heart and gut region.
No need to figure it out right now. It's just an invitation to hold this question in your awareness and perhaps re-visit it at the end of this post.
For some, getting life back on track, is a deep wish.
It might be you want to get your life back on track after vacation, or perhaps get back on track with fitness, or financially. Maybe you want to get back on track after feeling lost, or perhaps you want to get a relationship back on track.
We want to get back to a place of happiness, success and normalcy. We want to get back to that time and place when things were easier and life was more smooth sailing. And we want to stop the feeling of stress and anxiety.
For others, our wish isn't about getting back on track, it's about getting to a new or different place in our life.
Maybe we're waiting for a big event to happen - we're not exactly sure what it is - but we know it's going to change our lives for the better. Maybe we want to start up our own business, maybe we have an idea that we want to grow into reality.
But how do we get to that better place?
Before answering the question, let's consider the words of Eckhart Tolle who said:
"Stress is caused by being here but wanting to be there."
Would it surprise you to learn that the constant 'wanting to be somewhere else in our life', other than where we are right now, is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness?
We do a lot of striving in our lives - I'm one of those strivers.
Years ago, my striving mode would often lead to anger and frustration. I'd explode more often (thankfully most of the time in private) but it took its toll on my health, my happiness and tended to push me into reactivity. Looking back, I can see how much of my work-life was about 'getting stuff done' at the expense of 'living in the now'.
I appreciate this might not be an easy thing to wrap our minds around.
In reality, it's not 'striving to achieve things' that's the issue. It's being unaware of our striving and allowing it to push our buttons.
It's getting wrapped up by wanting things to be different and attaching our emotions to these things. It's feeling like we're not making progress or seeing results quick enough.
There's nothing more frustrating and draining than wanting to constantly achieve something or be somewhere else and then feeling powerless to get there.
So much of that striving energy affects our ability to see clearly.
And what happens when we can't see clearly in our life?
Life becomes kinda foggy.
We come up against more resistance and feel like we're pushing water up a hill. Life becomes more of a struggle. We get sick more. We feel tired. We argue more with our family and colleagues. We may notice more pain and tension in our body. We get distracted more. We can't focus. And on it goes!
When we can't see clearly, it's impossible to give our best to anything and we end up missing out on everything that matters, like living our life now.
The good news is we don't have to change or stop our striving ways. What's more important is slowly building our resilience, so that over time, we can bounce back more effortlessly from moments or periods of striving.
The following five practices have helped me work with my striving over the years and achieve my goals without sacrificing my enjoyment of the present moment:
1. Breathe often. Take conscious breaths throughout your day. Place your full attention on a complete in-breath and out-breath, notice your chest expanding and contracting.
2. Acknowledge striving. The first step to working with striving, is knowing that you're striving. Find simple ways to acknowledge to yourself when you're wishing for things to be different.
3. Try not to judge yourself. Once you've caught on to your striving self, try to stay open and non judging. Don't be too hard on yourself. We're not aiming for perfection, we're aiming for awareness.
4. Check in with your body. During intensive striving moments, notice any areas of tightness or tension in your body, especially the neck, shoulders and lower back regions and try to relax and soften these areas.
5. Celebrate the small wins, not just the big ones. It's SO easy to dismiss small victories (like smiling at a stranger and brightening their day). These victories and small successes happen everyday and are often the most meaningful.
Now back to that wish... If I could have a wish granted it would be this!
Let's not get so wrapped up in achieving our big goals and dreams, that we miss out on living our life right now, because this moment is the only moment we've got.
What are some of the things in your life you've wanted to get back on track with and which of the steps above do you think might work for you? I'd love to hear your comments below!
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How to meditate in a busy work environment.
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