I honestly can not remember what boredom feels like. When I hear people say they are bored it's such a bizarre concept to me. Can't comprehend. What does it mean to be bored? Is it restlessness? Is it discontent? Is it an addiction to stimulation (caffeine, visual images, talking, doing)? Deciding to lead a simple life is all about shifting the mental paradigm from constant movement and stimulation to just easing into what is with acceptance and surrender.
Just BE-ING where you are and diving deep into the sounds, sights, sensations of your present moment is living in fullness. There is no such thing as boredom in that place! A simple life is about feeling FULL in the beauty of simplicity rather than chasing constant stimulation.
This week I am staying at a house right on the beach of the Pacific Ocean with my dear husband, my nearly 17 year old daughter, her bestie and our wonderful friends Josh and Beth. We have embraced the simple life by cooking together, watching the lightening storms while listening to Ray LaMontagne's album Ouroboros. A simple life here means riding the waves on boogie boards and going for long walks on the beach watching the pelicans fly in formation and the gathering of sea gulls on the sand. It's about collecting sea shells and thinking of which of my child clients will enjoy using these shells in the sand tray in my office when I return. It's about seeing my teenage daughter and her friend have the time of their lives jumping waves with squeals.
Boredom is not something we experience once we embrace a simple life. With acceptance and celebration of what is right here right now, there is no such thing as feeling bored. All of life is a celebration with an embrace of a simple life. This is the essence of mindfulness. Being with what is. Accepting. Surrendering. Celebrating. Appreciating.
My simple morning practice is a set of healthy habits I've established and I'd like to share it with you.
You see, how we start our day has everything to do with how we interact with what life may throw us.
It's important to be intentional and creating simple rituals for your morning can make all the difference.
I've listed below some suggestions based on my own simple morning routine.
A simple life with self care focus doesn't just happen. A simple life and self care must be cultivated and it starts with the dawn of each new day.
- Let your morning begin with the night before. Create a healthy and effective sleep hygiene. If you haven't yet grabbed my free Sleep Tight Guide go get it now! It's SO important to get a good night's rest in order of have a purposeful morning experience.
- Get up early. It's important to have plenty of time to move through your morning with ease. Set a gentle alarm to go off. I use a soft chime on my phone.
- Take time for some gentle yoga. It might be just stretching and breathing in your bed or you might want to have a dedicated standing practice. Here is a short video to a brief yoga practice that is a simple 4 minute flow I created for women over 40. Yep, that's me demonstrating for you!
- Drink a big glass of water. If you like, add a squeeze of lemon juice for a little detox action. Hydrating and starting the day with a glass of water BEFORE you get to the next one is key.
- Brew a simple cup of organic coffee or organic tea. Mindfully sip, taking the aroma, the warmth of the mug, the sensation of the steam rising up to your face.
- Connect with nature. If you have an outdoor space, early morning is a wonderful time to soak up the crisp morning air, listen to the birds or gaze at the sunrise. If weather doesn't permit, sit by a window and as you sip on your mug of hot coffee or tea, take time to see what you can see in the sky or the tree tops. Maybe go for a walk and keep your head up and notice what you see along the way.
- Practice mindfulness in the bath or shower. Move slowly as you bathe your body feeling the sensation of the water on your skin, the scent of your shampoo, the sound of the water. As you dry your body, take time to gently pat each area of your body with a towel feeling grateful for the body you are in and how it's carried you this far in life.
I've discovered that committing to simple practices leads to a simple life is all about slowing down.
For so many years we moved so fast, rushing about in the morning to get the kids to school and to get to work that the day would fly by in a frenzy and it often felt life was a race resulting in exhaustion and often anxiety.
Starting the day with mindful intention and a slow pace sets the tone for a much more peaceful life experience every day.
On September 6, 2016 I was returning from a magically simple and satisfying long weekend on a beautiful mountain lake with my amazing family. I decided that I would return home to a focus of creating a simple life in order to bring back with me that sense of peace and connectedness I felt while at the lake. And one thing I noticed not only that weekend but also in my work as a psychotherapist and mentor for others is that people just want to be heard. Really heard. But not only do people want to be heard but I believe Nature itself - nature that is all around us and within us - also wants to be heard. The practice of simply listening is the key to noticing and receiving more deeply the magical messages we otherwise miss in the busy-ness of our lives.
- Slow down. Stop moving constantly. Stillness is rather important to being able to really hear, to attend with intention.
- Listen for content without analysis. You can analyze later. Right now just take it in.
- Seek to understand. Instead of jumping to rebuttal or problem solving mode, simply listen for what the other person is showing you or what Nature is demonstrating.
- Appreciate what you hear or observe. You need not like it or agree with it but you can appreciate it.
This morning my husband and I sat out on our front porch as the sun came up and we noticed a large spider had built an expansive web between the two porch columns and was busily consuming her breakfast of a rather large insect. I know a lot of people who would have rushed to get the broom and taken down that web, spider and all. As much as I admit that I'm not particularly a fan of arachnids I have a deep and abiding respect for Nature and I have cultivated an ability to slow down and listen to the messages it may have for me. As we watched the spider doing her thing, I appreciated the meticulous work and the art of this web-spinning in order to get what she needs to live another day.
There is something tremendously rich about intentionally living a simple life rather than the complex, confusing, crazed rat-races we otherwise may find ourselves lost in. Slowing down and simply listening to what others are saying and showing us, pausing to really pay attention to what Nature has to demonstrate. . . yields treasures otherwise overlooked.
Simple meditation is nothing more than the process of sitting with a willingness to just breathe and focus on the present moment. When I first started my personal meditation practice in 1991, meditation wasn't nearly as widely known and practiced as it is today. After 20+ years of practicing and 15+ years of teaching and leading others I have seen how popular meditation and yoga have become - to the point it's all gotten kind of complicated. Lately I have been feeling led to return to the most simple form of meditation as I introduce clients and new students to the practice.
Some people who have never experienced this simple practice might wonder, "What's the point? Why meditate?"
Fortunately, recent scientific studies have proven that basic mindfulness meditation over 8 weeks of steady practice changes the brain in amazing ways. The list of benefits and reasons to meditate is long. But the over-arching reason to meditate is to find harmony within oneself. Harmony with emotions and thoughts. A greater sense of acceptance. And from there meditation practice regularly helps us to harmonize with others, with the circumstances of life.
Simple meditation requires very little except a time commitment of 20 minutes/day, a comfortable, quiet place to sit upright and maybe a timer when you're first starting out. With a comfortable, upright seated position simply close your eyes and accept the sounds you may hear around you. Bring your mind's awareness to sensations in your body and try to relax and allow your body to sink into your seat. Then, focus on the sensation of breath naturally coming into the body and leaving the body. You can expect the first 10-12 minutes to sometimes feel a little uneasy but stick with it knowing that taking this time for simple meditation is like feathering a nest internally that will eventually be a very soft and easy home within your mind and heart that you can drop into.
As a part of leading a simple life, I find it important to learn how to let go of the expectations we once clung to and accept what is as much as possible.
I want to share a little parable with you:
A gambler once said to the Master, "I was caught cheating at cards yesterday, so my partners beat me up and threw me out of the window. What would you advise me to do?"
The Master looked straight through the man and said, "If I were you, from now on I would play on the ground floor."
This startled the disciples. "Why didn't you tell him to stop gambling?" they demanded.
"Because I knew he wouldn't," was the Master's simple and sagacious explanation.
As a licensed psychotherapist, mentor, supervisor, teacher and as a mother I find this wise little story very true. My own mentor told me long ago, "When you are helping people, meet them where they are rather than trying to drag them to where you are."
How often do we all set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration by expecting people around us to behave the way we believe they should? Often others are simply not equipped, informed or aware of what it is we are expecting of them.
In my own pursuit of a simpler life with A Simple Life Project, I am employing an approach to all of my relationships and interactions that takes into account where others are mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually before I expect them to behave or act any particular way. How does this simplify my life you might ask? Well, it strips away the complexities of erroneous assumptions and crossed wires in communication.
For example, if I have a mentoring client and we are having our first 90 minute dive-deep session in my 3 month redesign your life mentoring program I shift into neutral with no assumptions as to how my client thinks and feels and I join her in her world by asking particular open ended questions that provides windows for me to look into her heart, her mind, her soul. This greatly simplifies the process of coming to really know where my client is. The alternative (and sadly this happens with far too many life coaches out there) would be for me to march in there with assumptions of what is going on for her and what she needs which then greatly complicates the process because she might feel confused when what I suggest does not fit for her.
Another example on a more personal front would be how I interact with my husband at the end of a work day. If he is particularly silent and seems grumpy rather than seeking to change him or scolding him for being unresponsive, it greatly simplifies things for me to give him some space and then lovingly ask if there is anything I can do for him.
When we rush in seeking to change someone, or we out-right expect people to act a certain way we are really complicating things unnecessarily. Accept people are where they are. Seek to understand but don't try to change people. Otherwise you set yourself up for unnecessary conflict.
Deal with what is instead. It goes a long way in the aim of achieving a simpler life and simpler relationships.
I have been a yoga and meditation teacher since 1995. I'm certified in a particular style of circular breath-work and I teach breathing exercises (pranayama) to my clients of all ages to increase focus, experience relief from anxiety symptoms and align body, mind and spirit. I never stop being amazed at how human beings don't seem to know how to breathe in a way that helps them to feel better. We were born into the world naturally knowing how to breathe so when did we start holding our breath or breathing so shallowly?
A simple breathing technique has been proven to bring immediate calm to the nervous system. This one breath exercise can snap you back into present moment, ground your otherwise frazzled energy and simplify your life. Ready to learn?
I call this slow bubble blowing.
- Allow your belly to grow soft and sit up straight. Drop your shoulders down away from your ears.
- Through your nose take in a deep full breath allowing your belly to expand naturally and fill the lungs all the way up to your collar bone. (count to 4 if you like).
- As if blowing bubbles in a controlled manner, blow out the breath very slowly and completely. Make this exhale twice as long as the inhale. (count to 8 if you like).
- Repeat 3 times.
- Notice the profound shift.
Simply breathe and your life will seem sweeter, slower and more relaxed.