Good Morning, I Love You, the power of daily practice
|“…one of the most powerful toolkits that we have in our lives is how-when we breathe. So we have to understand this tight linkage between breathing and our physiological state and the exciting portal that breathing gives us.” Dr. Stephen Porges, author, researcher, pioneer of Polyvagal theory|
As a mindset geek, I m always on the looking for the new tools and fresh perspectives on managing thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Yet one centuries-old practice seems to be exploding in time to meet the growing need for something to anchor us in these highly turbulent times. In an inspiring TED talk, scientist and author Dr. Shauna Shapiro talks about the neuroscience behind a daily meditation practice and the importance of starting small to keep it going. I was so inspired, I immediately picked up a copy of Dr. Shapiro’s “Good Morning, I Love You”. In it she shares science behind a daily mindful meditation practice that centers around compassion. It’s one aspect this work that’s often ignored.
As I coach I know that as much as we want to commit to a daily practice, a regular exercise routine, more hours sleeping or less time on social media, habits are really hard to change! Regardless of how inspired you are, it’s hard to stay motivated long enough to experience the benefits, so we give up to early and assume it didn’t work for us. We tell ourselves life is so overwhelming it would be impossible to sit still long enough to meditate. It may even sound painful. So we choose to practice yoga once a week, or take a daily hike or solitary bike ride and feel we’ve checked the box. And it’s true, these mindful activities can inspire awe and present moment awareness. But in order to get the benefits of a meditation practice, like stress reduction, better sleep, less reactivity, greater focus and overall improved well-being, there is a formula.
As Dr. Amishi Jha’s research shows mindful activities like contemplation, or dreaming, or enjoying the beauty of nature are not the same as keeping your attention on the present moment from a place of stillness, bringing it back every time it wanders. You enjoy these beautiful experiences, and while they cultivate mindful awareness and make us feel better in the short term, they will not create the changes in the brain that come from a meditation practice of as little as 12 minutes a day, as Dr. Jha’s research shows.
Meditation, the practice of returning attention to the present, letting go of thoughts and judgments, is a practice of self-awareness. Meaning that you have to focus your attention on one anchor point so you can step out of your storyline, taming the monkey mind, long enough to notice when you get caught up again so you can repeat this mental workout. Mindful movement or appreciation of beauty are wonderful practices for cultivating greater awareness as well, but when you’re able to “focus, sustain attention, notice, and redirect attention back to the breath when it wanders. This is what we might call a “push-up” for your attention.”
|“Meditation is a teachable, learnable skill that allows you to go from being in the movie of your thoughts, to a member of the audience, able to observe the story you created” Tim Ferriss, multiple NY times bestselling author and high performance coach|
Dr. Shapiro identifies 3 pillars of meditation as intention, awareness and attitude. She suggests that when we notice our mind wandering, we meet our meandering attention with an attitude of kindness and open-minded curiosity. And that this attitude is one we can cultivate all of the time. I agree, it’s a challenge, but it’s also a great place to keep coming back to.
And a daily meditation practice, or mindset training session, is the perfect place to begin.
PS. I’m excited to launch a new 10 day workshop designed to help you make daily more do-able. Stay tuned!
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