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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

A version of this post first appeared here at Attorney at Work.

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We know that free-play is important to the development of children. But it’s also really important in the life of an adult. You may think that you don’t need to play, that you don’t have time to play, but there are good reasons to incorporate play into your life in order to be successful in life and in work.

What is play?

Brené Brown, researcher and author of Daring Greatly, describes play as anything that makes us lose track of time and self-consciousness. In other words, something that you experience as fun! Researcher Stuart Brown, MD (who is not related to Brené Brown), describes play as time spent without purpose. Unfortunately, I agree with Brené Brown, when she responds to this idea with “this sounds like the definition of an anxiety attack. I feel behind if I’m not using every last moment to be productive, whether that means working, cleaning the house or taking my son to baseball practice.” Agreed. I mean, I barely have time to do all the purposeful things I need to do. Why would I waste time doing something that has no purpose!? Because play is important.

  1. The importance of play.

Play itself – meaning the activity in which you are engaging – need not have a purpose in the sense that it is not directly related to your productivity, not related to getting things done, and not related to achieving your financial or career goals. But it does have a purpose: creating the space in your mind where ideas can be born, perspective can improve, and the self is nurtured. In other words, play refreshes your mind and body, increases energy and prevents burnout, triggers creativity and innovation, and helps you see problems in new ways. But that’s not all.

  1. Play is directly related to your success.

Research shows that “playing” relieves stress by triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. As we know, success at work is highly dependent upon the quality of your work, not just the quantity. And the quality of work is dependent upon your well-being. So, ultimately, play is vitally important to your success, in life and in work.

  1. Wanna come out and play?

Play is different for everyone. It should be something that you enjoy such that you lose track of time. It could be an organized sport, like basketball or tennis. Maybe it’s brain-games like chess, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku. It could be a creative endeavor like painting, drawing, or scrapbooking; or performing arts such as an improv or dance class. Or maybe it’s something that gets you moving but is more meditative, such as snorkeling, yoga, or hiking. The possibilities are endless.

  1. Incorporate playfulness into your work.

Your work is serious, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be serious all the time, even in the office. When you hit a “glitch” in a matter or project, take some time out to “play” to reset your mind and come back with a fresh perspective on problem-solving. A small basketball hoop could help, or an air-hockey table in an extra conference room. Ask a colleague to join you, as playing with colleagues encourages teamwork and builds comradery.

  1. But what if it’s been so long since you played that you can’t remember what you like to do for fun?

Never fear. Even if you haven’t engaged in an activity simply for the fun of it in a really long time, most likely there was a time in your past when you played. Think back to that time – maybe it was when you were a kid – and make a list of all the things you enjoyed back then. Which still sound appealing to you? Coloring? There are lots of great adult coloring books available. Playing pretend? Maybe try an acting class, or go see a play. Playing with your family pet? Perhaps volunteer at a local animal shelter. Photography? Pull that camera out and get out in the world and take some photos. Playing board games? Organize a monthly game night with friends. LEGOs? There are some seriously awesome LEGO sets available. Get creative. Try something you liked in the past, or try something new.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” When was the last time you played? No matter how long ago, make today the next time you play!

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Meditation Sucks… Initially

You may know that I advocate meditation for everything. It may not be the remedy for all ailments and problems, but it can be part of the solution to every issue. So you may be surprised to hear me say that “meditation sucks.” What do I mean?

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I told my seven-year-old daughter that I was going to meditate, and that I’d be back in the living room in about 15 minutes. She knows that I meditate (nearly) every day. She said, “You really like meditation. I don’t like it.” (They have meditation starting in preschool at her Montessori school — love that!). And I thought, actually, no, I don’t love it. In fact, I don’t enjoy it most of the time. The process of meditating is painful. It is doing so many of the things that I don’t like: sitting still, being quiet, not working on anything, feeling unproductive. So why do I meditate? Because it’s not about what happens during the meditation, but the benefits that follow after the meditation.

“It’s not about what happens on the mat, but what happens off the mat.” That quote is attributed to lots of people, so I’m not sure who said it first. But that is the point of meditation. The first 3-10 minutes are PAINFUL for me. But I stick with it until I get to that place of calm. Of course, some days, I am a complete “failure” at meditation because I never get to that place of calm. But I do it anyway, and that means that I succeed because I reap the benefits, even when I don’t do it “right.” Try it.

Other posts about meditation:

The Importance of Quieting Your Mind

Be Great: Learn to Relax

Too Busy Not To…

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A version of this post first appeared here at Attorney at Work.

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Sometimes your day is cruising happily along when a bump in the road — or a major pothole — comes along to derail you from the easy life. And then there are days when everything seems to go wrong all day long. Life isn’t always easy, but there are steps you can take to make your days better. Here are five.

1. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Many thought leaders, from Brené Brown to the Dalai Lama, tout the benefits of living with an attitude of gratitude. I agree. This is different than positive thinking in the face of real adversity. Rather, it is seeing life for the reality that it is, and being grateful for what’s good about it even when some parts are not good. My friend Diane Costigan, who is Director of Coaching at Winston & Strawn LLP in New York City,  taught me this phrase when I was working with her as a coach: “What I like about it is …”  This is a great way to live with an attitude of gratitude. It can also make you laugh in the face of trouble. For example, I lost my cellphone (disaster!), but what I like about it is …  I can get an early upgrade to a better phone.

2. Accept reality. As one of my favorite authors, Byron Katie, would say, when you argue with reality you always lose. I love this thought. It makes life much simpler. Katie says to let go of the “shoulds” in your life. Yes, the grocery story clerk should be nicer. Yes, boss should listen to your ideas without interruption and with validation. Your unappreciative family should appreciate how hard you are working and still balancing all the other life stuff that benefits you all. But sometimes the reality is that those things don’t happen, even if they should. The best way to handle these difficulties is to accept that they exist and then work with them. You can either work to remedy them or change something in your life so that you don’t continue to find yourself in a reality that you don’t like.

3. Delegate. It is difficult to succeed without a team. If you don’t have teammates — colleagues, friends, assistants, family — take the time to create a team that can help you handle all your responsibilities. It can be hard to let go of the control to effectively delegate. Let’s be honest, though: If you micro-manage the person to whom you delegate, you aren’t saving yourself any time and you are frustrating them. So instead, take the time to find a competent and cooperative teammate, be very clear in your directions, and let him or her take the responsibility. There may be growing pains, both in your ability to give effective directions and your teammate’s ability to deliver as expected, but it will be worth it.

4. Organize. One of the best ways to keep all your various responsibilities in order and successfully handled is to be organized. Organize your office so that things don’t get lost in the shuffle. Organize your day so that you use your time as efficiently as possible. Organize your life so that you have resources readily available to you. When you are organized, you don’t waste time and energy trying to find whatever you need to be successful.

5. Meditate, then plan. When I am overwhelmed with work and life, I want to jump in as quickly as possible and tackle things. Who has time to plan? Resist that temptation. Take a breath, and take the time to meditate and then plan. Would you build a house without first drafting a plan? Of course not. Take the same approach to your day, your month, and your life. You actually save time when you make a good and thoughtful plan. When you take five minutes to meditate before you plan, your planning with go more smoothly and efficiently. Meditation will clear your mind of the noise and allow you to breathe, slow down and think.

Have a great day!

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A longer version of this post (with 5 ways to relax) first appeared here at Attorney@Work.

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“Relax: re·lax (rəˈlaks/) v. make or become less tense or anxious.”Being tense and anxious can make you worried, uneasy, irritable, exhausted and even susceptible to illness, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal ailments and depression. And, as we all know, life is stressful and can make you unhappy.

So, We Must Learn to Relax

Clearly, relaxation is good for you. The benefits of lessening tension and anxiety are enormous. It makes you think more clearly, work more efficiently, handle stress better, and live as a nicer, happier and healthier person. Of course, a two-week vacation with no responsibilities and no calls from the office or home would be great. But be serious, that in itself would be stressful. What would be happening back at home and the office?!? A better idea is finding ways to relax, to rejuvenate both mind and body, with small amounts of time.

Meditation and yoga are two ways to take a “mini-vacation” with minimal time. Meditation and yoga allow you to control your mind and your thoughts, especially when you can’t control the other things happening in life. It helps relax your mind and body by focusing your thoughts on your breath during the practice and lowering the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.

Ideally, you’d practice meditation and yoga every morning. Meditation can be easy to incorporate into your daily routine if you begin with breathing meditations, where you sit quietly and focus on your breath. Start with as little as two or three minutes a day. Or, if your mind tends to wander, try guided meditations where you are “talked” through the meditation so you can focus only on what the speaker is saying. Daily yoga may be more difficult to incorporate, so make it a weekly goal. If you can’t make it to a class, use an app such as Pocket Yoga. And if you only have five or 10 minutes, do a short series of sun salutations with focused breathing. You can search YouTube to learn sun salutations.

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Peaceful chairsHere’s a great post by Jeff Gitterman on the importance of meditation. It is adapted from his book “Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity” © 2009 Jeffrey L. Gitterman, published by AMACOM Books (www.amacombooks.org).

As you’ll see, he’s not necessarily talking about “sitting crossed-legged on a cushion” but rather he’s referring to any activity that allows us to stop listening to the endless chatter in our heads. Some people call it the “monkey mind”; I know my “monkey” is very chatty most of the time and meditation will help “get me out of my head” and out of my own way so that I can accomplish things.

Here’s an excerpt from his article:

“When I use the term meditation, I don’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on a cushion but rather participating in any deliberate activity that helps us to disengage from a compulsive relationship with our stream of thought. There are numerous books that have been written over the years on the subject of meditation and how to disengage from the thinking mind or, more simply put, how to stop listening to the voice inside our head. It’s important that each of us find our own method that works best.

The benefit of learning how to disengage our attention from the thought stream is that we can then apply our minds more readily toward more constructive things, such as accomplishing tasks and connecting with other people and our own true purpose. It creates space within us — an opening that allows more energy to flow into us. In this seemingly paradoxical way, having more space in our minds allows us to accomplish more and more things in the world.”

Read the full article here.

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