Peace.

Peace.

When we learn to locate the seed of peace inside ourselves, we acknowledge a reliable source of serenity.

In our noisy world, we often find ourselves longing for peace and searching to find it somewhere else. While it's true that there are places we can visit where we can experience peace, such as sacred sites or buildings, we do not need to wait until we get to one of these places to feel at peace. Instead, we can learn to locate the seed of peace inside ourselves and cultivate it so that it grows into a reliable source of serenity that we can always access, no matter where we are. 

We experience peace when we are in a state of mental calm and serenity. It might surprise you to notice how infrequently you allow yourself to be free from anxiety. Realizing this is the first step to inner peace. If you wait until all the details of your life are taken care of to allow yourself to experience peace, you will never feel peaceful because there is always something that your mind can grab onto to create anxiety. It is important to consciously set aside your worries and make time to cultivate inner peace. 

Ideally, you could schedule time each day to meditate on peace and experience what it feels like to be calm and serene. It takes practice to learn how to let go of your worries, so give yourself some time. Inhale deeply, and feel your worries dissolve with every exhale. Remind yourself that soon enough you will be able to take care of everything you need to, but right now you are taking a break. As the clutter of your thoughts and concerns clear away, you will start to feel more serene. Allow yourself to move deeper into this state with each inhale. 

Realize that you have the power to free yourself from anxiety simply by deciding to do so. The more you practice feeling peaceful, the easier it will be for you to feel at peace. 
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About Vision.

About Vision.

Vision comes from within and shows us how to navigate the realms of thought, feeling, and emotion.

Sight is the ability to see the physical world while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it. Sight enables us to take the physical world in so we can participate in it with knowledge. It brings us pleasure through our eyes, which perceive the colors and shapes of all the myriad expressions of nature and human beings. It helps us feel in control, allowing us to see what is coming toward us, which way we are going, and exactly where we are standing at a given moment. We are able to read signs and books, navigate the interiors of buildings with ease, sense and perceive how a person is feeling by the expressions that cross her face.

As anyone who has lost their eyesight can tell you, though, there are things that are clearer when you cannot see the world through your eyes. One of the reasons many meditation instructors advise sitting with the eyes closed is because we automatically become more in touch with our inner world when we are not distracted by the outer world. It is in this state that vision becomes our mode of seeing.

Vision comes from within and shows us how to navigate the realms of thought, feeling, and emotion. It enables us to see things that aren’t yet manifested in the world of form, and it also connects us to that part of ourselves that exists separately from the world of form.

As we age, even those of us with perfect eyesight will generally lose some of our acuity, but this loss is usually replaced with inner vision. This is the time of life when we are meant to turn inside and take what are sometimes the very first steps of a journey that cannot be traced on a map.

We call upon intuition and feel our way along a path that ultimately carries us beyond the realm we can see with our eyes and into the land of spirit.

Based on text by Daily Om

Receiving.

Receiving.

By allowing ourselves to receive, we are given the gift of seeing through another person’s eyes.

Giving and receiving are part of the same cycle, and we each give and receive in our own ways. But we can lose our balance when we try to be too controlling on either side of the cycle. On the receiving end, we may feel that we don’t deserve the effort made if what we gave was easy for us to give. But perhaps there is a different lesson there for us. We may be receiving not only gratitude, but a chance to see the world through the eyes of another. We may be learning that just because we gave easily, it doesn’t diminish its value. Or perhaps the universe is giving us an example to hold close to our hearts, to encourage us on some future day when our own generous act of giving is not met with a visible act of receiving. When we can allow ourselves to receive as well as give, we do our part to keep the channels of abundance open for ourselves and others.

Sometimes we may find ourselves struggling to respond to others’ gifts in the same ways — like responding to an expensive present with something equally expensive, or feeling like we have to throw a dinner party for someone who has thrown one for us. And when these are done out of a sense of obligation, their energy changes from something that shares to something that drains. If this sounds familiar, we can decide next time to allow ourselves to receive with arms, minds and hearts open and simply say thank you.

Accepting a person’s gift is a gift in itself. Sincere appreciation for their acknowledgement and their effort joins our energy with theirs in the cycle of giving and receiving, and nurtures all involved.

Based on text by Daily Om.

Small Steps Towards Big Changes.

Small Steps Towards Big Changes.

When we decide that it’s time for big changes in our lives, it is wise to ease into them by starting small. Small changes allow us to grow into a new habit and make it a permanent part of our lives, whereas sudden changes may cause a sense of failure that makes it difficult to go on, and we are more likely to revert to our old ways.

Even if we have gone that route and find ourselves contemplating the choice to start over again, we can decide to take it slowly this time, and move forward.

Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are merely indicators of the need for change and are useful in getting us moving in the right direction. And it is possible that once we try out what seemed so ideal, we may find that it doesn’t actually suit us, or make us feel the way we had hoped. By embarking on the path slowly, we have the chance to look around and consider other options as we learn and grow. We have time to examine the underlying values of the desire for change and find ways to manifest those feelings, whether it looks exactly like our initial goal or not.

Taking small steps forward gives us time to adjust and find secure footing on our new path.

Life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to anticipate or prepare for a big change, and we may find ourselves overwhelmed by what is in front of us. By choosing one thing to work on at a time, we focus our attention on something manageable, and eventually we will look up to see that we have accomplished quite a bit.

Forcing change is, in essence, a sign that we do not trust the universe’s wisdom. Instead, we can listen to our inner guidance and make changes at a pace that is right for us, ensuring that we do so in alignment with the rhythm of the universe.

Simplifying.

Simplifying.

For many, life is a hodgepodge of never-ending commitments. Yet few of us can be truly healthy or happy without regular periods of downtime. While there is nothing inherently wrong with busyness, those of us who over-commit or over-extend ourselves potentially face exhaustion and burnout. When you feel overwhelmed by your commitments, examining your motivation for taking on so many obligations can help you understand why you feel compelled to do so much.

You may discover that you are being driven by fear that no one else will do the job or guilt that you aren’t doing enough. To regain your equilibrium and clear the clutter from your calendar, simplify your life by establishing limits regarding what you will and will not do based on your personal priorities.

Determining where your priorities lie can be as easy as making two lists: one that outlines all those obligations that are vital to your wellbeing, such as work, meditation, and exercise, and another that describes everything you do that is not directly related to your wellbeing. Although there will likely be items in the latter list that excite your passion or bring you joy, you may discover that you devote a large portion of your time to unnecessary activities.

To simplify your schedule, consider which of these unnecessary activities add little value to your life and edit them from your agenda. Remember that you may need to ask for help, say no firmly, or delegate responsibility in order to distance yourself from such encumbrances. However, as you divest yourself of non-vital obligations that cause you stress, serve no purpose, or rob you of opportunities to refresh yourself, you will feel more energetic and enthusiastic about life in general.

If simplifying your schedule seems prohibitively difficult and you still feel pressed to take on more, try imagining how each new commitment will impact your life before saying yes. When you consider the hassle associated with superfluous obligations, you may be surprised to see that your schedule is impeding your attempts to grow as an individual.

Your willingness to pare down your agenda, no matter how gradual your progress, will empower you to retake active control of the life that defines you.

Text by Daily Om

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 4/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 4/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

Slow Down for Better Results

Like the tortoise who beat the hare by managing its energy and keeping a steady pace, slowing down is about optimizing for the process.

The situations you’re in will vary. The specific approaches that help you slow down might change. But the underlying principles remain the same:

  • Staying intentional, you do what’s most important to you.
  • Focusing on quality, you do things well.
  • Focusing on the long-term, you care for your wellbeing and do things you can sustain.
  • Letting go of attachments, you remain open to possibilities, so you can do what’s optimal.

Mindful is slow. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Some practice, anyone?

Re-read Parts 1, 2, 3.

Where would you benefit from slowing down this week?

Slowing Down To Go Farther Part 3/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther Part 3/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

Slowing Down in the Moment

Slowing down means letting go of the urge to do more. And in doing so, shifting your attention to quality and effectiveness.

In practice, the basic process looks like this:

  1. Notice when you experience the thought “I need to do more or else [consequence]…”
  2. Examine if that’s really the case. Do you know for certain that doing more is the answer?
  3. Let go of the urge to do more, and instead, proceed mindfully by slowing down.
  4. Slow down to re-ground yourself and consider possible paths forward.
  5. Prime yourself for action.
  6. Move forward in the best way: with clarity, intention, and energy.

Not sure what “slowing down” actually means?

It varies depending on where you are and what you’re doing!

To get your mind going, check out the 8 approaches below. They work well together, but this isn’t a fixed sequence. Treat them as options to experiment with.

8 Ways to Slow Down (and Get Better Results)

  1. Physically slow down. Changing your physical body is a great way to shift your psychology. Start by sitting still. Put your devices away. Breathe deeply for a few minutes. Sit in meditation. Or, go for a walk outside. Anywhere from 5-20 minutes can create a profound shift.
  2. Get out of your head and into your body: Re-ground yourself by directing your attention towards the physical sensations in your body. Observe how the sensations ebb, flow, and change over time. By noticing what’s there without judgment, you can stay more intentional.
  3. Recall the nature of your thoughts: The thoughts crossing your mind are just thoughts, not universal truths. Think of them as suggestions, or possibilities. Question them. Is this thought actually true?
  4. Consider alternate paths forward: What do you want here? How have you been approaching it? What are some different ways you could approach it?
  5. Set a new intention: Having slowed down and considered your approach, what do you want to do now? In the big-picture, what’s most important?
  6. Write about it: Thoughts move quickly in the mind. Noting them down on paper slows things down so you can see them more clearly. Grab a pen and some paper and write thoughts as they surface in your mind. (Without judging them or needing to do something about it.)
  7. Prime yourself for quality action: Before taking action, consider: “What would it look like to move forward in the best way?” For me, this often involves taking a break to shift my state. (e.g. Exercising, having some tea, switching my physical location.) Creating a deliberate shift, even a small one, helps with letting go of the previous approach, and orienting to your new intention.
  8. Treat it as an experiment: It can be intimidating to try new approaches. Instead of worrying about what will happen if it doesn’t work, treat it as an experiment. You’ll never know what will happen unless you give it a go!

It’s important to note that slowing down is NOT about making things perfect. Instead, it’s about improving your effectiveness, even by a little bit.

Beware of the trap of overthinking your approach. If you find yourself trying to get things perfect, shift your focus to marginal gains. “How could I be 5 or 10% more effective?”

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 2/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 2/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

The Perils of “More, More, More”

Picture this: You’re driving up a hill. It’s steep. And it’s muddy.

The more effort approach is like slamming your foot on the accelerator. By doing this, the engine will rev and your wheels will spin faster. But if you don’t make progress up the hill, what’s the use?

Slowing down gives you an opportunity to consider alternate approaches. Perhaps there’s a different road that would serve you better. Maybe you need to get a new vehicle. Or maybe, walking would be most effective path up.

Acting with the idea that “more is always better, so I need to do more” contributes to:

  • Anxiety: “How will I ever get where I want to?”
  • A mindset of scarcity and impatience: “I’m not doing enough”
  • Fear: “If I don’t create what I want here, then I won’t be okay in life.”
  • A scattered mind: “So much to do, so little time!”

Which brings us to back to the lesson from the golf course: If you want to make better progress, start by slowing down.

The Benefits of Slowing Down

I first experienced the benefits of slowing down while playing golf. But since then, I’ve observed this principle at work in all areas of life.

In Communication + Relationships

  • Speaking: Using fewer words and speaking intentionally begets clarity and understanding.
  • Listening: Slowing down and getting present helps you actually hear what the other person is saying. (Instead of focusing on your response.)
  • Sharing: Instead of blurting out the first thing that comes into your head, slowing down helps you consider what’s actually alive in you.
  • Working through a challenge: Slowing down helps you zoom out, shift your perspective, and see the problem from a new angle.

In Business

  • Sales: If you aren’t creating the number of clients you’d like, simply making more sales calls may not be your best route forward. Slowing down can help you understand opportunities to be of greater service to others by changing your approach.
  • Creativity: When procrastinating, or feeling resistance, slowing down to do just one thing is an effective way to create momentum.
  • Operations: If your days are consumed by logistical challenges, and you find yourself repeating similar tasks over and over again, just doing more work won’t solve the underlying issues. Slowing down can help you consider the underlying system, and find ways to expedite, automate, and improve it.

In Athletics

  • Swimming: Slower strokes can help you maintain a streamlined position in the water, leading to faster speeds.
  • Strength Training: Slowing down helps you prioritize good form to avoid injury, and use your energy effectively through.
  • Rock Climbing: Slower movements help you maintain balance and control on the wall, leading to fewer falls.

In Life

  • When overwhelmed: Slowing down is the best way to regain clarity in hectic and stressful times. Mindfully working with what you’re feeling, you can let go of anything that’s not serving you, shift your state, and establish a clear intention to move forward.
  • Careers: Without clarity that you’re on a path that’s aligned with your purpose and priorities, working harder for the next promotion won’t feel as meaningful. Slowing down helps you orient yourself in the right direction, and make shifts if necessary.
  • Rest: To maintain great energy, you need to slow down, rest, and refill the gas tank.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Part 3 coming soon!

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 1/4

Slowing Down To Go Farther | Part 1/4

Based on text by Patrick Buggy

“Where else have my instincts been this wrong?”

This thought flashed across my mind while golfing with a friend.  I’m pretty bad at golf. And it showed in my performance.

I wanted to hit the ball farther, so I followed my instincts and swung the club harder!

Makes sense, right? “More effort = More progress!”

But my instincts were wrong. Putting more “OOMPH” into my swing made my performance worse.

  • I was less accurate
  • The ball didn’t travel farther
  • And I had used more energy in the process

I didn’t know what to do about it! Fortunately, I was with an experienced golfer. On the next hole, they told me to slow down my swing.

At first, this didn’t make sense. (“Doesn’t slower mean less power?”) But I gave it a try.

To my astonishment, it worked! hit the ball farther and straighter than I had hit it all day! By slowing down, I had better form and struck the ball better.

The Paradox of Slowing Down to Go Farther

I think about that day on the golf course often. It taught me a powerful lesson: Doing more isn’t always better. If you want to make more progress, start by slowing down.

The goal of slowing down isn’t actually to go slower. It’s about taking action in the most effective way.

Optimizing for the effectiveness of your approach, is key to making the overall journey better.

In this case, “slowing down” means optimizing for:

  • Quality over quantity: Doing things well instead of doing more things.
  • Sustainability of effort: Doing something you can sustain, enjoy doing, and want to keep doing.
  • Intentionality over reactivity: Doing what you’ve decided you want, instead of letting others dictate your path for you.
  • Open consideration over attachment: Doing what’s optimal, letting go of attachments to “the way things are” or “the way we’ve always done it”.

The Navy Seals have a saying that encapsulates this premise: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

When you do something more slowly, you’re more intentional, and can make it smooth. Smooth means high-quality. And high-quality is effective, which means you make better progress in the long-run.

But if slowing down is so important, why don’t we do it more often? Why isn’t “mindful and slow” our default state?

Why it’s Hard to Slow Down

There is a toxic narrative present in modern society: “More is better.”

You see it in the form of rampant consumerism across the world. But the same story bleeds into other areas of life, often without realizing it.

And it contributes to a destructive thought-pattern when trying to make progress on things you care about.

“If I’m not seeing the results I’d like, then I need to do more! Hustle harder! Do it faster! Put more effort into it!”

There’s something attractive about the idea that hard work can solve all your problems. It’s simple and gives you a clear path forward. To be fair, it’s rooted in a gem of truth: action begets results.

But it’s not the whole story. How you do something matters just as much as the fact that you do it.

Part 2 coming next week!

Doing Nothing.

Doing Nothing.

Keeping busy?

Running from place to place and laboring over long to-do lists have increasingly become ways to communicate status: I’m so busy because I’m just so important, the thinking goes.

Perhaps it’s time to stop all this busyness. Being busy — if we even are busy — is rarely the status indicator we’ve come to believe it is. Nonetheless, the impact is real, and instances of burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise, not to mention millennial burnout.

There’s a way out of that madness, and it’s not more mindfulness, exercise or a healthy diet (though these things are all still important). What we’re talking about is … doing nothing. Or, as the Dutch call it, niksen.

What is niksen?
It’s difficult to define what doing nothing is, because we are always doing something, even when we’re asleep.

Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a psychologist who studies boredom and wrote the book “Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World,” likens niksen to a car whose engine is running but isn’t going anywhere.

“The way I think about boredom is coming to a moment with no plan other than just to be,” she said.

Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in Britain, added that niksen can be “when we’re not doing the things we should be doing. Because perhaps we don’t want to, we’re not motivated. Instead, we’re not doing very much.”

More practically, the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense.

We at Smarter Living have long been fans of taking regular breaks throughout the day, as study after study shows that feeling drowsy, exhausted or otherwise mentally depleted during the workday drastically hinders performance and productivity.

In other words: Whether at home or at work, permission granted to spend the afternoon just hanging out.

Why we need niksen in our lives
Generally speaking, our culture does not promote sitting still, and that can have wide-reaching consequences for our mental health, well-being, productivity and other areas of our lives. Technology doesn’t make it any easier: The smartphone you carry with you at all hours makes it almost impossible to truly unplug and embrace idleness. And by keeping ourselves busy at all times, we may be losing our ability to sit still because our brains are actually being rewired.

Indeed, the benefits of idleness can be wide-ranging.

Ms. Mann’s research has found that daydreaming — an inevitable effect of idleness — “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.” For that to happen, though, total idleness is required.

“Let the mind search for its own stimulation,” Ms. Mann said. “That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the creativity.”

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Counterintuitively, idleness can be a great productivity tool because “if our energy is totally shot, our productivity is not going to be good because we’re not going to have fuel to burn with which to be productive,” said Chris Bailey, a productivity expert and author of the blog “A Life of Productivity.”

Niksen can help you solve problems as well.

“It takes you out of your mind, and then you see things clearly after a while,” said Manfred Kets de Vries, a professor of leadership development and organizational change at Insead in Paris.

But stopping the cycle of business can be challenging in a culture that prizes getting things done. Here are some tips to help you stop and be:

Make time for doing nothing, and do it with purpose.
Figure out when you’re most productive and creative, then notice when your mind starts to shut off or you start performing tasks just for the sake of doing them, Mr. Bailey suggests. That’s when you should go for a walk or take a break. The intention behind the decision is what counts.

“I do nothing with purpose,” Mr. Kets de Vries said. “I know that without breaks I cannot be effective.”

Prioritize the things that are important to you and the things that bring you pleasure, and outsource everything else when possible. Focusing on the truly relevant parts of life can help you build free time in your schedule. And take advantage of convenient opportunities to practice idleness, like when you’re standing in line or waiting for the children to come home from school.

Resist the culture of busyness.
If you’re doing nothing, own it. When someone asks you what you’re doing during a nothing break, simply respond, “Nothing.” Be unapologetic about taking breaks or holidays, and if you start to feel guilty about being seen as lazy, think of niksen not as a sign of laziness but as an important life skill. Choose the initial discomfort of niksen over the familiarity of busyness.

Manage your expectations.
Learning takes time and effort, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch on immediately to the benefits of idleness. Know that sitting still might actually be uncomfortable at first and might take practice — just like exercise.

Ms. Dodgen-Magee likens it to beginning a new workout routine: At first, you might get sore, but “after a while, you’ll find yourself in this moment where you’re like, ‘Oh, this feels fantastic.’”

Reorganize your environment.
Your surroundings can have a major impact on how much nothingness you can embrace, so consider the physical space in your home and workplace. Keep your devices out of reach so that they’ll be more difficult to access, and turn your home into a niksen-friendly area. Add a soft couch, a comfy armchair, a few cushions or just a blanket. Orient furniture around a window or fireplace rather than a TV.

“If those spaces are present, people will use them,” Ms. Dodgen-Magee said.

Think outside of the box.
If you can’t sit still in your home or workplace, go to the park or book a relaxing day at the spa. Ms. Dodgen-Magee encourages people to host boredom parties, during which a host invites over a few friends to … be bored together.

Mr. Bailey suggests experimenting with different lifestyles to find the right one for you. For example, he lived like a slob for a week and learned that it’s important to “let the air out of the tires” once in a while.

If you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of doing nothing, try to trick your mind into thinking you’re being productive. Ms. Dodgen-Magee suggests using open-end toys such as kinetic sand, Baoding balls or marble runs.

Olga Mecking is a writer, journalist and translator living in the Netherlands.