“Time Traveling” for Clarity

Feeling stuck? Not sure of your next steps? Consider “time traveling” for clarity. Of course, I’m not referring to stepping into a time machine and being deposited at a different point in time. What I am referring to, however, is time traveling with your imagination.

Here’s how this works. Let’s say you’re ready to make a career change, but you’re unable to get clarity on what’s next for you. You’re not sure if you should consider remote or in-person work, a large company or a small one — or even if you should change industries. 

You know from past experience that if you have a clear picture of your goal, you’re more likely to reach it. But try as you might, you can’t get clarity on where you’d like to land. 

Here’s where “time travel” comes in. To get started, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Take a few breaths to center yourself. Try to keep your body relaxed, but your mind alert.

Next, it’s time to travel with your imagination. Imagine yourself in the future after you’ve made your career transition. You can picture the future in whatever timeframe seems right to you, whether it’s six months from now, a year from now or longer. 

Imagine seeing yourself engaged in fulfilling work. Try to allow details of your work to emerge. What is the work product? What is the work environment? Who are your colleagues? If you can, allow your imagination to have free rein, without judging your vision of what’s next. Once you’ve finished with this process, you can pick and choose which aspects of your time travel you’d like to pursue.

Why this method works: When you’re immersed in a situation it can be difficult to find clarity. This technique allows you to step back, see the whole picture and gain perspective. Additionally, by treating your next steps as if they’ve already taken place, you don’t have to figure anything out. You can just “time travel” to witness the outcome. 

The next time you’re looking for clarity, consider trying this technique to help you discover inspiration and guidance. 

Engage Your Senses for a Good Night’s Sleep

Is your busy mind keeping you awake at night? By shifting your attention to what you’re experiencing with your senses, you can begin to loosen the grip of cycling thoughts.

What you see

Color: Consider decorating your bedroom with water colors and soft pastels. Select paint colors, bedding colors, and pillow colors that will help make your room an oasis of tranquility. Unlike vibrant primary colors which can be energizing, these soft colors can be soothing and calming—and help prepare you for a good night’s sleep. 

Screen time: In addition to what you see, it’s also important to consider what you don’t see. Try to get in the habit of refraining from screen time for at least an hour prior to bedtime. When you’re in front of a screen your body may think it’s daytime and this can interfere with the release of hormones that help you sleep.

What you hear

Sound machine: Nature sounds or continual sound like white noise can offer you a resting place for your attention. Any time you’re distracted by cycling thoughts, simply shift your attention to what you hear—even if you have to make this attention shift every second or two.  

What you smell

Aromatherapy: Scents can help you relax, and lavender is known for its soothing aroma. When you have trouble falling asleep, adding lavender essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser can send you off to dreamland, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz as she entered the poppy fields. 

What you feel

Weighted blanket: Sleeping with a weighted blanket on top of you can help relax your muscles. If you tend to get warm when you sleep, consider using a “cooling” style of weighted blanket. It’s typically recommended to use a blanket that’s no heavier than 10% of your body weight.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise: Practicing a progressive muscle relaxation helps to release physical tension. This exercise consists of a gentle tightening and releasing of each muscle group to help you differentiate between what a muscle feels like when it’s tensed versus what it feels like when it’s relaxed. Any time your mind wanders, gently shift your attention back to how your body feels. You can listen to a guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation on the Mindful 180 podcast, episode 51 (on most popular apps) or listen on: https://joyrains.com/episode-51/.

 

Hello 2021!

On January 1, 2021, I threw out my page-a-day calendar, with the last page, December 31, 2020, still clinging to the adhesive. Unlike years past, this year I felt a sense of relief—a sense of “good riddance 2020!”—as I tossed out the old. A sense of anticipation arose as I cut the plastic wrap from the new calendar.

Viktor Frankl talks about this sense of anticipation in his book,“Man’s Search For Meaning,” one of my pandemic reads. Frankl emphasizes the importance of living by looking to the future in the most difficult moments of existence. He writes about gaining inner strength by focusing on future outcomes, no matter how hard it is to shift your focus from the present. 

I’m a mindfulness trainer, teaching present moment awareness. This awareness doesn’t mean you have to continually focus on the difficulties of the present situation. Certainly, it means to acknowledge the challenges. Pushing them away would create resistance. But looking at challenges as part of a whole—rather than seeing them as if they’re all that exists—can help give you perspective. Part of that whole is looking to the future. As Frankl would say, this looking forward can help fortify you.

Remember, you are at choice about where you focus your attention. Consider focusing on what you want to create in the new year. What are you looking forward to in 2021?

Being Comfortable with the Unknown

Like millions of people throughout the world, I woke up this morning to an unknown election result. Darn! I wanted to know what was in store for the next four years and I wanted to know NOW!

People like predictability. People like to know what’s next. Living in the unknown can be uncomfortable, yet that’s where we are at this moment in time. 

So, if you want to get more comfortable with the unknown—whether it’s the unknown of an election result or the unknown of everyday life—here are some tips:

Stay present in your body. When your mind starts to spin, shift your attention to your body and breath. Notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice the connection of your feet with the ground beneath you. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath or your feet.

Realize that this, too, shall pass. Everything changes. At some point we’ll all know the outcome of the election. And then in four years another election will take place and we’ll go through  uncertainty once again. We’re in the midst of an event in the timeline of history. 

See if you can let go of the need for a predictable result, realizing that “knowing” can be an illusion, anyway. Consider the times when you thought you know how everything was going to go, then something came out of left field and completely surprised you. Even when you think you know, life is full of unpredictable twists and turns.

Which leads me to the last point. It’s okay not to know. Can you let go of the need for a predictable result and instead, bring your awareness to the present moment? Remember, you can bring your attention to your feet connected to the ground anytime. Because one thing you do know is that as long as you’re on this earth, gravity will hold you close.

Here’s a link to my latest Mindful 180 podcast episode where I discuss this topic. Listen here or on your favorite app. I hope it serves you today and in the weeks to come.

For added support, I’m offering Mindful Stress Management Workshops for workplace teams over Zoom. I have limited availability, so please send me a direct message on LinkedIn or email me at for booking inquiries.

 

Reduce Anxiety by Practicing “Not Knowing”

With the uncertainty about the coronavirus comes a tremendous amount of stress. Many questions about the virus and its implications remain unanswered—and may continue to be unanswered for the weeks and months ahead. Immediate challenges from the virus, such as illness or loss of work, bring stress. This stress is often compounded by worries about the future. Even if someone isn’t experiencing challenges at this moment, anxiety can still ensue by worrying about what’s next.

From a mindfulness standpoint, an effective technique to help reduce stress is to practice “not knowing.” By not imagining outcomes based on fears, you can remain open and present to what is. To practice, try to notice when you worry about the future and then remind yourself that you don’t know. Will this last for months? I don’t know. Will I get sick, or will my loved ones get sick? I don’t know. Will life return to the way it was? I don’t know. This practice can help your anxieties lose some of their power, as you realize that your mind may be creating stories about what’s to come— when in reality, you simply don’t know.

It can be freeing to notice your thoughts without getting lost in them—and instead, live in the immediacy of the present moment. As of today, the present moment reveals that the coronavirus issue is upon us and life as we know it is changed. Beyond that, we simply don’t know what’s next. 

All we know is that we’re all in this together, since we’re all part of the interconnected web of life. And we can only hope that it’s our interconnectedness, rather than our social distancing, that helps pull us through this crisis. Meanwhile, reminding yourself “I don’t know” may help ease anxieties about the future, as you bring your awareness to the present moment.

If you’d like to try a meditation to help you release stories about the future that can create stress, check out my latest podcast episode here: https://joyrains.com/episode-8/.

If you’d like to meditate regularly at home, consider setting up a dedicated meditation space. To find tips on designing your space, visit https://porch.com/advice/the-ultimate-meditation-room.

Responding vs. Reacting

The practice of meditation helps you respond to life’s events consciously, rather than react unconsciously. This can go a long way towards reducing stress. For example, if you’re waiting in line to pay for your purchases and someone cuts in front of you, rather than going into an immediate stress-related reaction (such as shouting “How dare you cut in front of me! I’ve been waiting 20 minutes!), meditation can help you notice events without having such a strong emotional reaction. You may be able to calmly say to the encroacher, “Excuse me please, people are waiting in line here. Please step to the back of the line.”

Practicing meditation doesn’t have to take long; simply sit in a quiet place for a few minutes, close your eyes and bring all your attention to your breath, noticing your chest rising and falling, or noticing the coolness of the air when you inhale and its warmth when you exhale. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. This practice, even if done for a few minutes a day, can help recharge and center you.

If you’d like to listen to guided meditations, check out my new podcast, Mindful 180. https://joyrains.com/category/mindful-180-podcast/

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