Habit Vs. Hunger

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How mindfulness keeps you grounded (How to NOT lose your SH*T! )

We’ve all had “those” days when things go wrong even BEFORE your feet hit the floor. Here’s a tale of how a regular practice of Mindfulness and Stoicism changed what could have been an explosive “reaction” into a metered and appropriate “response”.

I went to bed at a reasonable time on a Tuesday night. I've been researching sleep hygiene so I have been very conscious of my sleep habits lately: bed times, wake times, cool and dark room, no distractions, some pink noise in the background, no food 3 hours before bed, no drinks 1 hour before bed…”all the things” for quality, restful sleep.

I woke up early on Wednesday morning and go down to the basement to feed the cat, and I noticed a few oddities: the dehumidifier (which has not run really all winter) was suddenly completely full; and when I walked by my office desk, I saw a damp spot on the carpet (and instantly blamed the cat!). But I quickly noticed that it was not a pet accident...it was WATER! Just on the other side of the wall is the mechanical closet for the well pump and filters. I opened the door to see a very unique “Water Feature” pouring over the side of the overflow bucket below the cleanout valve, leaving a huge amount of water on the floor. It had made its way to the wall, and leeched into the carpet of the adjoining room. OH BOY!

Here is where Mindfulness comes in...not to say I didn’t say a few “Sunday School Words” at 5am, but I knew in an instant that I needed to re-center and re-focus my thoughts back to the present moment! This was NOT the time to ask, “How could this happen?!? Why me? Why now? Why today, of all days?!?!” Water damage is no joke: if not dealt with swiftly, this inconvenience could quickly escalate into a disaster, requiring a lot of time and money to fix.

Take a breath… 

Evaluate the situation and your surroundings; put First things FIRST. Become hyper-aware of what is right in front of you, right at that moment. This is a mindfulness practice known as “Open Monitoring” (aka Present Moment Awareness). Image you are Neo from the Matrix, and you JUST realized you can read & understand ALL of the code! Open Monitoring is a practice of becoming still and sensing everything you can from your 5 senses about the present moment. As you do this, you may sometimes find your thoughts wandering; this is normal, and a great opportunity to employ another mindfulness technique called “Focused Attention”, to bring your thoughts back to the moment. With Focused Attention, you consciously bring all of your thoughts to focus on a single sight, sounds, smell, taste, or physical feeling...you fixate on that one thing to bring your focus back to the present moment.Then you can resume Open Monitoring.

By practicing this regularly, even for just a few minutes each day, you are training your mind to be more aware of your thoughts, focus, and senses in the present moment. Take a few minutes… Every day, take just a few minutes (5, 10, maybe 15) to turn the world off, and focus on the “Now”. It could be standing outside facing the morning sun, and as you close your eyes, you hear the birds singing, you smell the grass and feel it between your toes, and you feel the warm sun on your skin (Open Monitoring). It could you getting fixated and hypnotized by the flames of a campfire or fire pit (Focused Attention). These types of regular practice train your brain, form new thought habits, and even create new physical neural pathways over time.

Memento Mori, Memento Vivere…

This is a Latin phrase worth remembering. It means “Remember that you will die, so remember to live”. To some, this may seem dark or morbid; but to Stoics, some of the greatest philosophers throughout history, it is seen as a call to action...in the MOMENT! “You will die”: if you keep putting off important duties, tasks and responsibilities, you may lose the opportunity to complete them. “Remember to live”: Live each day as though it is our last (because it could be), and ACT NOW, TODAY!

This is the convergence of Mindfulness and Stoicism: recenter your focus on the present moment, and ACT...because THIS MOMENT will never come again!

But what about the water? 

Oh yeah! By being practiced in Mindfulness and Stoicism, I was able to stop the knee-jerk reactions right as they started (nope, I’m not perfect!), and zero-in on what had to be done RIGHT NOW. The 5 gallon bucket was already overflowing from its place on the shelf. Rather than risk an even bigger watery mess, I looked around and noticed an empty plastic tote, lowered the full bucket into the tote as it caught the splashing water, and then gracefully dragged the tote across the floor to the mop sink. PHWEW! (Quick thinkin’, huh?)

Mopping up was just a part of the process (not good or bad, just part of it). As it turned out, the problem occurred a few days prior when I flushed out the filters. There was some sediment still in the valve keeping it from closing all the way.

Live and Learn… Another element of Mindfulness and Stoicism. It’s in the past, so there is no need to remain focused on it (beat yourself up with regret, or continue to bask in the glory). That kind of action only further disconnects you from the present moment. And in the thick of an issue when you need focused thought, don’t allow your thoughts to run amok with wild imaginations of what “could be” when you need to focus on “what IS, NOW”.

A wise mentor of mine says it this way: “Don’t focus on a problem you don’t have”.

But wait, there’s more…

Water contained, crisis averted..SUCCESS! Well, in THAT moment. The same morning, I got in my car, and the “Check Engine” light came on (it has NEVER come on in it’s 92K miles). To compound the issue, I had JUST had the oil changed the evening before..SHEESH! I applied the very same mindfulness practices here, too, and I am happy to report “All is Well”!

Consider adding Mindfulness practices to your daily routine...they really DO make a difference! Study the Stoics like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, et al.) I, personally, find pairing a daily reading of Ryan Holiday’s “The Daily Stoic” with a reading from Scripture to be a winning combination for a phenomenal MINDSET RESET.

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Empathy: the connective tissue

This article was share to me by my pastor (he used it in a recent message). Empathy, and "connection" is king when it comes to dealing with other people's lives.  
Hearing his message, and reading this article really hit home with me, humbled me, and re-centered me on my passion for helping others, here and elsewhere. They are real people, with real lives, and real concerns....not numbers, or "just members", "just clients", and they certainly don't come in degrees or tiers (as much as we sometimes gripe). Yes, we have to temper our responses and be aware of our time, but we are still investing ourselves in other people.  Let's make sure we remain genuine, practice empathy, and stay connected to our Tribe!

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The Next 70 Years....

He reached a certain level of success in life & career, but it came at the cost of his health.  After a heart-to-heart with himself, Les Lyons decided to take control back of his own health, and is indeed...Kicking Ass after 70!   And he intends to do it for his NEXT 70 years!


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Does your WHY make you CRY?

Julie and I had a WONDERFUL conversation with Coach Bronson!
Do you think it was centered around physical fitness? Guess again!


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Jan 2nd: the REAL day for New Year's Resolutions

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Are you Ready?!

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