Self care suggestions for the weary change agent - Part Two: Ease your mind
It my belief that whether we wish to change our organization, family, culture, or world, we must first be willing to change ourselves.
While healthy eating and exercise habits are essential to supporting this change, when we choose to consider the best use for our minds as well is when we really see some dramatic shifts in our lives.
Science is slowly confirming not only the connection between our bodies and our minds but also between our minds and our resilience in the face of life's challenges. (When I was fledgling holistic health practitioner, I read an incredible book written well before its time about the science of the mind-body connection called Molecules of Emotion by neuroscientist and pharmacologist Candace Pert.)
Because any of us who seek change will face challenges, once again I'd like to offer some suggestions based upon my own experiences for you to take as you see fit, as well as some resources for continuing your exploration if you wish.
Part Two: Ease your mind
Create great space. As an artist, naturally I believe wholeheartedly that beauty is essential to wellbeing. While enjoying breathtaking landscapes is one way to tap into this resource, the impact that the spaces we live and work in every day have on us is best not overlooked. You don't need to spend lots of money on beautiful items to be happy in your surroundings, you can start with just cleaning out the clutter. One person making this more accessible is Marie Kondo (I haven't read her books yet but in general I think Westerners could learn much from Eastern cultures in regards to valuing our spaces).
Practice non-doing. Speaking of Eastern traditions, this is one that seems to be slowly seeping its way into our culture, likely because ours values doing to such an extreme (and at great cost in my opinion). If you find meditation too daunting, you can try simple mindfulness practices like noticing your breath while you're stopped at traffic lights. There are countless resources for tools and assistance, but my favorite people providing them right now are Tara Brach and Gabrielle Bernstein.
Practice conscious doing. In parallel, using time consciously can make a world of difference in the quality of our lives. Again this is very simple: doing only one thing at a time, making conscious commitments, setting realistic deadlines, protecting time for fun and vacation, etc. One of the very best tools for making day-to-day decisions in a conscious way is Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map.
Cultivate a healthy relationship to information and media. I realize that you are on some sort of screen reading this website right now, so of course I am an advocate for media as a means for acquiring information and for information as a tool for awareness and power. Still, personally, I know I spend so much time at my desk that I need to not only put my devices away during meals and well before bedtime, but I also want to reserve at least one entire day per month for me to turn off all my devices completely. On the flip side, I love to read books and watch films that I know are contributing to my joy and wellbeing. Maria Popova's Brain Pickings provides an excellent curated list of enriching texts every week.
Cultivate a healthy relationship to money. This above all I choose to keep very simple. I regularly record what I earn and spend, I periodically recalibrate my spending plan while doing my best to stick to it, and most importantly I give thanks for and enjoy what I earn and purchase. Frankly I've been surprised how much doing just those few things has made a difference when it comes to my peace of mind. Two wonderful people who support women in their relationship to money are Barbara Stanny and Kate Northrup.
Focus on the journey, not the destination. All of the suggestions above have certainly helped me improve the quality of my life, but it's worth noting that changing my habits made me feel uncomfortable at first. Two of my favorite leaders when it comes to exploring the mystery and meaning of the human journey are psychiatrist Carl Jung and mythologist Joseph Campbell, both of whom used imagery to do so. One very easy visual tool that helps call attention to all of the ups and downs of our journeys is a feelings wheel.
Use adversity. In short, even if we live in gorgeous Colorado (like I do), frequently meditate, take regular vacations from social media, pay our bills on time, and are aware of when we feel like we are about to blow our lids, stress will continue to be part of our lives and there will always be many choices available for how to respond to it. I have found that if I stay with my experience, I'm far more "lucky." I may eventually stumble into a perspective that allows me to laugh at the sheer silliness of it all. Or, even better, I may grow in my compassion for others. Two people who continue to teach me about this are the writer/artist SARK and the buddhist nun Pema Chodron.
Developing a resilient mind is a skill, just like caring for a healthy body is, and they are both commitments that we cannot carry out alone. We need other people who can offer us invaluable objectivity, experience, insight, tools, courage, and compassion. Part three of this blog series will be all about who those people might be and how to best benefit from them.