Welcome to Our World In The Fast Lane. How many of us are caught up in what Wordsworth so sapiently described in an earlier, ostensibly simpler time, “Getting and Spending….” and he added, “We lay waste our powers.” It is so easy to get caught, or hooked by the rush of deadlines, the press of demands of job, children, housekeeping, driving, financial insecurity, even keeping up on the internet.
But clearly, we know there is a better way–we need to find that off ramp to serenity and calm. So, here are seven simple tricks I have learned as both a Buddhist mindfulness practitioner, and a clinical psychologist, that are sure ways to find that sweet off ramp to calm in the midst of storm.
They are so simple and so available that we can practice them easily in our everyday life.
The first one I learned from a wise old nun in a monastery. Every morning she wakes in her cold cell before dawn and is called by a bell to meditate. In order to come into the present moment and into centered awareness, on awakening, for just a moment before arising, she pulls on her earlobes.
1) PULL ON YOUR EARLOBES , Massage your ears ON AWAKENING. This simple action where we have lots of nerve endings both wakes us up to the present moment, it also awakens our consciousness to the intention to be present to the new day.
2) HAPPINESS BEGINS WITH YOUR LOVELY SMILE. The Second is one of many I learned from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. When you wake up, and you stand before the sink to wash your face in the morning, SMILE at yourself in the mirror. Really SMILE.This is a brilliant trick to practice throughout the day. Just stopping to smile to yourself, to feel your facial muscles move from tense to relaxed and smiling is a wonderful pathway to present centering.
3) FACE WASHING: Smiling, turn on the water in the sink and notice how extraordinary it is that this fresh clear water streams from our pipes, whether we are living in a backwoods cabin, a high-rise in the East, Middle or West, or a suburban motor home or house, this precious water flows for us and is available for us to WAKE UP–and refresh our faces==shaving, washing, whatever, an opportunity for gratitude practice!
4) TOOTHBRUSHING MEDITATION. I have a timer on my electric toothbrush. What a golden opportunity to practice mindfulness meditation. Here we are, earlobes pulled, refreshingly present, we’ve smiled at ourselves, and now we are going to enjoy the refreshing zip of cool water, minty toothpaste in our mouth, and an opportunity to polish those amazing tools we rarely send our gratitude to, our TEETH!
5) During the day take time out to practice THREE DEEP, CLEANSING BREATHS. This can be at your desk, at your workstation, in your car, wherever. Just promise yourself that when you find yourself amped up, anxious, preoccupied, pressured, whatever, you will STOP, BREATHE DEEPY THREE TIMES. Here is a lovely mantra to accompany your in and out breath:
“Breathe in, I bring calm to my body. As I breathe out, I smile. I am alive in this present moment. This moment is wonderful!”
You may not think this particular moment in rush hour traffic or on a deadline or beset with the demands of children or boss, is “wonderful” but when you stop to think of it, it IS!! You are alive, you are here, you are present. This mantra brings you back to the present moment. Whatever is going on within it. you are here , alive, and this too shall pass!
This is the CORE practice of these seven simple tricks. Never forget it. It is golden. it is free!
6) STAND UP STRETCH, UP, DOWN, AROUND, RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY. This is another key yogi trick for slowing and centering. It is so easy to carry tension in our bodies without offering our precious bodies an opportunity to relieve their stress.
7) STEP OUTSIDE AND LOOK AROUND–No matter where you are, walk mindfully, periodically from whatever you are doing, to go outside, breathe the air–is it icy? hot? humid? fresh? Let it into your lungs, let your breath become conscious and present, and celebrate the timelessness of the sky and the clouds and your surroundings. And don’t forget to practice tricks number 5 and 6 while you are at it.
I guarantee, if you practice these seven simple tricks on a daily basis, you will notice a palpable change toward centering and slowing and rejoining this precious present moment!