Welcome to #practices4life—practical tips for living a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life from Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters at Unity Village.
“Here I share techniques I have learned for living a more balanced life. Some of these can be mastered, while some we will “practice” for the rest of our lives. The important thing is to keep trying because with every effort, we get better. And improvement is the goal—to make this life experience better for ourselves and those around us.”—Jim
Greetings, friends! It’s the time of year when we begin anew. How many people would like to get more done in life? How many of you would like to be less stressed?
For this month’s practice, I offer you one simple change to ease the pace of life and allow you to get more done every day—even for the most motivationally challenged.
When I share this practice, you might groan out loud.
Why you ask? Because:
1. It seems counterintuitive.
2. You will have already formulated two excuses why you can’t do It.
Are ready for me to unveil this ancient secret of productivity and creation? I will do so with an old Zen proverb:
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day. Unless you’re too busy, in which case you should sit for an hour.
That’s right, friends, sitting completely still in the silence is the secret to getting more done in your life. Look, I didn’t believe it either. It did not make sense to me. But when I began this practice years ago, I was a young executive with crushing responsibility, trying to earn my master’s degree at the same time.
Fortunately, I was deeply entrenched in a network of people who believed in this sort of thing, and I was convinced to give it a try. Researching the scientific perspective, I learned that meditation:
- Reduces stress and helps control anxiety.
- Improves concentration and memory retention.
- Increases self-awareness and kindness.
- Increases happiness and self-esteem.
- Increases acceptance.
- Slows aging, reduces blood pressure, and benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
I didn’t expect what came next. Like most, I was constantly feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of things that needed to be done—professionally, in school, and in my personal life. I began a simple five- to 10-minute practice of sitting in the silence each morning. I did it very consistently. (Consistency is the absolute key to success for this.) Within a few days, my life began to change beyond those benefits I listed earlier.
The more meditation I did, the more I relaxed, the less worry I carried and the less I struggled. Life somehow became easier to navigate. My to-do lists were accomplished with ease, and my life was much less tumultuous.
Meditation is the art of relaxing the body and quieting the mind. When quieting the mind, you are clearing out excessive thoughts, many that are critical and negative (as we have discussed in previous columns).
By clearing the mind, we remove the resistance that keeps us from creating what we really want. We open up to clarity, ideas, and opportunities that will serve our goals and desires rather than undermine them. Without the negative chatter, you will be amazed at how much clarity you gain.
It seems paradoxical to think you can slow down for a few minutes a day to become healthier and more productive, but it is true. Elementary schools, first responders, and organizations of all types and sizes around the world are now incorporating meditation practices into their daily routines with amazing results.
Let me address those two excuses I mentioned earlier:
1. I don’t have time to meditate. Really, you don’t have time NOT to meditate! It doesn’t have to take 20 minutes. Just begin by being grateful for a few things, then sit in silence for five minutes. Start there and see where it grows.
2. I don’t know how to meditate. Guess what? There is no “right” way; there are thousands of techniques. Start simple with something that works for you. The practice differs from person to person. Focus on your breath going in and out and just feel what you feel. Gently observe your thoughts with no judgment, and relax in the moment.
The most important part: Be consistent. Make it a priority. Meditation must come first so it will become a new habit.
Let’s start this new year with a meditation practice that will bring us more peace and better health, with greater clarity and productivity.
This is our practice, and practice makes progress.