By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kinesiology, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist
It may be one of those days where your head is feeling foggy, or a little spaced out. A day that you stare off into the distance at nothing in particular. You feel distracted, weighed upon and a little heavy. So you turn off your phone, shut down your email and go for coffee. As you sip, you notice the tiredness in and around your eyes. Your head pounds.
There was a period of time in the 80s when it was said that technology was going to bring us more leisure time, more freedom, more time for ourselves. Instead, we have increased the speed at which information is created, gathered, and delivered. Where a letter took days to get from one person to another, an email takes a matter of seconds. In a sense, technology has led to a bombardment, an information overload which in turn has led to confusion, tension, stress, anxiety and distraction.
To manage, some people long for the days without technology, others sedate themselves with drugs, alcohol, an abundance of sugar, or over-exercising. The thing is, none of these really work, and can cause other problems down the road.
The only way to really deal with this, and to become successful with getting out of this cycle is to “be present”. As you do, something interesting begins to happen. Time begins to slow down, life becomes less of a hurry, and your results improve – relationships improve, opportunities improve, and revenues improve; emotions become more stable, those nagging spots of tension between the shoulder blades dissipate, and if you are active, your workouts become more effortless, and you feel yourself become stronger.
The skeptic in you may be wondering how that is possible. Here is how:
When you “become aware” or “attenetive” to what you are doing in any given moment, you are able to consciously direct your energy in a very deliberate way. You cultivate an “observer” or “witness” quality to your behaviour, decisions, and actions. As you strengthen this “observer” or “witness”, you cultivate an ability to “see”. It is very much like becoming a great athlete who can “see” where the ball or puck will be before it gets there, and knows what action to take. (Wayne Gretzky was known to have this skill).
How do you cultivate this ability?
Be Attentive and Develop Awareness: Notice what you are doing. As you are reading this are you thinking about more than one thing, are you eating, finishing a report, answering a call? Are you distracted? Just notice, try not to be judgemental. Simply observe yourself, your behaviours and your actions.
Check In With Your Breath: Notice yourself breathing. Is it shallow, held, full, heavy? Are you wondering if you are breathing correctly? For the next 4 breaths, simply watch, and feel. The breath is happening now, in this moment. Your thoughts about it are based on past experiences and future hopes – neither which have to do with what is present.
Observe Your Body: When we are distracted, confused, or stressed out, we are very much up in our heads, which means there is less focus on our bodies. By coming back to your body, back to its sensations, you cultivate more of what is “now”, in this moment, what is “present”. Feel your toes, your fingers, your heart beat. If you find yourself making judgements, acknowledge them and then return to your body, return to what is present.
The Past is the Past: Easy to write and say but sometimes difficult to do. There was a line we used when I was a lightweight rower – “You are only as good as your last race”. Success can trick you into thinking it is permanent, when in fact the conditions that created it are often temporary. Things change, and new skills, relationships and actions are often required in order to continue to experience success. When you know this, you are on your way to clearing your mind of expectation and mindfully focusing your energy on your next move – free of arrogance.
There is similarity with failure. While failure isn’t pleasant, it certainly provides the jump-start for learning. So often people knock the failure about in their head, battling the “only ifs, and the what ifs”, laying blame, or simply avoiding it. The focus is in the head – either embattled or suppressed by thought. By learning from the failure you free up mental energy that can be directed elsewhere, with clarity (rather than confusion), and with calmness (rather than anxiety) and focus (rather than distraction). If this is interesting to you, consider reading John Maxwell’s book – Failing Forward.
Build Suppleness, Stability, Strength and Stamina: This goes for your body as well as for your mind. We need suppleness, stability and strength. And for each to be sustainable, we need stamina. We don’t want to be rigid, braced or held. This is the same for awareness and is a key reason why people lose the ability to be present – they don’t have the suppleness, stability, strength and/or the stamina needed to maintain the awareness or attentiveness for a longer period of time.
Functional Synergy caters to those who are driven and ambitious and who have burnt out or overworked themselves, and are looking for more sustainable ways to center and channel their energy so they sleep better, are more productive and are able to do the things they really want to do without fatigue, pain or strain. Here’s to feeling a whole lot better.