So you think you’re a great multitasker? You’re not.
Even though you’re checking your email while you’re on a conference call, and also responding to an urgent text message, technically you are not doing them at the same time. You’re probably also not really doing any of them as well as you could. An article in Psychology Today cites a study by Stanford University researchers that shows the human brain can only handle a single task at a time. When we try to juggle multiple projects, we’re unable to give any of them our full attention. This scattered focus can cause us to make a lot of mistakes.
A lack of mindfulness has another downfall. When we’re not consciously living in the moment, our attention drifts to imagining – or fearing – what might happen in the future, and also rehashing the past. A Harvard University psychology study showed that we spend nearly half our time, a good 46%, thinking about something other than what we’re doing in the present moment.
There’s a powerful anonymous quote making the rounds on the Internet that reads, “People wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all life for happiness.” It echoes the message of a popular bumper sticker, “Don’t Postpone Joy.”
We’re not usually focusing on the positive parts of our past or future as our mind drifts, the Harvard study revealed. Instead, we are postponing joy, and tapping into the darker emotions clouding our past and threatening our future. This lack of present moment awareness, research proves, makes us miserable.
Usually people will stay stuck in this no-win spiral of regretting the past and fearing what’s to come until they hit a crisis point – a death, illness, job loss, divorce. Then, we’re forcefully pulled into the present moment.
We don’t have to wait for a huge life challenge to cultivate the healing and balancing practice of living in the moment. In fact, by consciously choosing to shift our focus and actually be present for the little things in our life, we’ll be better able to handle the big things as they happen.
Start by setting aside 5 minutes a day to mindfully “be IN your body.” Breathe deeply, feeling the coolness of the air as it enters your nose and the sensation of your belly and lungs expanding to fully take in the entire breath. Now forcefully exhale through your mouth, experiencing the sensation and sound of the air leaving your body. Just be with your breath. Dissolve away any thoughts that might come into your mind. Technically you’re not “meditating” – you are, as Zen Buddhism teaches, just “sitting.”
When you eat or drink, shift your entire attention to the act. How does the apple feel as your fingers close around it? Notice how your arm lifts your hand to your mouth. What is the sensation of biting into the apple, hearing your teeth crunch through the skin, feeling the juices escape onto your tongue, mindfully and slowly chewing, then swallowing?
Take a walk in nature being fully conscious of every sound, each color, all the noises, the subtle or pungent aromas, and every move your body makes. Feel the sun, the cold or the rain on your face. Be aware of how your body navigates each step; how your arms move, how your breathing changes.
Stroke your pet, feeling the course or fluffy texture of the hair, being aware of how their muscles relax to your touch, fully returning their gaze.
For any and all activities you choose while you’re practicing being fully present, completely surrender yourself to the moment. As author and sage Eckert Tolle teaches, “You’re not IN the universe, you ARE the universe.”
In his book, The Power of Now, Tolle shares the concept that every person is a unique expression of the Universe, allowing the Universe to become more conscious of itself and realize its own essence through us.
He describes it as the outgoing movement of wanting to create something in our lives – a relationship, a family, a job, and a legacy – and the return movement as coming totally into the present moment. We can step away from the process of “becoming,” he says, to be fully in the moment, and go deeply into “just being.”
Ironically, when we shift to being fully present for each task we’re doing and stop worrying about what we have to get done, we become much more efficient, and the work we do is of higher quality.
With mindfulness, Tolle teaches, we can stop losing ourselves in the “doing” of life, and discover the true joy, richness and productivity of “the power of now.”
You can find Eckert Tolle’s book, The Power of Now , in the OHI Store.
Learn more about being present while you’re also learning how to cleanse your body, quiet your mind and celebrate your spirit at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego and Austin, Texas. We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.
“ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
— Matthew 18:20
She perched on the edge of her chair, hands clenched into fists, staring at the green carpet to avoid eye contact with the other 16 people sitting in the circle. The middle-aged woman has been dreading this moment, and now it was here. The person to her left spoke first.
“I like the way you waited for the older couple to enter first before you came into the room,” he said.
“Thank you,” she mumbled.
“Your green sweater sets off your green eyes,” said the next person.
“Thank you,” the woman said again, a bit more clearly.
“It was sweet how you invited that new person to sit with you at lunch,” the next person in the circle said.
“Thank you,” the woman repeated, this time returning the young man’s gaze.
As the exercise continued, every person in the circle gave her a sincere compliment, and her only reply could be, “Thank you.” Her confidence and joy grew with each example they shared. After she had received positive reinforcement from all the group members, the man next to her began receiving the group’s compliments one by one.
This You Validation experience, one of the classes at the Optimum Health Institute, is a powerful and frequently emotional exercise in spiritual community. Like-minded individuals from around the world come together for a week or more, and start to feel their connection as they work towards a common purpose – coming into a state of optimum health in body, mind and spirit.
From ancient texts to modern medical research, the benefit of living or participating in a supportive, like-minded community is a recurring theme.
The New Testament is rich with passages stressing the power of praying together. Dr. Marty Seligman, creator of the new branch of mental health called “Positive Psychology,” identifies being in a supportive community as a key necessity for happiness. Dr. Candace Pert, a neuroimmunologist who scientifically proved many ancient spiritual beliefs, said the human brain was hard-wired for community – a single person could not survive without companionship.
The unique power of a spiritual community is it enriches every aspect of a person’s life. Group members support each other’s journey, offering encouragement, validating experiences and celebrating their fellowship as they grow stronger in their faith.
This active support system prevents social isolation, a key component of depression, and helps lower stress on a day-to-day basis. Just knowing there are others in your corner can give you the confidence to tackle an ambitious new goal, stick with a commitment you made or point out the things you’re doing right when you feel like you’ve fallen into a rut.
There are several ways to find your own spiritual community:
- Use Social Media — start or join a Facebook group that posts positive messages. The Optimum Health Institute has a Facebook page as well as groups that you can join to stay connected with fellow OHI community members.
- Start or find a “meet up” group sharing your values. There are many such groups that gather to meditate or discuss spiritual concepts.
- Visit different churches, temples or spiritual centers in your area to find one that “fits.”
- Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about.
- Take a class in something that interest you – Reiki Healing, for instance.
Many people have discovered an enduring spiritual community when they become a guest at an OHI mission in San Diego or Austin. Experience You Validation, and many other body, mind and spirit classes and exercises during your stay. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
– Albert Schweitzer
When a 46-year-old man was stricken with metastasized melanoma and given just a few months to live, his many friends gave him a precious gift. Each of them wrote a short, sincere thank-you note on a postcard, thanking him for something specific he had done for them through the years.
“I’ll never forget the week you drove me to work when my car was in the shop,” said one. “You were so supportive during my divorce,” said another. Hour after hour, the ailing man read and re-read each card, wiping away the occasional tear, and feeling such a sense of peace in his final days. The outpouring of gratitude affirmed that his life had had purpose, and he gently exited it with grace and dignity.
While writing those notes made such a difference for the dying man, each of the letter writers also benefitted. In his book, Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil, MD, founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, cites research proving the simple act of expressing gratitude promotes a feeling of optimism. Optimism and other positive emotions, he says, boost the immune system, and are linked with lower production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and lowered risk of chronic disease.
Besides making you feel good, writing a quick thank-you to someone will probably make more of a positive difference than you could imagine. A retired teacher who logged decades of service in the classroom remembers how touched she was to receive a note from a college student she taught in 8th grade.
“He said he was the only one in his freshman English class who knew what a preposition was because I made them memorize them all,” she said. “A small thing, but I couldn’t believe he took the time to let me know after so long!”
She particularly appreciated the note, she said, because teachers get so few of them. The letters they do receive energize teachers and encourage them to keep giving their students 1,000%.
Why not take a moment to dash off an expression of gratitude to a teacher, coach, boss or other person in your past who was there for you when you needed it most? Both of you will benefit!
Learn more about the values and virtues that enrich your spirit while you’re also learning how to cleanse your body and quiet your mind at the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego and Austin, Texas. We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.