1) Breathe. In Power of Now-land, breathing is very important. Some would even say vital (har, har). Eckhart Tolle reckons that you can’t get caught up in your crazy thoughts if you are focussing on your breath. It’s true. Try sitting on a chair, closing your eyes and taking 10 deep, slow breaths. If you’re like me you’ll tell yourself ‘I DON’T HAVE TIME TO SIT ON A CHAIR BREATHING! I HAVE THINGS TO DO, PROBLEMS TO FRET OVER, FACEBOOK UPDATES TO CHECK.’ Anyway, this is Bull. You have time to take 10 slow breaths. So do it. Now. If your crazy thoughts/to-do list start to creep in, that’s fine – just keep bringing your focus back to the breath. It’s weird how hard this can seem at the beginning but it gets easier and it has a huge effect. It’s the Tolle equivalent of a big glass of red.
2) Stop, look and listen. We get so lost in our heads, our iPhones or work, that we often pay no attention to our surroundings. So do it now. Stop what you’re doing and look up. Who is in the room? What is the light like? Is there a window? Are you sitting on standing? How does that feel? What sounds are there? Focussing on exactly what’s happening now brings you right bang back into the moment, which helps you feel calmer and more on solid ground (instead of the quick sand of your thoughts).
3) Do what you’re doing. If you’re washing up, then wash up. Feel the water, focus on the movements of the sponge on the plates… Don’t think about what you have to do tomorrow, something someone said at work etc. Tolle says that we rush through the now to get to the next thing, especially when we’re doing so-called boring jobs, but seeing as these take up a very big chunk of our lives, that means we’re skipping through a lot of life. According to Tolle, bliss and peace and NOW-ness can be found while vacuuming/ironing/taking out the rubbish. If mum were to write a self-help book her message might be the same: the Zen of scrubbing the loo.
3) Relax – Is your body physically tense right now? I often find myself sitting at my desk with my shoulders tensed up around my neck and my back stooped over, like I’m braced for attack. This is a sign that something negative is going on in my head or my emotions – so look to your body for signs like that. If you find yourself hunched up, sit up straight, take a deep breath and drop the shoulders. Now breathe.
4) Feel your body – If you spend your life in your head and not your body, this exercise (which I shared in the last post) is good. It’s also meant to be an immune booster. Sit on a chair then close your eyes and take a deep breath… Now take your attention to your feet. Feel the energy in your feet. I could feel a kind of pulsating warmth there. (Which is nice for someone with cold feet.) Then do the same for every part of your body, working upwards to your legs, your torso, you arms and head, and then go back down. Anytime we are in our body, instead of our heads, Tolle says we are ‘Anchored’ in the present moment.
5) Watch your thoughts – Try to listen to your thoughts like they are a song you are listening to on a record player. If there are images too, imagine it as a film you are watching. if you do this regularly you’ll start to notice that the same old records play day after day. Just that act of stepping back is enough to make you see that you are more than your thoughts.
6) Feel your feelings – we run way from bad feelings but the more we run the more they chase us – it’s like a snowball getting bigger and bigger as it chases us down the hill. For just two mins – set a timer – sit still and let yourself feel what you’re feeling – even if you don’t know hat you’re feeling that’s ok, you’re numb and confused.
7) Stop eating and drinking – Not forever, obvs, but whenever I’m upset I reach for the wine or for chocolate. It’s a way of numbing my feelings. So next time you instinctively rush to the biscuit jar, take a moment. As yourself are you really hungry or are you trying to avoid a feeling? Now sit with that feeling for a minute – then eat the biscuit.
8) Eat in silence, with no book, television or whatever on in the background. Feel the texture of the food, close your eyes and really taste each mouthful. There’s a mindfulness exercise which involves eating a single raisin slowly and mindfully – taking in how it feels, what it looks like, closing your eyes and really tasting it. I haven’t done it but apparently this makes for a mind-blowing raisin.
10) Go for a walk in nature! Hug a tree! Smile at a squirrel! Failing that, look out a window at the sky, and remember you are a living creature on this planet called Earth, surrounded by lots of other living creatures, who deep down are all doing their best – and whatever you’re up to right now, really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things.
10 and a half) – This is going off-brand a bit but everybody in the whole world loves the Headspace app by former monk Andy Puddicombe – it’s a series of daily 10 minute meditations, that you listen to on your phone.
Sign up for sporadic updates from self-help land and life in general, including details on upcoming talks and events. Promise not to bombard you.