Slow Down

That Time Of Year

This is the time of year where everything seems to be going so fast. It’s an acceleration to Christmas day, then New Years Eve, and then beyond. That’s why it’s so important that we slow down this time of year. When we get to the gym and find someone is using our machine or when we get to the store and find that the lines are long, irritation can arise. But these things are only a problem if we are in a hurry.

I’ve been told that in Russia for one to two weeks this time of year almost everything closes down. Because everything is closed people have no choice but to slow down and enjoy time with their loved ones. In many places things may only close for a day or two around the holidays so we have to make the choice to slow down.

Slow Down

When we slow down something truly amazing happens, we relax, we notice beauty, we become more kind, and we enjoy ourselves. But perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that we can get almost as many things done in the same amount of time. Frantic activity rarely leads to efficiency.

In addition to being more efficient we also perceive things differently. The lines move about the same at the grocery store, but because we slow down we don’t feel like they are going too slow. People may be on our favorite equipment, but because we slow down, we remember there is a new workout routine we’ve wanted to try out.

Theres no Hurry

Being around others who are in a hurry can be contagious so when you find yourself feeling frantic, try out these tips to help you slow down –
· Take a few deep breaths
· Reconnect with your heart
· Take a walk, run, or bike ride (alone if that’s what you need)
· Leave extra space in your day by planning ahead or managing expectations
· Let go of how things are ‘supposed to be’; being calm and relaxed is a better than any perfect dish, ritual, or present

When we are in a hurry nothing seems possible, our lives contract, and we rush from one thing to the next. When we slow down our lives expand, many things are possible, and we greet each new activity with a fresh and excited mind. Make the choice to slow down; it’s the best way to spread peace on earth and good will to men and women alike.


The Most Important Factor – The Archer

I took a yoga class today and the teacher talked about how we are each: an archer, aiming for what we want to become; an arrow, the thing that is moving towards the target; and the target, that which we are aiming at becoming. I’ve always found this idea beautiful. The tension between the three subjects and the unity of them feels true to my experience of transformation. In honor of this metaphor, I’m going to write three posts that will focus on how to embody each aspect of this classic spiritual triptych.

What does it mean to be the archer?
We are the archer when we set goals, but it’s important to remember that a good archer does more than just aim. An archer takes into account all the factors that will get the arrow to the target.
For shooting an arrow (a topic I am woefully ignorant about) the archer might consider: distance, elevation, tension of the bow, type of arrow, type of target, or many other factors.
In addition, she also needs to be aware and calm. If she is unaware she won’t notice small changes in the wind, the way humidity affects her bow, etc. If she is not present she is not likely to be focused and will not execute well.
The archer must also be calm enough to act. If she is very nervous, her hands may shake, and her shot will be off. If she is not calm and present, she will not be able to release the bow at the right moment. The act of shooting is as much an act of intuition, as it is an act of the thinking mind.
She must also be confident enough to let the arrow go when she feel like it is right. Is she lacks the confidence to act, the arrow goes nowhere.
When we set forth a plan to transform our lives, whether engaging in a fitness practice or any other type of practice, it is essential that we act as the archer acts.
First, we need to consider all the variables that are apparent. What information do we know about our bodies, lives, and karmic tendencies that will affect our effort to transform our lives.
I know that I am very disciplined when I have a clear plan. When I decide to take on a practice, I need to make a clear plan and check myself against that plan often. If I don’t do this I tend to wander away from the path without realizing it.
Second, we must start to execute our plan, but to be aware with what arises. If fear arises, we see it, acknowledge it, and meet it with courage. If dullness arises, we see it, we acknowledge it, and we add more energy.
No matter what arises we acknowledge it and work with it. Unseen factors always arise and aren’t a problem, unless we are unwilling to see them, acknowledge them, and respond.
Finally, we must learn to be calm and confident in pursuit of our goal. To be calm, the best thing we can do is mediate, pray, take a bath, or engage in self care. It also helps to talk to friends, get support from trainers or coaches, and realize that true change takes time.
Too often transformation work is fueled by impatient, disorderly, critical thoughts. This fuel will get you so far down the path, but ultimately it’s dirty fuel. We must learn to be patient and forgiving of ourselves.
To build confidence, we need to affirm our goals and celebrate even our smallest victories. I write down my goals daily starting with, ‘I will’ or ‘I vow.’ Through this practice, I am able to see the arrow reach the target before I even pull back on the bow.
I also try to celebrate each step of the process. I reflect on the virtue of getting myself where I am, the virtue of setting goals, and the virtue of making a plan. In this way, I already feel the momentum of transformation before I let my arrow fly.
When we embody the Archer in this metaphor, we embody all that is potential in our lives. We look closely at the mechanics of change, and set forth the path we hope to travel. But being an archer alone is not enough.
We must do more then plan, reflect, and be confident. In the next post in this series I will discuss embodying the arrow; the self that is dynamically moving towards our goal.

Why didn’t I exercise over Thanksgiving?

The holidays break up our routines and tug at our heartstrings. They have bring up old memories as well as old insecurities. For many people this season is a season of pitfalls and minefields for health vows. Here are 4 tips on how to navigate the holidays and maintain mindfulness around living a balanced and healthy life.
1. Cook more veggies: For thanksgiving many people have a CARB FEST. The problem with this is that carbs have tons of excess calories and they tend to make us sleepy and lethargic. You know all the stuff about tryptophan in the turkey? Bogus. They have done studies and the reason you get so sleepy is the massive intake of carbs. Instead try cooking more veggies. This year I sautéed kale with golden raisins and my uncle grilled fresh asparagus. Half of my thanksgiving plate was veggies and I didn’t have to take a nap after dinner. If you are going over to someone’s house, offer to bring some veggies along — you will likely be one of the few people touting leafy greens.
2. Make plans to exercise: If you can exercise with your family, great. If not, include your exercise in your plans with your family. Family stuff has a way of expanding to take up the time you have, so set clear intentions and tell your family what those plans are. You are more likely to follow through.
3. Don’t drink too much: I made this mistake. My family is not a big drinking family, but when everyone else is having a beer, it’s easy to go along. I rarely drink, but when I was home I had a cocktail almost every night. Because of this I tended to wake up later and a bit groggier.   You can be festive without imbibing and you are much more likely to wake up early and go for a run. It’s OK to have a drink or two, but an every other day rule might be the best policy.
4. Get enough sleep: I know you want to see your friends, and your extended family probably wakes up earlier than you normally do. Going to bed early every other night will ensure that you get to stay up and enjoy that late night discussion of metaphysics with your cousin, or hear things you never knew about your uncle. It will also make sure you get enough sleep and thus have enough energy to exercise.
Take some time this week and create a plan for how you are going to get through the holidays mindfully. Don’t forget to give yourself more slack than normal. The goal is to maintain awareness more than any strict rules that will be hard to stick to.  If nothing else remember this one simple rule: the holidays only last 1-2 months, just make it through ‘til January 2nd and then commit to starting back into your old routine.