When it comes to slowing down and listening more intently to the rhythm within, there is no one formula. It will take some trial and error to see what works best for you. Here are some possibilities you may consider:
- As many of you know, I talk quite a bit about my cocker spaniel mix, Bowie, and here is how he fits into this conversation. Dogs are one of the best distractions in life. He is full of unconditional love and just wants to be touched, walked, given treats and sleep. Not too different from us, right? Bowie knows when he needs to sleep and curls up in his bed very contently when he chooses to wind down.
Of course he doesn’t have the same responsibilities or schedule that we do, but he instinctively listens to his natural rhythm and rests when his body tells him to rest, and plays when he wants connection. Listen to your body and see what it has to tell you.
- Bowie also brings out the inner child within me. In my childhood we had a Siberian husky from the time I was seven to eighteen, and then I went without a dog for more than two decades. When our first cocker spaniel, Cooper arrived, he awakened a part of me that had been dormant. I immediately fell into the here and now experience of caring for this little creature, and as a result, he became my mindfulness teacher. Nowadays, if I am mindful of our connection, we mutually regulate our nervous systems and help each other relax and feel safe. When do you feel most calm and peaceful? Notice this and take a moment to savor it.
- Start your day with any mindful tone-setter you enjoy. I carve out extra time in my morning because it sets the tone for the rest of my day. After taking an MBSR class (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) many years ago I was able to establish a 10 minute meditation practice each morning in addition to reading a passage out of my favorite inspirational books. (And Bowie usually naps nearby). Then I mindfully stretch each morning and give gratitude to my back especially when it’s pain-free. Back pain seems to be genetic in my family and I try to pay extra attention to it through daily stretching and yoga and outdoor swimming when the weather allows. Choose your version of a tone-setter. You can do just about anything that creates a peaceful tone for your day.
- Hold mindfulness as a daily intention. At the beginning of my MBSR class, the teacher asked us to hold a raisin in our hand and simply look at it. She then instructed us to place it on our tongue without eating it—just noticing the texture. We then chewed it extra slowly to notice the skin and the juicy nature of it. Finally, we swallowed the raisin and noticed it going down our throat and imagining it make its way to our stomach and nourishing us. The raisin exercise was very impactful as it symbolized the automatic pilot we inhabit most of the time. Pay attention and focus on your eating, walking, talking, physical contact, etc. Mindfulness is a powerful tool to listen to your deeper rhythm. Sometimes it may feel pleasant and sometimes not so pleasant. Try to observe your mindful moments without judgment and see what your self-observation may tell you.
- By listening more deeply to yourself, there will be more of you to connect with others. A wise chaplain once called this the ministry of presence. When you are with loved ones, colleagues, pets, neighbors, you don’t have to do anything. Being yourself is enough.
Instead of being lost in the distractions of busy-ness, list making, or compulsive activities, see what it’s like to simply be you. Sounds so simple, yet it’s one of the most challenging aspects of daily life. Remember that there is no right or wrong, and no good or bad. This is truly an opportunity to build capacity for the resourceful, regulated part of you and in turn, to share this with others in your life.