Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Leo Babauta”

Simple… but not easy

 I heard the phrase, simple but not easy, quite a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were at the time… but I can tell you that I’ve considered that phrase so many times since. For the last few years, I’ve been reading the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. He also has a blog on minimalism, which is really interesting. In both cases, there are often times when I think about how much happier my life might be if I were to simplify. If I could learn to minimize… slow down… commit to less… enjoy more… breathe deeper, longer, and more consciously. These are very simple acts… and yet… somehow so elusive.

Upon further reflection, I realize that the elusiveness comes from the difficulty in implementation. Minimizing means throwing things away. Things I like. Things that might have sentimental value. Things I think I might need some day. Or, on the other hand, not buying things in the first place. Things I like. Things that are calling my name! Slowing down means not everything gets done. Committing less means letting people down. It means saying no, for crying out loud!

So, how do we make these simple acts easier to do? Well… I definitely can’t say I have this down! Lately I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed, cluttered and chaotic. I’ve recently been reminded of an approach to behavior change that rings true… slow but steady wins the race. Leo Babauta has a program he calls “Sea Change” where he leads participants through one dedicated change each month. You spend the entire month committed to gradually building up the habit of that one change. BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher, contends that pairing a behavior change with an engrained habit can produce great results. You might try committing to 5 minutes of exercise every morning after brushing your teeth. Now, you might think 5 minutes is not enough time to really see the benefits of exercise. The argument is that committing to do it, using the teeth brushing as a trigger, and following through… even if it is only 5 minutes… is the best start you can make toward change. Eventually, maybe even right away, you will exercise for more than 5 minutes. But for now, it is the art of commitment and follow through that you are branding into your conscious habit.

Given my current state of overwhelm, I’m not going to attempt anything so lofty as exercise… 5 minutes or not! I’ve decided that breathing deeper, longer and more consciously is a beautiful act that I would like to practice more. I’ve already been trying to do it more lately and it feels good. It offers a taste of joy. My plan is to use the tactic above to make it easier. Every morning when I first get into the shower, I’m going to take a long deep breath. If the moment strikes me, I may take two. But the committment is one long, deep, conscious breath. Stepping into the shower is the habitual act that is already in place, that I do every morning. Maybe I’ll put a sticky note on the shower door to help me remember.

Now, before I finish, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In all honesty, this committment seems small. It seems almost irrelevant. It seems to dwindle in comparison to the big goals of losing weight, exercising more, committing to less, slowing down… and the list goes on. But here’s the interesting part… I get really overwhelmed when I think about those lofty goals. Here’s what I know about taking one deep breath when I step into the shower tomorrow… I can do it! And I think that’s part of the equation we’re looking for… a very high confidence level that I can make this happen. SO… I’m committing to one very small act… and I invite you to do the same. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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Pause… and Effect

I’ve been reading Martha Beck‘s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. I like Martha’s books and her column in O Magazine. The thing is, I find that her most simple and straightforward advice is the hardest to implement. In her book, The Joy Diet, the number one road to JOY she says is pausing… taking time to meditate or find stillness every day. I’d tell you more about the road to joy, but she suggests in her book that you not move on to the next step until you’ve mastered the one before… so that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Now I’m reading about Finding Your Way… which is divided into four parts. The first is wordlessness — which again pertains to pausing… stillness… connecting to your nonverbal self for a period of time each day. I read this and a part of me resonates with truth and a certain knowing… Y E S !!!  and then I stop to wonder… why am I not doing this? Why is this so dang hard to implement when there is no part of me that questions the value? I realize that this is true of numerous things in my life… the difference between knowing and doing. Exercise comes to mind… eating healthy meals and snacks… drinking lots of water… always lathering on the sunscreen… the list goes on. Then again, if I had to choose just one thing to do every day that I thought would have the biggest impact on my life, it would definitely be meditating or taking time to be still and let go of the verbal chatter. Yet, I still don’t do it. Oh don’t get me wrong… it’s not like I never do it – but I don’t do it every day. And there’s something about the ritual of doing it every day. It’s like taking a walk every now and again… doesn’t exactly lend itself to a fit and toned body.

I was reading an article by Leo Babauta on how he managed to start flossing after years of not. He has a pretty straightforward approach that may just make way too much sense to be embraced by the masses. He suggests that you pick a trigger, use a visual reminder, start very small, focus on the enjoyment and mark it on your calendar. (read the whole article here… http://zenhabits.net/floss/). The take away for me is that I would like to use his approach to start meditating every day… tackle one small thing, take a very small step forward, set up my environment for success and track my progress. OK… now we’re talking.

I do love to meditate, but there are certain things I associate with this practice. At least 20 minutes of quiet time with no distractions. HAHAHAHA… that’s why I don’t do it more often. It is rare for me to have this combination of factors in my current life! I’ve actually managed to carve out some time at work to meditate… but the idea of integrating this practice into my home life seems overwhelming. That’s where Leo’s approach starts to seem more feasible.

Here’s my plan to add stillness (we’ll get to meditation later!)…
pick a trigger… my trigger will be brushing my teeth in the morning and at night;
use a visual reminder… I will put a sticky note on my toothbrush;
start very small… I will be still for 2 minutes – the amount of time my electric toothbrush takes;
focus on the enjoyment… I will take a moment to be thankful for this moment of stillness; and
mark it on your calendar… I will get a small calendar to track my progress and post it on the wall next to the bathroom sink.

What would you like to do that you aren’t doing because it seems overwhelming or too big to pursue? How can you incorporate the steps above to realize your goal? The beginning of a great dream begins with one step. TAKE IT… track it… do it.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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