How to stay conscious during our mechanical daily routines.
Good Morning! Are you awake? It’s easy to go through life asleep. Auto pilot, we call it. Coffee dependence, we call it. There’s a reason we need a weekend, we work so hard. But how are we spending our precious down time? I understand there’s a time and a place for Netflix, the elliptical machine, a beer; but watch what these activities are doing — are they opening our eyes, or are they keeping us in a trance? There are various obstacles that affect our alertness: medications, stimulants, food, addictions, emotions, time. Study yourself. When are you most alert? When are you least alert?
I’m interested in the notion of a trance-like state. I’ve gone through weeks of fast paced daily routines, only to realize over a long weekend—just as I’m coming out of it—that I was in a so-called “life trance“. I can usually tell I need a conscious pause when my dreams become over-active. I’m catching up on my processing.
Now I must admit there’s a catch: self-study is good, but according to many seers, knowers and scientists, we’re all asleep anyway. Our life is a dream. Ugh, Row, Row, Row Your Boat has never had such meaning. Well, here’s my take: Even if I’m asleep, I want to be aware of it.
So let’s aim for consciousness. Here’s a list of simple practices I’ve begun to compile. *
- RECOGNIZE. Look in the Mirror and Register your Own Face. Actually look into your own eyes. It’s so easy to pass your reflection and only see a distant body. By taking moments in the mirror to link up your body and soul, catching your reflection becomes a meditation; a practice of the yoking of yoga.
- SLOW DOWN. Eat Consciously. Eat without distractions so you’re nourishing yourself, not filling up at a gas pump. That means creating for yourself a mealtime ritual. Even if you don’t have time to cook, it’s nice to use plates, a cloth napkin and real silverware, and it’s an easy way to treat yourself. See how it changes the way you eat from a duty to a personal gift.
- BREATHE. Watch your Breath, When are you breathing and when are you holding your breath? Why would you hold your breath? Things that are alive take deep breaths. Choose life.
- FEEL. Let Yourself Feel. Notice where you’re physically holding tension in your body. Maybe you’re breathing, but are you clenching your jaw? Why are your toes scrunched up? Did you have an emotional response ten years or five minutes ago that you never dealt with? Would you hold anything else in that long? Let it out. Don’t be afraid of your feelings. “Feelings are not facts,” a teacher once said to me. Let yourself feel and be free of it! Robots are robots because robots don’t feel. Let yourself feel.
- PRACTICE. Plant Personalized Wake up Reminders. If you don’t have a meditation practice, try to incorporate items that that make you more mindful throughout your day. Maybe you light a candle. Maybe you play music. Maybe you wear bracelets that jingle when going through mechanical activities — and every time you hear them jingle, you’re reminded to come home.
Being mindful doesn’t have to be Buddhist. It doesn’t have to be New Age. It doesn’t have to be hip yogic philosophy. Being mindful can be as simple as slowly starting to eliminate factors from your life that negatively impact your alertness. This could mean switching from coffee to tea to avoid that feeling of post-Joe fogginess, or it could mean keeping only the most honest of friends in your inner circle.
* This list is by no means complete. Have a good one? Write to me at marianna(dot)pease(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment!
Marianna Pease is a yogini living in NYC. She has her RYT-200 through Yoga Works under Natasha Rizopoulos and has studied Tibetan Buddhism with her professor Michael Sheehy. Her favorite proverb is “Barn burned down, now I can see the moon.” Follow her on Twitter or read her yoga blog.