I am so glad to be making some time to write again.
My day-to-day responsibilities keep me busy for hours on end. In addition, I am working on my next “dream come true” or should I say “beyond my wildest dreams” project, moving towards a real mountain. I am now living in a less populated ski town—Nederland in Colorado—8,000 feet above sea level and tucked away in the mountains! And I am very excited about new opportunities for yoga hikes and teaching (hopefully soon) in my new hometown. Unfortunately, during the move, my writing took a back seat. However, I also understand that there is no perfect timing when it comes to writing, teaching, studying, eating better, exercising more, or doing anything for that matter.
With that in mind, I would like to share with you my plan on how to get back on track and make things happen, which has really helped me to prioritize and incorporate these things into my daily life.
1. What are the things that truly bring you joy?
I am very lucky to have a long-term relationship with my teacher and my mentor, who creatively have been crafting my daily yoga practices for almost a decade. I also do a lot of self-study by keeping a log of what I eat, my activities and the things I am grateful for. Yoga philosophy is my other great tool for self-study. In addition, I also spend quite a lot of time in nature. The combination of yoga, journaling, self-study and nature allow me to get an insight into things that truly expand me, and bring me closer to my true self.
This is what you can do:
- >>Sit on a chair or lie down; place one palm on your chest and the other on your belly, and focus on your breathing with no special technique. Just pay attention to your inhalations and exhalations for about 12 breaths.
- >>Take a walk in nature and fully focus on your surroundings, listening, staying focused on where you are. I find when I’m outside my mind tends to shift in many directions, and I have to constantly make a conscious effort to bring my attention back to the present and where I am. If you find your mind wandering, try to gently bring your mind back to your surroundings.
Once your mind is quiet, you can ask yourself a question. It is essential to do this after you have quietened your mind. You should not come up with answers that you believe others expect from you, or from your memories. Consciously practice this so that you learn to differentiate between what you believe is expected of you, and what you really want.
Exercise: Do “quieten the mind” practice and contemplate this question: “What are the things that truly expand your inner being and bring you joy?”
2. Recognize your priorities and write them.
You’ll generally have certain tasks (work, taking care of children, etc.) that are more important than others, and you need to focus on these tasks first. One way to assess your priorities is to consider the impact of each task or sub-task and the consequence of not doing it. Next, add the things from the first exercise, that are important to you. Regularly going through your list will also help you to get rid of anything that is either not helping you advance your own goals, or is a regular “sink” of time and energy.
Here is my sample list:
- >>Work projects / puppy training
- >>Practicing driving
- >>Writing and yoga study (sutras, workshops)
Exercise: Write down the tasks you need to do and what you would like to do from the first exercise; then assign your priorities.
3. Start small.
Sometimes, I get stuck in an “all-or-nothing” approach. With about a million-and-a-half ideas to write about, and another million things I would like to do, my “monkey-mind” can thrive on distractions if I let it.
Even if we quit our daytime job, we still won’t be able to it all! Besides, the idea is not to quit our day jobs, but to make our time less intense and incorporate things we love into our daily lives. With that in mind, instead of waiting for a perfect time, create a calendar appointment for yourself to perform your activity from the first exercise for 20 minutes every day.
For example, instead of waiting for a vacation or free weekend, I started writing every day, first thing in the morning before I started my workday, and dedicated an hour or more to writing every weekend.
Exercise: Choose some time of the day to dedicate to the activity from the list you created in the second exercise. Add a calendar alert and allocate 15 to 20 minutes to it.
4. Be disciplined, be persistent and be consistent.
Even doing something you love requires some work and commitment. You can find a lot of excuses why not to do it. Commit to yourself to do your activity daily. Also, try to focus on the work itself and not the results.
One of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins, said: “Write every day without fail, even if it’s only for half an hour, even if you’re savagely hung over and your grandmother has just fallen out of a third-story window.” You can substitute the word “write” with any of the words from your “wish list.”
5. Accept setbacks.
Give yourself permission to slack. I find this the most difficult challenge, but it is very important. Relieve the pressure of needing to achieve perfection in every task on the first run. Promise yourself you’ll go back and try it again.
I just learned how to drive, and I have been practicing driving at least three times a week. I’ve never had to drive and my sense of direction is not the best. Even though I study the map beforehand, and do my best not to get lost, I still end up driving in circles and it is really frustrating. Even worse, I hit the car in the parking lot last week. I was ready to give up driving for good, but the freedom that comes from driving is irreplaceable. So I took a few more driving lessons and hit the road!
6. Beware of your “input.”
I would have put this as my first point, but it takes some time to become aware of your “input” and to get to this point. You can think of your input as the food, information, environment and who “your friends are.” It’s very important to live in the place where you feel save and happy; to surround yourself with people who support and inspire you; to make appropriate food choices, and be picky at what you read, watch, etc.
Remember, you are not what you eat, but what you don’t digest. Some people have bigger stomachs and can digest more. I am personally very sensitive, and don’t have a strong digestive system. For that reason, I practice yoga daily, live in Colorado, do not watch TV and eat a vegetarian diet. It happened over the years and I feel like my life became much more fulfilling with making conscience choices to sort my input. This is not a leap type of a step. It takes self-knowledge, correct practice, some time, strength and faith.
7. Give yourself a credit.
We tend to hop from one task to the next. Whether you have lost five pounds, finished a novel or were kind to your neighbor—you should stop and smell the roses. It’s good to live your dreams! And if I can do it—you can do it to!
Share your tips on how you get things done. I really do value your comments.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta