How one yoga devotee created her own path to inner peace in the real world
Sure, the ancient yogis found inner peace by stretching in their yoga poses and sitting on their cushions for hours on end. But we live in the real world — too busy treading water to spare that kind of time! Fortunately, after digesting tons of spiritual books and attending myriad workshops, then experimenting with what works for me, I’ve created my own Reader’s Digest-ish shortcut to daily bliss.
My best intention is to practice these steps daily, although I often fall short. Like many spiritual seekers, I have to resist beating myself up when I’m not perfect. It’s okay to fall off our daily spiritual path — nearly everyone does. Still, when I find myself racing around directionless, I try to remember my seven simple steps because they always send me where I want to go: up.
To connect to your own inner peace, try (as best as you can) to sprinkle these steps throughout your day:
1. Sing in the shower.
One thing the ancient yogis were right about: Set a good tone first thing in the morning and you float through the day. That’s why at the crack of dawn at a yoga ashram you’ll find everyone meditating. But, hard as I’ve tried, I can’t drag myself out of bed with time to spare, what with packing school lunches and getting ready for work. My solution: I sing in the shower. Rather than fixate on problems and to-do’s, I send my thoughts skyward via song. It doesn’t take any extra time, not to mention that even bad voices like mine sound magical against the tiles. I learned this technique from a healthy and joyful 99-year-old man, whom I’m convinced got that way because he belts out “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” with every shampoo. I prefer Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Any song that feels happy to you is perfect.
2. Listen for the dog bark (or the bird chirp, the cat meow…).
Several years ago, I read the old Aldous Huxley novel, Island, where the Mynah birds on his utopian Pala constantly shout, “Attention, attention,” to remind the natives that here-and-now is most important. Knowing that I frequently forget this crucial teaching, I vowed to use the sound of the birds chirping outside my South Florida window as my own prompt to pause. It was hard to get into the habit at first. Then one afternoon, deep into my writing, I ignored a huge ibis in my backyard until his occasional squeaks morphed into ten minutes of unrelenting cackling. I laughed when I realized the bird was reminding me of my pledge. Now whenever I hear a bird chirp, I try to stop and take a long, deep breath, and am immediately pulled into the present moment — the only place we can access our higher selves and. If you don’t have regularly cacophonous fowls, any vocal animal, or even a neighbor’s crying baby, is a wonderful reminder.
3. Stop whining.
I once heard a psychologist say that venting about your troubles — to your partner, friends, or blog readers — is a bad idea because it lets off just enough tension that you feel better without forcing you to change the situation that troubles you. What’s more, whining keeps your mind focused on what’s going wrong, rather than on all the wonderful things in your life that are working. As Deepak Chopra explains in The Happiness Prescription, “Your true being is connected to all that exists. It has no limitations.” In the moment you’re griping about your boss or lover (or the fact that you got rained on this morning), however, you can’t remember that. Next time you’re ready to criticize or complain, stop and ask, “What is this unhappy situation making me desire?” Then turn your whole focus to that, knowing that as a being with “no limitations,” it can soon be yours.
4. Stretch your arms up.
As a longtime, big-time fan of yoga, I know the value of sneaking even a couple of poses into the day. The stretches make you feel great physically, and, equally important, they expand your mind. I equate yoga with a dose of LSD — without the worry you’ll jump off a roof into a swimming pool! Getting to an actual class most days isn’t realistic, but everyone can spare a few minutes, even if you have to do it in your desk chair. My favorite micro session: Boat Pose (aka Superman), a full Forward Bend and a half Spinal Twist. (If you’re at your desk: raise your arms and arch backward, hold for a minute; fold forward down to your ankles for another; then twist around to the right side, then the left.) At home before bed, if you have any time or energy to spare, hit the floor for a Cat/Cow stretch and/or Shoulder Stand.
5. Sit on your rump.
I’m not talking about all those hours we spend on the computer. I’m talking about meditation. Before you shriek, “I hate to meditate,” or “Didn’t you say you don’t have time in the morning,” let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the 15 to 30 minutes twice daily that most experts recommend. (That’s fabulous, and definitely do that when you can. But I’m talking shortcuts here.) Ten — or even five — minutes once or twice anytime in the day can be sufficient. By focusing the mind on one thing (a word like “peace,” a sound like “om,” the flicker of a candle…), you’re training it to release the worries about the past or fears over the future that keep us from fully experiencing the present. It doesn’t matter if your mind wanders, if you can’t resist scratching your nose or if you hate doing it. All of that happened to me — but I kept at it. Now I love my ten-minute mini-meds, and, more important, the way they spill over into the rest of my day.
No, not about sex — although you’re welcome to do that, too. Fantasize about what you’re wanting for your life. The teachings about law of attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks make clear that you get what you think about. (This is what Napoleon Hill meant by “think and grow rich.”) I used to spend much of my day pondering things as they were (what the Hicks’ call “tell-it-like-it-is-itis”). But if our thoughts create, it behooves us to shift to those that make our hearts sing: the desired job, financial state, health status, dream trip, romantic partner and/or situation in the world. Ponder your desires in great detail, until you feel enthusiasm stirring. Within a few days, your life should transform.
7. Kiss your pillow (and your partner, too).
Before going to bed each night, think about five people, events and/or objects you appreciate. Begin with the easiest: items right in your cozy bed (including your sumptuous pillow and, if you happen to share your bed, your mate). How better to end your day than by connecting to your highest self and those you care about? You will drift off with ease, and, more important, set a glorious vibration to wake up in tomorrow morning.