Have you ever had the feeling of being under a deadline to get something important or urgent – or both, for that matter – done, yet you inevitably seem to get caught up in distractions of lesser import? The following is what occurs.Read More
If you’ve ever read about the positive effects of meditation, chances are you would at the very least like to try it out – but who can find the time? Actually, you do: here’s how to combine chores and meditation into an effective one-two punch.
Journey first, destination second
Doing chores, or even recurring tasks at work, is something most people hate. I used to loathe them, too – but that was before I was able to change my perspective on chores from being something that takes away from my time into something which yields an entirely positive outcome. It’s not quite meditation, but it’s a taste of the positive side effects which stem from being able to empty ones mind.
The following two points are paramount if you are to achieve any sort of output: the level of ease with which a chore can be executed, and the amount of a given chore spends on your mind. As your head holds a black belt in denial, procrastination and general laziness, you need to give yourself a work list. Anything from a paper calendar to a recurring reminder on your smartphone will suffice. The key is to make sure that you do not, to the greatest possible degree, have to remember when a chore needs to be done.
As for making a chore easier to do, routines are the way to go. Convert as much as a chore of you can into a routine that your brain can convert into muscle memory skill, and deviate only if you have to: this way, it will over time become second nature for you in much the same way riding a bicycle (hopefully) is. You do remember how you, at least as a child, could ride along and suddenly realize you’ve gone for a mile without even noticing anything on the outside of your head, right? That’s what we’re aiming for.
Also, if a chore is done seldom and is a little bit complicated, create a procedural check list for yourself which you write down and can access easily. This way, you reduce your resistence towards getting started on it.
But what does this have to do with meditation?
Wikipedia has the following to say of meditation:
“Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit.”
As you shift the execution of chores from the conscious towards the subconscious part of your brain, you will be able to empty your mind either for the purpose of letting thoughts wander, or simply for keeping the mind empty if you’re so inclined. Often, those who meditate rely on some external point to maintain their focus; for you, this can be the routines you have created for executing your chores – which is what I do.
There’s a zen proverb which also lends itself to the situation we’re talking about:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water”.
As you can see, it refers to simple, repetitive tasks which can be committed to muscle memory and as such do not tax the brain. Chores.
The one-two punch
It may not be full-on, hardcore meditation in its purest form – but it’s an opportunity to clear and relax your mind, which is enjoyable enough to turn chores into something you actually look forward to. Oh, and if you have a spouse, they will love you for it. That’s worth something, too.Read More
To me, simplicity is as much an antidote for the chaotic passage of everyday life as it is a recipe for achieving goals – and as far as I can tell, people seem increasingly attracted towards it. I think I know why.
To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
There’s little denying that our world grows increasingly busy for every day that passes. Many things contribute to this development, yet this status quo is mostly owed to a single thing: competition. Take a system – any system, add participants, and observe as competition erupts. Capitalism, which has kept much of the modern world running for some time now, is no different.
A few years as an employee or entrepreneur teaches a lesson well: to succeed, you need to work harder – or smarter. Both require the expenditure of physical and mental resources, and even if you manage to do a great many things just right, there is always someone snapping at your heels to assume your position in the hierarchy. Quite possibly, even, at your cost.
For people who want to stay ahead, there are only two options: remove the competition, or outcompete them. And, since humans generally tend to shy away from assassination, increasing one’s level of engagement becomes the de facto standard response. But what happens when everyone is caught in this vicious cycle?
What happens is that an increasing number of people reach what I call their complexity threshold, and start yearning for a simpler life. It might not be completely in accordance with Newton’s third law, but I doubt he’d hold much of a grudge for drawing a parallel.
Balance is key
Work yourself to exhaustion for one week (which, granted, might be a necessary evil), and physics dictate your resource expenditure must be compensated. Juggle too many projects or tasks simultaneously, and the outcome will be much the same. The complexity surpasses its maximum sustainable rate either through prolonged exposure or a phase of compression, and unless your brain course corrects in time, your body will halt propulsion (don’t try this at home).
So, should complexity be avoided due to its negative effects? Absolutely not. As humans, it is obvious that we thrive when we have complex challenges to solve. It’s not a new thing either – one merely have to consider Angkor Wat, the Pyramids or the Chinese Wall to name a few astonishingly complex accomplishments – some of which aren’t even fully understood to date.
What nature demands is balance, and if you fail to deliver – well, then you’re in for the ride of your lifetime.
Simplicity brings focus to what’s important
It’s alright to be egocentric. How do you think the personal and professional aspects of your life (and the relationships attached to these) will evolve if you feel miserable most of the time as a consequence of not prioritizing the important things which refuel you both physically and mentally?
The process of simplifying entails taking a long, hard, look at the plate of life and entering into a continuous process of exchanging the bits that aren’t to your liking. Given a sufficient amount of contemplation, what is important will naturally surface as priorities – and if acted upon in the proper way, pursuing them will make you wake up with a smile in the morning.
Simplicity brings about success
A common trait in most people I discuss this topic with is the realization that something isn’t quite right, and that changes must take place in order to bring about what is often coined a “better life”. However, few buckle down and invest the mental expenditure required to stare down the sandblower that is life and emerge with their features intact. And, even if they do, simple fear of change – or not succeeding – may still represent an obstacle.
Still, simplicity appears to rank highly even on the lists of those who haven’t had the time or opportunity to contemplate matters more thoroughly – most likely due to a simple correlation between the perceived amount of time required to execute something complex as opposed to something simple. Free up time, and suddenly there’s more of it to figure out what one wants, or how to get it if the former has already been nailed down.
Which is very true, even though it’s highly preferable to avoid skipping the contemplation part of the process. Simplifying matters brings about focus, which is essential to succeeding at anything. Just think about how, as a child, you could spend hours building a house of cards and forget that the rest of the world even existed.
The fewer things that are on your mind, the better you will be able to execute the ones that rattle around in there. And, the simpler you keep things, the easier they will be to execute.
The simple summary
Ah, quietude. “The state or condition of being quiet, peaceful, calm, or tranquil”.
When was the last time you just kept still and did absolutely nothing for 10 minutes – in a silent environment? For most of us – including me – the answer is that you can’t pinpoint the exact moment in time. That’s too bad.
Silence is underestimated
Even in back in ye olde days, when a continuous cacaphony of media was conspicuously absent, silence was valued by some. As translated from the German Sartor Resartus in 1831 by English poet Thomas Carlyle: “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule”.
Excessive as the quote may be when surgically transplanted into the 21st century, I’d like to ask that you indulge me in a request to read it again – only slowly, this time.
Silence is necessary
In fact, it seems sustained noise can be of direct detriment to ones health. A Wikipedia article on the topic certainly raises some concern, as does a recent book written by Garret Keizer, of which The New York Times has a short excerpt.
In modern society, however, noise is – alas – unavoidable, which only increases the importance of quietude. I myself work in an open landscape, and not only am I more able to concentrate for longer periods of time if I can find a quiet space – I also feel more energized when able to maintain a certain balance between noise and silence.
Henceforth, the challenge
With luck, this article will have served as a reminder in your likely busy day to make time for quietude. I hereby challenge you to immerse yourself in silence for the next 10 minutes of your life – don’t put it off until later. If you do, chances are you’ll forget, or downprioritize. There’s a good chance the world won’t break without you in it for the next 10 minutes.
Oh, and by the way; chances are, that after completing this excercise, the eternity machine you refer to as your brain will have reminded you of a number of incomplete tasks or quite possibly even generated new ones.
I recommend you dig up a pen and a piece of paper – for after your 10 minutes of quiet are up.Read More