Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. The actual art of plate spinning is not too dissimilar to what many of us try to do in everyday life. Stay upright while running to and from meetings; focusing on multiple goals; KPI’s; more meetings; remembering to have lunch; looking after staff; remembering to respond to that email from 3 weeks ago; booking the insurance for that holiday in 2 months time… And the list goes on! In the beginning, spinning plates can be fun, give us variety in our day, and can be quite rewarding as we manage to pull off achieving multiple goals in a day or a week. But after a while some things are forgotten, unfinished and become stressors in our already busy lives. To add to this forever growing to-do list, we have our smartphone constantly in our pocket, vibrating, ringing and reminding us of how many plates we actually have up in the air at one time. We have got into the habit of constantly checking our phones for new emails, Facebook status updates, Twitter feed, missed message and calls. Once upon a time we would leave work and begin to switch off. That phone from back in late 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have data or a screen that could read more than 1-2 lines of text for that matter. By the time we reached home we would be ready to change down another gear, chat with family, sit down and watch a favourite TV programme, read a book. Ultimately, we would log out, switch off and unwind from the day we had just finished. What if we could use this technology we have now, to take time out of our day to switch off for very small periods of time and reset our minds? All of a sudden some of the plates we thought were important would vanish. Our minds would become more focused. Stress levels would decrease. Things would become clear and simple. Real focus and clarity would begin to creep in and we would all look much less like a circus act trying to spin a whole lot of unbalanced plates in mid-air while running down the road! I have been doing yoga for about 18 months now. It gives me both physical benefit from the stretching and strengthening of muscles, and the mental benefit of clearing my mind from the day-to-day clutter it accumulates. But I wouldn’t have time most days to do a class in the middle of the day, even though this is when I would benefit most. So recently, my very mindful, present and yogic partner put me onto the idea of downloading a meditation app for my smartphone. So I did! Since then I have been endeavoring to use the app at least once a day for 10 mins. I find it’s great for removing all those redundant thoughts and stressors which simply get in the way of me achieving what is important to me in my day. The app I am using at the moment is Headspace which has various guided meditations to suit you. So, my advice to you: click on the app store, search for ‘Headspace’, download, put your earphones in and press play! It’s only 5-10 mins out of your day, and the change that it can bring is absolutely incredible. Just do it!
Do you ever wake up in the morning to your alarm blaring? You get an initial fright, press snooze, drift in and out of sleep with thoughts of your to-do list for the day coming at you like trucks on a busy highway? Or are you awake 15 minutes before your alarm in anticipation of the day ahead and thinking back to those same ominous trucks from the day before that you didn’t manage to clear from you ‘brain highway’?
Brain highway. That’s what I like to call our conscious/ unconscious thought process. The hundreds, if not thousands of thoughts that pass through our heads everyday. Research shows that we actually have 2500-3300 thoughts every hour! Most of these thoughts pass through fleetingly and move on into the background. But some tend to stick around for a bit running tight circles in our head with their foot on the accelerator and blaring their horn, like a big scary truck! Just picture that. A big scary truck doing tight circles around you while blaring its horn at you! You can do nothing but notice it. In fact you are more than noticing it at this stage, the truck is huge in your field of vision and blocks everything else out. All you can do is concentrate on this one seemingly horrible, scary thing in front of you! Everything else that you were doing a few seconds ago is completely blocked out and your body starts getting into fight or flight mode. Your stress hormone cortisol starts to rise. You start to sweat and get anxious.
What if I told you that you could take control of this situation. You could get that nasty truck back on the highway with the other trucks and cars and off into the distance. As a physiotherapist I teach people every day how to perform exercises to strengthen a muscle or tendon in their body. They go away, do the exercise for a specific amount per day and week then come back with less pain and more strength. We can apply the same model to our brain and thoughts. The brain is the muscle and the stressful thoughts being the injury or niggle.
I was going through a particularly stressful time with my business at the same time. Thoughts were rife, my highway was the size of a Los Angeles freeway. The five-lane variety! Because my mind was so busy with trying to wear the many hats of a business owner working on and in my own business, I couldn’t decipher, allocate and file each task in its order of importance. I would get anxious, worried, angry, frustrated, down and tired trying to do it all!
This thought process and a little nudging from my partner got me started on a little app called Headspace. I made a conscious decision to take control of my thoughts, to give my head a little… space! I’m great at getting to sleep at night. I’m asleep within about 10 breaths of the light going out. It’s 4.30/5am that my mind decides to wake up with a jolt. Thoughts, concerns, stories left over from the day before. Scenarios played out in my head, which have not even happened yet. Numbers, figures, reports, forecasts… you get the drift. So this was my plan. I would start meditating 5 minutes after my alarm went off every morning. Just 10 minutes of headspace. I started with the intro pack, a nice way to dip my toes into the world of meditation. Two sessions in and no epiphany, no higher level of consciousness. I thought, this meditation thing doesn’t work, it’s a hoax! But a little voice inside me kept saying, just another session, keep it up. So I did. Five sessions in and I was still doubting. But on returning from work one day after maybe my tenth session my partner asked me how my day was? A very normal question which a few weeks previously would have got my heckles up, got me all frustrated with a short answer in tow. Not this time though. ‘It was good thanks, it was very productive, clear and I had lots of fun’ was my reply! Such a contrast from my previous mindset. Life was good again even though I was still dealing with the afore-mentioned stressor. I had clarity of thought and was less distracted, which led me to be much more productive in my day.
A few months later with the acute stress over I managed to meditate 100 days in a row. Pretty awesome for a guy who had no idea what meditation meant a few months prior.
Moral of the story: “Meditation” the art of calming and focusing the mind, give it a go! What’s the worst that could happen?
The Challenge: Meditate Every Day for Thirty Days As you may be sensing, I’m good at doing something for a short period of time. I like the idea of an end date, to make the focus seem more manageable because you don’t have to do it forever. However, there are some things that I want to build into my life permanently. Meditation is one of those. I know I feel better, clearer, more focused and calmer when I have a regular practice. So I’ve set myself a rather large goal of 365 days of meditation. I’ve made it through the first thirty and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you
1. We make time for that which is important to us. I am so over people saying that they are busy and wearing it like a badge of honour. What does it even mean? That you tried to fit too much into your day and wore yourself out? That you didn’t give your brain anytime to be still and get creative? I can have a packed day and I will find time for a meeting with my boss (or Instagram scrolling). If I can make time for important people (or not so important things), why can’t I make time for myself? For something that is going to help me show up for all of that other stuff as more present, more authentic, more ME.
2. Making things easy for myself is important. Since I’m not much of a morning person (more to come on that later) I didn’t want to start building a new habit that was going to be a struggle, i.e. no 5.30am meditation alarms. Instead, I decided to make my meditation time late morning. As I started to think about lunch, I would take myself off to our Talanoa Room (Board Room) to sit and meditate for twenty minutes. It fit in well with my schedule, a key component to building a new habit. Don’t make your new habit harder than it has to be.
3. Meditation is not just about those twenty minutes. It spills over into the rest of my life and how I’m showing up. Things that previously would have been an effort are just coming naturally now – like speaking to people that in the past have intimidated me and I would have been lost for words; giving a friend some feedback she didn’t want to hear; having a difficult conversation with someone at work. I feel more like an observer when situations arise so that I’m able to respond rather than react.
In the past, I’ve used the One Giant Mind app and this time around I bought the subscription version of Headspace. I really like both, although they are quite different. If you’re interested in starting a practice, having a look around the app store as there are lots in there. Or go old fashioned and just sit and watch your breath for five, ten or maybe fifteen minutes. I promise that you’ll feel better for it. I know I do.
- The importance of getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep shouldn’t be worn as a badge of pride as it is actually making us less productive, less creative, less than what we can really be. Since getting back from holiday, I’ve been striving to get 8 1/2 hours sleep a night, as this seemed to be what I was getting each night on holiday, waking up without an alarm. Life is a little busier in NZ than on island time, so it’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
- Mediation, even ten minutes a day. I’m still loving the 1 Giant Mind app and currently working my way through the 30 day challenge. I am dealing with a few potentially stressful things at work at the moment, but having a regular practice seems to be keeping me in a balance so far.
- Listening to our inner voice. There have been times when I’ve been hesitant in making a decision, or worse, gone against what my gut told me was the right thing to do. And funnily enough, things generally didn’t work out when I’ve done that. It’s all a learning experience, but there is so much value in listening to what you feel and following that path.
- Focus on the joys in your life. We spend so much time rushing from one thing to another, on to the next goal, bigger and better. I reminder to stop and appreciate the joys in our lives – whatever they are – is important to making the most of life. It’ll also help you work out what’s important and where you should be spending your time and energy.
- Find a way to regularly give back. I once spent five weeks volunteering on a turtle conversation project in Guatemala. It was an absolutely amazing experience and I felt so good helping out an endangered species as well as a local village. But giving back doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale. One goal for me is to find a way to fit more giving back into my everyday life.