I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’m going to tell you again. Meditating is enormously effective in reconnecting with your authentic self. Your authentic self resides in a state of pure awareness and consciousness. This is a place beyond your ego, which is an identity of your own constructing.
Eckhart Tolle describes the ego perfectly in Stillness Speaks, “When you think or speak about yourself, when you say, “I”, what you usually refer to is “me and my story.” This is the “I” of your likes and dislikes, fears and desires, the “I” that is never satisfied for long. It is a mind-made sense of who you are, conditioned by the past and seeking to find its fulfillment in the future.”
We are incredible beings in that we have the ability to weaken this false sense of identity. Beyond the incessant voice in our head is stillness. Becoming aware of this stillness is freedom. Here is how to access it.
Zazen is the heart of Zen Buddhist practice and my favorite meditative discipline. The intention is to suspend all judgmental thinking, to allow thoughts and feelings to pass without becoming involved with them.
- Acquire a zafu (small pillow), this is optional depending on your seating position.
- Get into seating position. There are multiple positions, all described in great detail here.
- Begin by clearing your mind and bringing your attention to your breath.
- Begin counting each inhalation and exhalation until you get to ten. When you reach ten, return to one and start again.
- If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought and then without judgement, begin counting at one again.
- Continue this for about 10-15 minutes. As you practice daily you can add on minutes.
2. Mindful Eating
This one was taught to me by my friend Heather Tupps at Grounded Approach. Mindful eating is about experiencing food more intensely. Instead of juggling a sandwich in one hand and a steering wheel in the other, try slowing down and appreciating the food you’re eating. For me, this also means taking a moment to recognize the growers of my food and/or the animals who provided me with my meal. Eating in this type of stress-free environment nourishes both our mind and body.
A few main points Heather covers are:
- Do not demonize food. Counting calories or labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ will lead to stress and poor digestion. Oppositely, when we eat high-quality foods and enjoy them, we experience a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. We will feel full and our bodies will react positively to our peaceful meal.
- Sit down with your food and do not multitask. When we multitask while eating, our brain does not register that we are eating and so does not start the digestion process by secreting hydrochloric acid.
- Slow down. Take 15-20 minutes to eat your food. Do this by putting your fork down in between bites. This will also help you recognize when you are full.
3. Eliminate Chemicals
Begin to eliminate chemicals from your life. I have found that it is an extremely liberating experience to unbind yourself from the chemicals that companies so often force upon us. You can focus on a few main areas.
Visit my article on food labels to help you discern between naturally grown and cared for food versus chemical laden food. Additionally, focus on buying unpackaged, unprocessed whole foods.
- Personal Care Products
Many personal care products can be made yourself which is a very fulfilling experience. If purchasing commercially made products, make sure to look out for toxic ingredients. Shedding Light on the Cosmetics Industry lists toxic ingredients commonly found in personal care products.
- Household Products
Household products can be extremely toxic. Baking soda and vinegar can clean up many common household messes. Before diving into your Clorox stash, try a Google search to see if there is an easy, natural alternative to cleaning up the mess you’re working on.
Eliminating chemicals from your daily routine will allow your body and your environment to work in the ways they are intended to. Nature has been healing itself for billions of years. Our bodies work the same way. We are perfectly designed to heal ourselves on a holistic and complete level.
4. Get Outdoors
In an age where we constantly have a screen in our face or spend all day sitting at a desk indoors, it is so very important that we connect to our surroundings in a direct and tangible way. Go outdoors today and practice being present. Take a walk, run, hike or even sit outside. Focus on all of your senses.
- Vitamin D
The sun supplies us with the best source of Vitamin D, which is essential to a healthy immune system.
- Improved Sleep
When we spend most of our time indoors and in artificial light, we become disconnected from our internal body clock (or circadian rhythm). This rhythm is naturally tied to the sun’s schedule.
The Earth’s surface is negatively charged and has a greater negative charge than the human body. When we have direct skin contact with the Earth’s surface, we absorb the Earth’s electrons. These electrons quench excess free radicals in our bodies. So get outside and go barefoot for a bit.
- Psychological Health
Spending time in nature has been linked to improved attention span, increased serotonin, and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability and love.
In many cases, technology promises to make our lives more efficient. In reality, we become distracted and spend our free time with technology instead of participating in meaningful interactions. Give yourself a break by spending an hour or a day without any electronics. Reconnect with yourself and the living and growing things surrounding you. When you spend time device-free, you become open to the conversations and connections that would otherwise be missed.
A few tips for unplugging:
- Keep your phone on silent and turn off notifications. This way you will be in control of when you check your phone.
- Begin your mornings without checking email, social media etc.
- Designate one day to go tech free. You can decide what ‘tech-free’ means to you. If one full day is too much, try a few hours.