Breathe! Inspiration from Arianna Huffington’s Book Thrive
I recently began reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. The book was a Christmas gift from my future daughter-in-law, Colleen Leddy, who had attended a Thrive workshop earlier in the year. She had texted me about her wonderful experience, and I made a mental note to buy a copy of Huffington’s book. One thing led to another, and I never placed that order. Consequently, I was really pleased when I opened the gift box and found Thrive. Since I was right in the middle of reading London by Edward Rutherfurd, a book I highly recommend to both seasoned and aspiring writers for a study of Rutherfurd’s approach to historical fiction, I couldn’t start Huffington’s book when it arrived.
Over the past three days, however, I’ve read about 150 pages of Thrive, but I’ve already found so much to recommend that I thought I’d take this moment to reach out to all of you who are celebrating the beginning of the new year. For many of us the end of one year and the beginning of another is a time for reflection on what has gone before as well as what is to come in our lives. Not exactly resolution making, reflection is a way to take stock and to dream or plan. I was thinking as I read those first 150 pages that part of Huffington’s message speaks to reflection in our daily lives through the mindfulness practice she recommends.
The training I received at A Healing Place in Richardson, Texas, led me to incorporate mindfulness in my daily life through the practice of meditation. Living on a mountain, isolated at 8,000 feet, for nearly nine years after my introduction to mindfulness, or awareness, made that incorporation easy. Those of you who have read my book, Intentional Healing…or have been following my blog for a while know that I attribute my full recovery from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) not only to treatment at Dr. William J. Rea’s clinic in Dallas but also to the spiritual healing I received from energy medicine practitioners, Navajo medicine men, and the self-care awareness and energy balancing exercises I was taught at A Healing Place.
Obviously, my own experience with the health-enhancing benefits of mindfulness made me receptive to Huffington’s message that a successful life needs to be redefined from the current metric of working to career achievement through sleep deprivation and exhaustion to, instead, in the words of her subtitle, “creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.” And to make this point, Huffington backs up her recommendations with a great deal of research supporting the benefits of mindfulness, not just to us but to the organizations, businesses, and institutions for which we work. The data are convincing. I highly recommend you read Thrive.
What is mindfulness? If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness, you can think of it as paying attention to who you are and how you feel in the moment. It is as simple as paying attention to what you are eating and how you are eating it. A friend of mine attended a Natalie Goldberg writing workshop in France this past summer, where mindfulness was incorporated into every activity and task during the program. Eating in silence with mindfulness, paying attention to the scents of the foods, noticing how they felt on several levels as they chewed, allowed the writer participants to open their focus and their ability to write about the experience. Did I mention that they also had to be unplugged from social media—no smart phones, tablets, or computers except for a brief window each day? Something Huffington would have applauded.
Deborah Singleton, founder of A Healing Place, taught me that breath and thought are the two most important tools to enhance wellness in the bodymindspirit. Huffington has incorporated both of these tools in her approach to a successful life, one that is balanced between the planning and execution of tasks in the workplace and at home with living in the moment, which is what mindfulness is all about.
You can take the first step toward cultivating mindfulness by focusing on your breath. As I was taught at A Healing Place, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Think of letting go of all that does not serve you. And relax. Feel into every part of you—head, mouth, nose, throat, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, legs, and feet— as you sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Focus on your feet. Think: I let it all go. This is something you can do in the middle of your work day right at your desk. Even one minute in this focus will enhance health and improve concentration.
If you’re fortunate to be working at one of the companies mentioned in Thrive that provides meditation classes or quiet rooms for mindfulness, then spend a few minutes bringing yourself into balance by de-stressing through breathing. Enter the quiet room. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in one of your favorite places. Is it in a garden? At the seashore? By a lake? On a mountain top? Notice your surroundings in your sacred space. Feel a soft breeze on your face. Experience the warmth of the sun.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and gently blow it out through your mouth. Feel your breath move from the top of your head through your body and into your feet. Send your breath from your feet into the floor below and down into the earth. Don’t worry about what floor you are on. Just see and feel your breath moving through those floors and into the earth. Feel your connection with the earth.
Notice areas of tension in your body. Breathe through those parts of you and think: I let all tension go. Feel it move into your feet and down into the earth. When you feel relaxed, gently bring your focus back to your breath as you leave your visit to your favorite place. Within yourself, express gratitude for your moment in your sacred space. Remember that you can return there whenever you want.
When you are ready, open your eyes. Nurture your body with a cool glass of water and a healthful snack such as fruit or nuts. You will return to your tasks refreshed.
Every day take a few minutes to be in the moment, noticing how you feel and relaxing the tension in your body through breathing. Over time, this refreshing break will develop into an automatic reflex that kicks in when you are feeling stressed. As you continue to practice mindfulness, your awareness of who you are in any moment will enhance your health and allow you to see other people in a more compassionate light. The benefits for you, your employer, and the world at large will grow and grow.
Blessings to all!
My thanks to Google Free Images for the wonderful visuals in this post.