With all the struggles of modern life, it’s easy to get caught in a whirlwind of stress, worry, or even indifference. In Dr. David Dillard-Wright’s new book, A Mindful Day, he shares daily affirmations, meditations, and exercises to help you quiet your body and mind and gain a few moments of peace in your busy day. Here are six to reflect on this week.
Cut Through the Word Cloud
I trace thoughts back to their source. I find no support for them. Thoughts lead only to other thoughts. These thoughts flow through me, but they are not me. I let them come and go, unimpeded.
We live our lives in a cloud of words: little tidbits of the day’s news, habitually recalled memories, plans and schemes for the situation at hand. The word cloud comes to seem more real than the actual reality in front of our faces. We become so habituated to our internal monologues that we hardly notice that they obscure our vision of the present. To reconnect with the present, we have to see through the ready-made filters of language and once again pay attention to reality.
As you close your eyes in meditation, pay attention to the outlines of your body, and allow yourself to settle into the inner darkness. Feel yourself firmly rooted into your seat, and allow energy to move up your spine as you breathe deeply. When you reach the point between your eyebrows, fix your inner gaze here with single-pointed attention. Allow the thoughts to dissolve before the firmness and intention of your one-pointed devotion. Feel the inner space expand to include your surroundings. Know that all things can be represented here within, but be content to sit in darkness and not-knowing. Sit here in the murky darkness until you feel a palpable sense of release.
Take One Thing at a Time
I resolve today to do only one thing at a time to the best of my ability. I resolve to concentrate only on that which is most important. Properly ordering my priorities, my life becomes more peaceful.
We run into problems in life by trying to do too many things at a time. The only important question is, “What do I need to do right now?” Once that question is answered, it only remains to put full concentration onto that task. It becomes so much easier to work when other concerns have been put aside, when all of our powers come to bear on this one thing. Then our physical and mental selves come into alignment with the task at hand, and things progress smoothly.
You have worked hard today, but have you done the exact thing that you needed to do? Have you been able to put your full powers into the task at hand? As you breathe deeply and close your eyes, ask yourself what one thing, if done today, would make you feel better about your life. Ask yourself what task, once completed, would give you greater peace of mind. After sitting here in silence for a few minutes, dedicate yourself completely to that one most important thing.
Take Gray Days and Gloomy Moods in Stride
When I am feeling sad and downhearted, I recognize these emotions and sit with them. I do not need to be superhuman. I just keep going, despite my despair.
Some days it can be hard to get out of bed. Sometimes work seems dull and meaningless. Sometimes everything seems bleak and lifeless, either in the world at large or in our own personal sphere. During such times, you do not have to force yourself to be more cheerful or optimistic. It can sometimes be more useful to sit with the distressing thoughts and acknowledge them. It’s okay to just sit there and say, yes, I’m feeling a bit hopeless today. Sometimes just sitting with these thoughts can diffuse them more than wrestling with or ignoring them.
Perhaps today you are feeling sad and gloomy. Look into your own inner disposition and get into contact with your negative feelings. Draw very close to these negative thoughts and sensations, and try to be very detailed in your observations. You can do this without doing a lot of mental description: just feel very deeply. When you return to your ordinary routine, simply recognize and accept the gloom. You don’t need to muscle through it: merely welcome the gloominess as an odd sort of companion, neither desirable nor undesirable, neither true nor false.
Leave Guilt Behind
I recognize guilt as an ineffective coping strategy. I acknowledge guilt as a lack of clarity within myself and a lack of communication with those I love. I work constructively to make my life align with my priorities, without resenting others.
When it comes down to it, guilt doesn’t make a very good motivator. I can feel guilty about something, but that just magically substitutes an emotion for an action. If I guilt myself or if someone else makes me feel guilty, this produces resentment over the long term, as my stated preferences conflict with my real preferences. I can diffuse the guilt by either taking the action that I don’t feel like taking or by just getting clear about my real priorities. The first step toward healing is to recognize the presence of the guilt and move into a more beneficial mental state.
Perhaps you are having feelings of guilt today. Somewhere you have not fully communicated with yourself or with some loved one. Observe the guilt and the situations in which it typically arises. Resolve to find more constructive ways of dealing with these situations. An inspiration may come to you out of the blue, if not now, then later in the day.
I do not confuse my net worth with my true worth. I practice contentment in all circumstances.
We have been conditioned to believe that whatever makes the most money is also the most practical course of action. But money produces false valuations, imaginary notions of worth tied to nothing but thin air. Believing in money requires just as much faith as believing in God or Santa Claus. Money in itself is not evil: it is just based on the wisdom of crowds. Crowds can be smart sometimes, but they can also be cruel, capricious, vindictive, and wrong. We have to practice suspicion and question the wisdom of crowds.
Whether you are rolling in dough or scraping the bottom of the barrel, you can still make it your mission to cultivate contentment. Maybe you don’t feel naturally contented now, but just try it for a few minutes. Imagine what it must feel like to be contented, and then steer your thoughts and emotions in that direction. If you can catch a little glimmer of this feeling, magnify it and expand it. Then make the playacting become real.
Make Worry Into an Ally
I do not ignore my worries, but I look for the insight that they have to offer. I take action to keep worry at bay by practicing diligence in my affairs.
Worry can become a friend if it is not allowed to fester. Let your worries become your guides, not your masters. If something worries you, take some small action to placate the worry. You don’t need to defeat worry once and for all: just defeat it for the time being. If you are worried about getting into a traffic accident, drive as safely as possible. If you are worried about not having enough money in retirement, formulate a savings plan. If you are worried about a big project, start knocking out parts of it. By converting worry into positive action, you deprive it of its power. A little bit of worry can make you more conscientious, while overwhelming worry can be paralyzing.
Take a look at the things that worry you the most in life. Have you made a concrete plan of action to tackle the worry in question? If you haven’t done this, the worry will likely continue to recur until you address the issue. Take a few minutes now to find a few things that you can do to realistically address the disturbing thoughts that have you concerned.