You may have heard the old story of a tribal chief in a pensive mood who is met by the village elder while on a solitary walk. The elder asks the chief what he's thinking about. The chief says, "I am deeply troubled. It's like there are two dogs fighting in my mind. One is harsh and negative and relentless in his criticism. The other is positive and joyous, inviting to play and be happy." The elder paused and looked at the chief in the eyes and asked, "Which one are you feeding?"
Which dog are we feeding in these times? The daily newspapers offer mostly a steady diet of gloom and negativity. I see people going to extremes. One the one hand, there is denial of the current economic situation and its impact on us-this is one coping mechanism. But the stuffing of mounting tension and fear is not sustainable for our emotional and physical health. On the other extreme is a giving in to the fear and depression that accompanies the news. How do we feed our own internal positive psyche that wants peace, play and joyfulness even in these times, in fact, especially in these times?
What is a piece about mindfulness doing on a site focused on business? When we are the instruments of our work and business in the world, our success depends on a focus on our emotional and physical health.
Here are my ABC's for integrating nourishing practices into our lives that feed the part of ourselves that visions freely, widely, and deeply of future possibilities. There are certainly a range of practices to assist us. This is a start.
A. Appreciation or gratitude. Focus on what we are grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal and every morning or evening, review the day, and write what you are grateful for. I begin with the words, "I am grateful for..." and I repeat each gratitude in my list with those words. Creating a bank of appreciation reinforces what we desire and love in the world. And sends a clear message to the universe of what our intent and desires are. Clarity makes it easier for the universe to respond. Studies have shown that a steady diet of appreciation and recalling the feelings associated with a thing, person or event that we appreciate, evens out our heart's rhythm and facilitates the flow of energy throughout our bodies.
B. Breath: Simple, yes, but can't be overstated or repeated enough. Stress and the emotion of fear produce a halting of breath and shallow breathing which in turn compromise our physical ability for clear thinking as well as our bodies' ability to function optimally. We need both as decision makers and creators of our success. A focus on breathing can interrupt the fear responses in our brains and help bring us back to a centered presence. Breath awareness is the first step in meditation.
C. Community and collaboration. At times in our steadfast resolve to believe that everything is just FINE we can isolate ourselves. Fear can also produce a bunker mentality; we can be tempted to baton down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass. This storm could last a while. I find that my experience of the world these days is increasingly about the collective "us", as opposed to "us vs. them." This is a time for strengthening our connections to one another, creating new connections and friendships in an authentic, true manner. Rekindle old friendships, have people over for dinner, collaborate with colleagues. And give to give.