Hitting the pause button

Our modern lives are full of demands on our time and energy – they come at us 24/7 in surround sound, whether in the real world or in the virtual one. As a three quarter time grants manager, an occasional freelance editor, a small business owner, a health coach, and a household manager for a family of four, I’m no stranger to this noise.

Even at times when those two external worlds are relatively silent – usually in the early morning hours or late at night – my mind often has trouble silencing the inner chatter: there’s today’s (unfinished) to-do list, the I-can’t-believe-I-forgot-to-do list (yes, I really did once forget to pick my child up from school), the what-does-tomorrow-require-me-to-do list…and a deep yearning for just a little rest, a little peace and quiet.

At my annual physical 18 months ago, my integrative physician said to me, “I really think you should try meditation.” Me? Meditate?

As the kids say now, “Yeeaaaah NO!”

I don’t have time to meditate: I’ve always been a “doer” – someone who gets up at 4:00 in the morning to exercise (because believe me, it just won’t happen once anyone else is up, and I really do need an hour to get through what needs to be done in the morning so I can spend just 10 minutes reading over a cup of coffee); someone who can’t sit through meetings because there’s so much to get done; someone who eats “al desko” to get a few more emails answered; someone who drops the work bag at the door and moves directly into the kitchen to empty the dish rack and prepare dinner….

I gave it a half-hearted attempt for a few days, but it really didn’t work. Paraphrasing Erma Bombeck, I couldn’t lie still in a hot bath because all I could smell was the mildew around the tub. I just couldn’t still my mind. I settled for “walking meditation,” which seemed to me to be a good compromise. I was following the doctor’s orders (kinda) but still doing something, and – conveniently – getting where I needed to be and getting some exercise in the bargain. It was still all about multi-tasking.

Then in October of 2013, I started studying to be a holistic health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® (IIN), where I heard a lecture by Dr. Andrew Weil. As part of the lecture he demonstrated what he calls “the 4-7-8 Breath,” a simple breathing exercise for relieving tension, falling asleep, dealing with food cravings, calming anxiety – really for any time you need to hit the pause button.

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I’ll try anything once – twice if I like it – so I tried incorporating it into my day: once at the end of my morning workout and once as I was getting ready to sleep (my husband laughs at this because I don’t EVER have trouble falling asleep, but I figured it couldn’t hurt). And it only takes a few minutes.

The results were nothing short of amazing: within a week, I was calmer, and not just during or after doing the exercises – I mean all day long. And suddenly, there were opportunities to hit the pause button throughout my day:

  • Nothing used to irritate the power walker in me more than hitting a “don’t walk” sign – but now it’s a chance to stop and look around.
  • Internet access issues and slow connections made me tear my hair out (Must. Get. Work. Done!) – but now they’re a chance to stand up, walk around, and stretch.
  • Getting a busy signal on the phone or no answer to an email? That project will just have to wait.
  • Slow traffic? Stop sign? Red light? It’s a message from the Universe that I’m moving too fast.

Every hitch in my day, every glitch that impedes my progress has now become a sign from the universe: stop, look, listen, breathe. I know, it’s tempting to channel Bill Cosby: “It’s the Lord, Noah!” “Who is this really?” But it works. And I promise, this message comes without that annoying “Vooba, vooba, vooba…PING!” alert.

And the work and the schoolwork gets done. I get where I need to go. The kids get fed and get to their afterschool activities. The house gets clean and the laundry and dishes get done. And I feel as though I have a much calmer and more focused energy now.

Finding our internal pause button and using it regularly can be just as important as feeding ourselves the right foods.

At IIN we are introduced to a wide variety of tools that can help improve our lives and the lives of our family, friends, and clients. We are encouraged to try a new diet or lifestyle change first, and if it works for us, then offer it to others to try. I know how stress and a fast-paced life feels. And not only do I want to be able to keep up, I want to be able to do it with a calm, centered energy.

Feel the same way? Resolved to calm the pace of your life? I would love to help you find your “pause button” and make your life less frenetic. Email me or fill out the contact form for a free initial consultation.

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