Tag Archives: zen habits

Purposeful Path for 2009: forget New Year’s Resolutions; pick a “theme”

Purposeful: adj. intentional, meaningful, full of determination

Path: n. a way of life, conduct or thought

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, because they were inevitably doomed to failure. (Research bears me out…). Instead I’ve picked a THEME for the year – a word or phrase that indicates a path, focus, attitude, or way of being to attend to.

The first time I tried to choose a theme I had about five disparate ideas.  I was chewing over these on a walk with my best friend that New Year’s morning. She listened to me prattle on for awhile and then she said, she had a better one: “FOCUS!”

Of course she was right – focus has been an issue for me since I was a kid. I’m not ADHD, but my interests and passions are all over the map. Jill of all trades, mistress of none… So Focus it was – for two years, because it took that long to simplify my life enough to do so.

Last year was  “Completion.”  I’m embarassed to say that I’d forgtten completely about that theme until I just read it in my journal entry for New Year’s Day 2008. Obviously I never figured out how to keep the idea in front of me!

Several of my friends also choose annual themes, so they have been kind enough to share their themes, in case I wanted to borrow one:

  • “Think Big” – VaNessa
  • “Engage!” – Heather
  • “Generous and open-hearted” – Peter
  • “Make it happen!” – VaNessa
  • “Patience and understanding” – Mary
  • “Now is the time!” – Jack

I love some of these, but “Now is the Time!” really resonated with me and I’m going to run with it – for several reasons:

  • The energy cost of dithering on decisions (as minor as to whether to keep or toss a piece of paper, or as major as just FILING the damned divorce papers and being done with it.)
  • The acknowledgment that the present moment is all there is and I want to be present for it
  • The recognition that time is precious

The question is: How will I keep this mantra up front in my brain several times a day for a year?  What will be an effective trigger to jog my mind?

Jonathan Mead, guest poster on Zen Habits offers these suggestions:

  • If you want to help yourself get in a creative state, you can setup an environmental trigger. Maybe that means sitting in a certain chair (putting on your thinking cap, as it were). Or it could be triggered by a change in your breathing (slower or more rapid breathing).
  • To get excited about exercise, you might setup a trigger by moving a certain way or doing a visualization. You could make your trigger swinging your arms back and forth and visualize yourself in front of mirror with your ideal body. Use something that gets you pumped up. MMA fighters and boxers do this all the time by slapping their chests or face. Not recommended, but you get the idea.
  • In order to put yourself in a state of confidence, you could create triggers in your posture. Sitting straight and stretching my arms above my head always makes me feel more confident.
  • To trigger yourself into a state of focus, you can touch your eyes or massage your temples.
  • Putting your hand on your heart is a great idea for cultivating an open mind and preparing yourself to really listen to someone.

These are just a few ideas; you can make up your own triggers. They can also be environmental, like engineering the attentional feng shui of your room. Take a look at your space and see what kind of triggers it sets off in you. Are they reinforcing your passions and your goals?

My current idea is to write NOW IS THE TIME right after the day’s date, when I sit down to journal. And whenever I write the date on a check or a time on my calendar, to use that as the trigger to say out loud, with conviction: NOW IS THE TIME!  Hopefully that will remind me to breathe deeply and ask myself, “what’s happening right now?” and “what should be happening right now?”

Yoga class is another place to use this trigger. It also wouldn’t hurt to review a chapter of one of Eckhart Tolle’s books – the Power of Now, or A New Earth.

I’m noting NOW IS THE TIME on my calendar for the 1st of the next 11 months right now.

Patience #2

Once upon a time I was not a patient person.  My life, the traffic, the checkout line – none of it moved fast enough for me.  I remember reading a book back in the 70s titled Don’t Push the River (by one of Fritz Perls’ followers), and thinking, “why not??”

About ten years ago I went to see my Unitarian pastor about my marriage, hoping that he would tell me if I should stay or go.

(He’s also a practicing Buddhist.) He told me I was too “ambitious.”

What? Me?  He explained that he meant ambitious in the sense that I was striving for an answer (pushing the river) when the answer wasn’t yet ready to present itself.  Ambition as a form of impatience.

One day a couple of years later the answer revealed itself clearly and simply – and because of that patient stewing period the ensuing separation was pretty painless.

These days I’m much much more patient than I used to be. Yoga has definitely helped. Being older and having more perspective on what’s really important has also helped.

The fellow over at ZenHabits has a post up with his tips on cultivating patience. He suggests keeping track of your impatient moments by making check marks on a tally sheet, and by noticing what specific sorts of things tally impatient feelings.

My friend Paul suggests rock-stacking, as he did on a recent camping trip.

I’m done with traffic and checkout line impatience.  Those have been gone for years.  My two biggest impatience triggers these days are:

  • people who talk on and on (an on), without ever seeming to be able to locate their point
  • wanting to know the outcome of a situation in the future (that I can’t possibly know till that time arrives) -like whether this old high school friend and I will actually be able to create a viable relationship when we see each other at reunion in mid-August…. my imagination can’t let this puppy rest!

All my spiritual learnings tell me to breathe and be here now, since NOW is all I’ve got. Ever. Werner used to tell us “what is is; what isn’t isn’t” – get over it.

It’s hard.