What are the life skills you practice when no one is watching?
A strange question perhaps, but we all know that if you want to get better at something, you need to practice, right?
Look at the basketball players that shoot 500 free throws each day or the hours a baseball player might spend in a batting cage.
But what if you wanted to get better at general life skills. Skills like the ability to respond as opposed to react.
Let’s pretend you deal with anger as a regular emotion. Let’s also assume you would like to learn how to not get triggered. You could force yourself to spend time with someone who pisses you off and see how long you last without exploding… but I wouldn’t suggest it.
So how do you do it?
One way I practice is through meditation. Stay with me….
I have meditated daily for over 7 years, but my goals have never been about reaching nirvana. Or being able to sit for hours at a time. I don’t necessarily feel enlightened and I most certainly haven’t earned any gold stars along the way. But I use it to practice things I want to be able to do when I am off my cushion.
Meditation is a way to practice observing the workings of your mind in a passive way. And while ‘thought clearing’ is one way to look at it, I try to see how quickly I can ‘catch’ myself before I get lost in a thought. It can almost be like a game.
Have you ever had the experience where you read 3 or 4 pages in a book only to realize you have no idea what you just read? I went to college in my early 30s and this happened to me all the time. And I liken this to what often happens when I am meditating. But in meditation, it is expected, not shunned. And all you do is just begin again.
We were skiing last week, and I saw a noticeable difference in my ability to stay focused. Which really comes in handy when you are going down a challenging run. So much better to be focused on your edges as opposed to paint colors for the renovation you are doing.
When I meditate, I try to passively observe whatever it is that comes up without becoming involved. I will attach a passive name to things and sometimes even an emotion if it arises.
For example, when a thought arises about what I am doing later, I try to catch it quickly and say to myself – thought. Sometimes, the thought might make me feel anxious and I name it and try to just observe how the feeling shows up in my body.
If there is noise in the neighborhood, I will say to myself – sounds. If it irritates me, I will observe the irritation.
If my stomach starts to rumble, I will say – sensation and witness the feeling of hunger.
When you are observing like this you can see that the emotions never last for long – much like the waves in the ocean.
Even if you have never meditated before, you can take 5 minutes to sit quietly and practice being aware. At a base level, it will help you to be able to put space between your thoughts and that small thing offers a beautiful place to start.
And PS – there is not a right or wrong way to meditate. So why not give it a try?
It’s your life – make it a great one!