Two Lessons from Kripalu
A couple weeks ago I was at Kripalu for a long weekend workshop with Erich Schiffmann. I waited a bit to write up about my trip because I wanted to see if I could hold onto the things I learned while I was away. The unfortunate thing about workshops and retreats is that often times there is just so much excellent material that it's impossible to absorb it all, and it's hard to take the relaxation and rejuvenation back into the real world. I feel like I'm actually doing a pretty good time of hanging onto it this time. As a result, there are two things that I've been sharing with my students and now I will share them with you.
1. Relax. It is really not that hard.
Before I went to Kripalu, I was feeling burned out, cranky, frustrated, and in short, pretty miserable to be around. As soon as I got there, I felt better. I arrived safely. I went to a yoga class and watched the snow fall. I ate a yummy dinner. I sat around a bit. I felt a million times more chill before I even did any workshopping. Why? Because I sat around and did nothing. It really is not hard. Try sitting around and doing nothing sometime. It's pretty awesome. Don't feel guilty about it, because I'm now 100% convinced it is crucial to your well being to chill out every once and a while. I'm reminded about a time last year when I had started ramping up my meditation practice and I was wondering if I should add a second seated meditation. I asked Erich, and he said something to the effect of, "Yes! It's not strenuous. You're not doing 20 pushups or anything like that. Try it and see what happens." So that is the advice I am passing on to you. You don't even have to meditate. You don't have to set a timer or anything, just say to yourself. "I am going to chill out right now." Drop a few slices of lemon or lime in a glass of water and look out the window. Pet a cat. Sit outside. Take a walk. It's great.
2. Do one thing at a time.
This is closely related to point number one. I have recently become convinced that multitasking makes you stupid. Recent studies have shown that when you practice mindfulness meditation, your brain learns how to be more focused and less susceptible to distractions. I would type out a list of all the things I might try to do at one time, but frankly, like any bad habit, it's embarrassing. As another recent article suggests, you might feel like you're getting more done, but you're spreading yourself too thin. So my challenge to you is to try doing one thing at a time. Try just eating breakfast without watching TV or reading email. Try driving without music playing. Try giving your full attention to the person you're having a conversation with. You might notice that your brain is still running a million miles a minute, but that is GOOD. Why? Because you're noticing what is going on and not just soldiering through every moment of your day. My theory is that you will become more efficient at the many tasks you have to do throughout one day. Meditation will become easier because you are deliberately slowing down. And most importantly and delightfully, you will find that there is space in your day for Item #1, and that will feel amazing. Priorities will start to fall into place and you will be able to make more reasonable choices about how to fill your days. For more on this, check out this awesome article my troupie, Amy, found about Escaping the Cult of Busy.
I have been giving my meditation students one homework since the beginning of the year and for forever: find 10 minutes to sit quietly at least once a week. We've been finding that even this small thing is difficult. Ten minutes is a long time if you are stuck in the Cult of Busy! So before you even worry about the 10 minute thing, I recommend first just trying to chill in whatever way feels good to you, and the rest of the time, do your best to do one thing at a time. It's working for me so far! I still feel pretty awesome and worry-free! Give it a try and report back.