5 Ways to Start the Day with a Clear Mind and an Open HeartNone By David Dillard-Wright, Ph.D.
It's no secret that how you start your morning can impact how you feel, function, work, and interact with others for the remainder of the day. In the new book, A Mindful Morning, author David Dillard-Wright, Ph.D., a long-time meditator and professor at the University of South Carolina, Aiken, shares 200 inspiring quotes and practices that can help you start your day more mindfully. Here are 5 of our favorites:
Slow Down to 2/3 Pace
Success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and it is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it. —Bertrand Russell, Philosopher
Wanting to get things done without regard to the manner in which they are done will certainly kill any prospects for mindfulness practice. We are very good at discovering what needs to be done and when it needs to be done: We are less good at the how. Because we are so focused on the quantity of our achievements, the quality of our experiences get neglected. We rush through life, forgetting to care about the richness that life offers. We forget to care about other people, we forget to care about aesthetic beauty, and we forget to care about our own well-being.
This morning, try doing everything that you would ordinarily do at 2⁄3 the pace. Drive more slowly, walk more slowly, and talk more slowly. Notice your own reactions to this process, including any fear that might arise from not getting things done. See if other people notice the difference and gauge whether their reactions are positive or negative. See if you are able to be more observant and connected while taking life slowly.
Respect Your Power
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. —Nelson Mandela, South African Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary
Most of the misery that we face in life is self-caused. Events are good or bad, not in themselves but based on our reactions to them. We can choose to go down the path of resentment and rage, or we can choose to go down the path of reconciliation and recovery. We cannot control the entire world stage, but we can choose how to respond to circumstances as concerned individuals and as members of society. Our choices, no matter how small, ripple outward to affect the whole world, so we should never imagine ourselves to be powerless.
Your life is at the fulcrum, the pivot point, of the balance of so many other lives, human and nonhuman, nearby and far away. Take a few minutes this morning to cultivate a loving attitude of mind and heart. Take a few minutes to imagine in your mind’s eye the many places and people that your life touches directly and indirectly. Wish all beings peace as you go about your daily activities, and dedicate each action to the well-being of the world.
Determine Your Good Qualities
The transitoriness of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essentially transitory possibilities . . . . At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worse, what will be the monument of his existence. —Viktor E. Frankl, Neurologist, Holocaust Survivor
Each of us, as individuals, does not actually choose whether we will change the world. Every life is connected with all of the others, and each life affects the whole as the impact of each action radiates outward. So we all change the world just by living our daily lives: The only choice we have in the matter is what the exact nature of our impact will be. Given the short span of life and the limitations we all face, we should strive to make our choices count to the greatest degree possible. At the same time, we should be wary of the success narratives that suggest life has to do with producing as much as possible. We should look to becoming more patient, understanding, and compassionate people rather than just trying to build a more impressive résumé.
As you begin your day this morning, make a list, on paper or in your head, of the qualities that you would like to embody in your day-to-day interactions. You might think about kindness, courage, sympathy, or any number of good characteristics that mean something to you personally. When you have finished with your list, think about the obstacles or hindrances that might arise as you struggle to live in a mindful-way. Think about how you will address the challenging situations that you face today while remembering your listed good qualities.
Simplify Your Life
The most striking thing about modern industry is that it requires so much and accomplishes so little. —E.F. Schumacher, Economist
For all of our supposed sophistication as denizens of the twenty-first century, the needs of humankind have not changed: We still need clean water and breathable air, good food to eat, and clothes on our backs. Likewise, the desires of humankind have not changed in all of recorded history: People still want to be famous and wealthy. They still want a variety of pleasures and luxuries. What has changed is the capacity to devour the Earth at ever more alarming rates and further impoverish the many for the profit of the few. It may seem crazy or naïve, but I think mindfulness can do something about that. Mindfulness can get people, especially those of us living in wealthy, first world nations, take a long, hard look at our habits and ask if we really need more manufactured stuff, if our lifestyles are really making us happy.
What if we could subtract more stuff and actually be happier? What if we could do less and enjoy life more? Right now, in five or ten minutes, think of five material possessions that you no longer need in your life. Similarly, think of five activities that you can do without. This morning and for the rest of the day, think of ways you can simplify your life, so you spend less time in frantic activity and more time in quiet contemplation. You need not tell anyone about your plans: Be mindful of the fact that others may not understand and may criticize your decisions.
Mindfulness as Medicine
The empirical literature suggests that mindfulness meditation and the MBSR [mindfulness-based stress reduction] program may lead to reduced symptoms in a variety of problematic medical conditions and illnesses, including chronic pain, stress-related disorders, anxiety, depression, binge eating, fibromyalgia, and psoriasis, as well as ancillary symptoms associated with some forms of cancer and multiple sclerosis. —Joshua Wootton, Psychologist, Pain Management
We have this medicine called meditation or mindfulness readily available to us, now proven through decades of scientific research. It costs nothing, and the basic technique can be learned in half an hour. So why don’t we use it more often? It seems we have a bias toward complexity, that, if something is complicated, it must be better. We also have a bias in medicine against preventative treatments and toward costly, after-the-fact interventions.
Our society seems intent on learning things the hard way, and this can be seen in many arenas of life. We would rather wait and see how bad a problem will become than address it head-on.
This morning, you owe it to your future self, to your loved ones, and to your world not to let your stressful life become overwhelming. As you breathe deeply and let go of the past and future, say to yourself, “Whatever happens today, I will remain within my calm center. If something happens to take me away from my calm center, I can return to it at any time.”
Continue with the deep breathing, and, if disruptive thoughts occur, say to yourself again, “Whatever happens today, I will remain within my calm center…” Let the medicine of mindfulness work on your body.
Excerpted from A Mindful Morning by David Dillard-Wright, PhD. Copyright © 2016 F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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