Whatever Happened to Simplicity?
- by Stella Stockton, CPT, B. Div. (published in the 1/23/14 edition of the Weekly Sun newspaper)
I often joke that doing nothing is my favorite thing. Can you remember the last time you did absolutlely nothing? Just texting or surfing doesn't count! In our increasingly busy lives, it seems we all multitask; our culture seems to insist on it. Yet, as know well, this incessant busyness can be very stressful and chaotic. You may find yourself asking, as I often do, whatever happened to simplicity?
Sadly, it seems that we are rapidly moving towards what has been termed the 'distraction epidemic'. According to a recent article from the National Institutes on Health, "Multitasking is a rapidly growing phenomenon affecting all segments of the population but is rarely as successful as its proponents believe. Although personal electronic devices provide many benefits, their adverse effects are frequently overlooked. Recent scientific literature supports the view that overuse of personal electronic devices promotes cognitive overload, impairs multitasking and lowers performance at all ages."
Mindfulness can be considered the opposite of, and antidonte to distraction. It's a way of being and living that enriches the quality of our moments. Mindfulness can be defined as focusing our full concentration on any given task, one task at a time. Life only happens in the Now, one moment at a time. When we are present we have more clarity, are more efficient, and able to make better choices in each moment.
Clearly we all need tools to both de-stress and be more effective in all we do. Meditation is one very powerful too that cultivates mental focus and mindfulness. In the act of stopping we learn to be fully present, fully alert and awake to our lives.
John Kabatt-Zinn, meditation teacher and author of the now classic, Wherever You Go, There You Are, states, "People think of meditation as some kind of special activity, but this is not actually correct. Meditation is simplicity itself. A famous Zen joke says: "Don't just do something, sit there." Are you able to come to a stop in your life, even for one moment?"
We can choose to simplify our lives by making time to develop our 'tranquilty muscle', as I like to call it. Learning to stop and quiet our inner landscape cultivates a sense of stillness and peace. I often compare meditation practice to building strength at the gym, cultivating a garden, or any activity that requires patience and consistent application of effort.
Committing to a meditation practice does not appeal to everyone. That said, I invite you to spend just a few moments this week doing absolutely nothing. 10-15 minutes will do initially. Stop everything. Turn off all devices and simply sit or lie down in silence. Allow thoughts to settle and focus intently on your breathing. See how deeply you can settle into the quiet and just be. Honor your need to relax and rejuvenate often. You may be surprised at what you discover.
Progress, Not Perfection
-by Stella Stockton, CPT, B.Div (published in the May 8th, 2014 edition of the Weekly Sun newspaper)
How often do you hear or use this word in daily conversation? In my opinion, the word perfect is both overdone and annoying. Few things in life are actually perfect-- the magnificence of nature, or perhaps the innocence of a new-born child. Our frantically paced culture urges us to produce and perfect- endlessly striving to be or do our very best. I suggest that its time to move beyond this obsession with perfection; particularly as it pertains to our self-image and physical apperance.
In our increasingly narcissistic, consumer culture we are blasted with negative body image messages that delve into every aspect of our lives. Internet ads, television shows, billboards, and the like, can subtly chip away at our self esteem- and for massive profits. Billions are made annually in the perpetuation of destructive messages that tell us that we are inadequate, and that 'x' product, fitness fad, or cosmetic procedure will push us closer to some illusory ideal.
Twenty years ago, the average model weighted 8% less than the average woman; today, she weighs 23% less--often with the aid of airbrushing. Women have long been targeted, and increasingly so are men and young adolescents.
We can choose the path of self-love and appreciation. We can be proactive in developing a more positive body image for ourselves, and help to set new and healthy standards in our own families and communities.
1. Cultivate a practice of daily positive self-talk and affirmations. Acknowledge your many talents and strengths- unrelated to your physical appearance.
2. Limit exposure to 'toxic media'. Avoid beauty magazines and websites, even may alleged health magazines are just packed with airbrushed models and outrageous, unrealistic images of beauty and thinness.
3. Release the habit of comparing yourself to others. We are all unique and different- celebrate diversity!
4. Practice gratitute for the good things in your life. Shift your focus back to what is meaningful and real in life, rather than fantasy images and 'grass is greener' mentality.
5. Make time for daily self-care. Spend time enjoying a hobby, journaling, exercise, meditation- any fun, nurturing activity that lifts your spirits and provides fresh energy and perspective.
6. Educate yourself and others on the topic of healthy body image. Check out: bodyimagehealth.org, womenshealth.gov, also watch the Ted Talk by Meghan Ramsey: Why thinking you're ugly is bad for you.