Train your mind the way you train your body


"[A] calm heart and self control are necessary if one is to obtain good results."     
          -  Thich Nhat Hanh, on work

"You should know how to breathe to maintain mindfulness. ...Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of yourself again."     
          -  Thich Nhat Hanh, on the breath

"[K]eep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation that may arise – this is mindfulness."       
-  Thich Nhat Hanh, on work

Great. This all sounds great, until you're in the middle of work nightmare, or a family catastrophe. When that random 'thing' come at you some random Tuesday afternoon: under severe stress, your ability to maintain calm, focused awareness will hinge on muscle memory.

If you have trained – regularly, everyday –  to focus your mind using your breath, when calamity strikes you will naturally come back to your breath, be calm and focused, and able to handle whatever comes at you.

If you haven't practiced regularly, you'll naturally revert to old methods of handling stress - getting mad, angry, frustrated, sad, ...

If you don't regularly train your brain to focus, it will take all your might to come back to your breath. Actually, unless you randomly remember this note, or someone says something, you're stuck in old, ineffective methods. 

So, start training. Now. And then, you'll have the muscle memory to handle whatever life brings your way. For just 5 minutes (Why not right now? When else will you do it?):

  • Stop. Sit up straight. Take a slow, deep breath.
  • Exhale slowly and fully, notice your body - release tension held in your shoulders, jaw, hips. Take another slow, deep, calm breath. 
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes, then put the phone down (and off).
  • Focus all your attention on your breath - watch and feel the inhale, then watch and feel the exhale.
  • That's it.

When your mind wanders (not if - it will wander) , simply come back to the breath as soon as you've realized it. Do this 'returning to the breath' over and over again, till time is up. 

If you can (and, you can): do this at least 5 minutes each day upon awaking. Use this practice as often as you can: on the subway, while walking on the street, while eating, when listening to someone else speak. 

There. You've begun to rewire your brain to think and act more calmly under stress. 

Wishing you a calm, focused and stress-free week,