The Silent Observer

One of the hardest things to learn to do sometimes, but also the best thing that we can do for ourselves, is to learn to be the silent observer.

What do I mean by that?

First let’s clarify: observing is not about judging. Judging means we put ourselves above the person or situation as if we’re better than. Observing is simply stepping back and watching what is going on. Observing is being aware of what is going on both for the other person/thing and within ourselves.  

We are often so wrapped up in trying to judge what we are seeing, trying to process it and make it fit into our box, that we miss what is really happening. Being a silent observer allows us to view situations and see the bigger picture. Much like flying in an airplane and being able to see a wide area versus being in a car and only being able to see your immediate surroundings.

For a lot of people, one of the most stressful times of the year is coming up: the holidays. This is true for many different reasons, but one of them is because we tend to take things that people say and do as a personal attack. Even if they are attacking us, it is important to know that it is almost always about them and their own insecurities, rather than about you.

This is much easier said than done for most people, myself included. It has taken me a very long time to learn this lesson, and I still slip up sometimes.

If you go to your family’s house for a holiday meal and a relative is on your case about something, put your observers hat on. If they are on your case about something then you can almost guarantee that it’s something that they are either insecure about, something they don’t like about themselves, or it’s something that they have no clue about and they are just spouting off. Sometimes it can be a misguided attempt at showing they care.

When this happens, step back and pretend that you’re watching a movie. Look at the cast of characters. Remember that each person there has a role to play, including you.

It sounds cliché, but you choose how you let things affect you. Someone can say anything they want to you, but you choose what you let in. You choose to see that cashier as hateful rather than hurting, and you respond accordingly. You choose to see that weird aunt as critical and unbearable rather than someone who regrets most of her decisions throughout her life. It starts with reminding ourselves on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis, that everyone is dealing with their own set of issues and how they treat us is about them, not about us.

Looking at people through the lens of an observer doesn’t change how people act. It will change how those actions affect us and our overall state of being.

We also have to remind ourselves that just because someone says something, doesn’t mean that we have to have a reaction to it. Often the reaction is what they are wanting. If we don’t give them that reaction, if we do the opposite and don’t react, they generally lose their steam. No matter what is thrown at us we simply refuse to swing at it.

In addition to helping us deal with outward things coming in, being observant helps us to see if we are imposing our own insecurities onto a situation. Maybe you think everyone is judging you for not having a better job because you feel bad about yourself for not having what you deem a “better job”. Maybe you think everyone is making fun of you because you are feeling insecure about how you look. To take it one step deeper, maybe you think people are judging how you look, what you wear, where you work, etc. because you judge other people for those things.

A few years back I kept finding myself feeling like everyone around was judging me for my life choices. I felt like what I did was never good enough for anyone. What I finally realized was that I wasn’t happy with my life choices and I was projecting those feelings onto everyone around me. Once I realized this, I started to see most of the comments people made as an effort to help rather than judge.

So not only am I asking you to observe your situations and what is going on around you, I’m asking you to observe what is going on within yourself.

If you place yourself in the role of the observer then you will find yourself being happier more often. You will also find that your mind is freed up to think about the things you would like to do and become, rather than being bogged down by negativity. You can allow yourself to see the good in the people and the things around you, rather than only seeing the bad. You will begin to see the possibilities that exist, rather than all of the obstacles.

The key to all of this is doing it on a daily basis. Start being observant with the small things. That way, when you get into a more heated situation (at a family meal, at the store, or at work) you have practiced being the silent observer and it makes it easier. It’s like training for a marathon. You can’t just jump off of your couch and go run a full marathon, you have to train for it. Train yourself daily to be an observer and when the marathon comes, you’ll be able to handle it.  

A few things you can do to help you to deal with the negative energies that may be swirling around you this time of year:

This is from zennedout.com. Click here to read the article.

  1. Try the Kashyapa Mudra: Mudras are a way of holding your hands that allows you to encourage or prohibit certain energy movement around you or within your body. I used to use this one a lot when I worked retail. Before going out to deal with an angry customer I would hold my hands in this position. It would remind me to be an observer rather than reacting based on my assumptions.
  2. Do Qigong to release the negative emotions that you are feeling towards others or yourself. Click here to see Chris Shelton’s White Pearl Meditation Video on YouTube. In it he takes you through a few Qi (Chi) cleansing exercises to help you release those emotions.
  3. Give yourself time to just get away and be alone. Even if it’s 5 minutes in the day, take the time to have some alone time. Leave your cell phone in the other room, or put it on silent, and just take some deep cleansing breaths. Doing this will work wonders for your mental and physical state.
  4. Sleep! Most of us go through life running on empty. Try to arrange things so that you can actually get some rest this holiday season. When you’re rested you are less likely to be grumpy, stressed, and have a short fuse with people.

Creativity Killers Series: Episode 1: Multitasking

Painted Pumpkin with black hair.

This is your brain on multitasking.

In honor of Halloween this month we are going to talk about creativity killers and doing things that scare us. Dun dun DUN. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Also, we’re going to give you ideas about how to deal with these killers and how to move past them.

Our first creativity killer is Multitasking. Multitasking seems to be a way of life these days. A lot of people are very proud of how many different things they can juggle and do at one time. If you’re looking to open those creative channels, have less stress, and enjoy life more, the multitasking has to go. Or at the very least it can’t be a way of life for you.

When you think you’re multitasking what’s really happening is that your brain is having to stop and start tasks over and over again very quickly. When you look at one thing, your brain concentrates on that thing, but as soon as you look away your brain has to stop thinking about the first thing and move over to the second. If you’re doing three or four things at once your brain gets exhausted, and so do you. While you’re doing all of this bouncing around, you’re unable to really concentrate on any one thing fully. That means each thing that you’re doing is suffering at least a little. 

Multitasking is also a form of procrastination.

Why do so many people multitask their way through life?

Some people are addicted to multitasking. They can’t sit still. If they stop, even for a minute, they feel lazy, useless, or stressed. These feelings come up because when we finally slow down and give our mind a break, it gives our inner thoughts time to shine through; inner thoughts that sometimes we’d rather not acknowledge. We would much rather just keep shoving those emotions down and covering them up with busyness. The problem is, those emotions have to arise somewhere at some time. They often show up as a heart attack, exhaustion, or depression and anxiety. It’s much better to slow down, take the time you need to process those emotions, and then move on happier and healthier. Again, I know this is much easier said than done, but still so important.

Some people multitask because they feel like they have to, or because they have overcommitted to doing things. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they are not enough if they aren’t doing everything. Sometimes they are trying to prove themselves. The list goes on and on. These are all pretty deep issues that really warrant more discussion, but for now I just want to mention these things to give you ideas about what could be making you feel like you have to multitask.

If I can plant the seed, then hopefully we can all do a little more self-reflection and figure out our own reasons behind why we push ourselves so hard. Then we can take small steps each day to change our ways.

So how do you break the multitasking spiral?

Stop it. Just stop multitasking.

Ok. Problem solved. See ya next week.

Totally kidding. Although it would be nice if it were that easy.

It’s going to take time, and some effort, but it is possible.

The first thing to do is to narrow down what is actually important to you. If you make a list of everything you do each day, then mark the things on that list that are the most important for you to get done, what would those things be? If something on the list is just on there because you feel obligated to do it, scratch it off the list. Anything that doesn’t bring you joy, that doesn’t help you get to where you want to be in life, scratch it off the list.

Once you find out what is important to you, start saying no to commitments that aren’t in line with what you want for your life.

Next, be realistic about how much time it takes you to do things each day. All too often I see people who schedule themselves into a corner because they have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take them to accomplish tasks. Also, give yourself time in between to get where you’re going, or to switch gears in between tasks. You can’t schedule a class from 4-5 and then a class from 5-6 if you have to rearrange the room in between the two classes. You’ve started off the second class late from the very beginning, which means the rest of the class will be rushed and the need for multitasking will be more necessary to get everything done.  Scheduling our lives is the same. If you don’t allow yourself time in your schedule to get from point A to point B then you’re perpetually late and often forced to do multiple things at once to get everything finished.

Desk with laptop, book, and phone.

When you start going about your day, work hard to do one thing at a time. If you check e-mails first thing when you get to work, only check your email. Then move on to the next thing. I know that sometimes you get pulled away from things by other people. If that happens, help them how you have to, then turn your attention back to your e-mail until your finished. This is not an easy thing to do at first, especially for those that are pros at multitasking, but doing this gives your brain time to concentrate on each task.

It also allows you to slow down and see the world around you a little more. It will take your stress levels down drastically. You will find that you can check more things off of your to-do list because you’re actually focusing and doing each task a little more quickly.

Are you a professional multitasker? Do you tend to take on more than you can feasibly handle? This week sit down and figure out what’s important, make a plan to do only those things, and work hard at focusing on one thing at a time.

Play With Your Food

A glass of milk with bubbles and a straw.

I’m going to sound a little crazy to some people this week, but bear with me. Throughout this week I want you to play with your food.

“Play with our food? Aren’t we taught NOT to play with our food? Shouldn’t we be civilized adults and eat our food rather than playing with it?”

Sometimes, yes. But this week, every chance you get, I want you to play with your food in some way. In whatever way comes to you in the moment.

If this means displaying your food in an unusual way, do it. If it means having a hot dog eating contest with your friends and family, do it. If it means making a picture with the ketchup and mustard as you put it on your burger, do it. Drag your fork through your food and swirl it around and around. Blow bubbles in your drink. Cut your vegetables into interesting shapes. See how tall you can make a sandwich and then smoosh it down to fit it in your mouth. Lay your french fries out to make a picture or a pattern. Stick your finger in your ice cream and swirl it around. Whatever your inner little kid wants to do, do it.

The whole idea……loosen up and have some fun.

A glass of milk with bubbles and a straw.

Even if you don’t have time off this week for Labor Day, take the time to loosen up and have some fun with your food. Playing in general allows our creativity to flow through more freely. Giving ourselves permission to quit “adulting”, for even a few minutes, is a great stress reliever. This also gives us the opportunity to laugh. When we do something silly, like blowing bubbles in our drink, we laugh at ourselves and we make others laugh.

Enjoying your food, and using all of your senses when you eat, has the added benefit of making you more mindful of what you’re eating and what you are doing while you’re eating. So many of us rush from one thing to the next without looking up from our phones in between. We often eat our meals on the go, or worse, while still working. Make it a point this week to actually sit down and eat your meals. Step away from your desk or office. Even if you just go down the hall, or out to your car for your lunch break. While you’re having dinner, be present. Don’t spend your time watching TV or playing on your phone.

Use all five of your senses while enjoying your meals. Smell the food you are getting ready to eat. Listen to the crunch as you bite into it, or the sounds that are around you as you’re eating. Feel the texture of the food in your mouth. Or, go deeper and feel how your body reacts to what you’re eating. We often know if we’re eating something that isn’t great for us by how our body responds. Look at the colors and textures of the foods you’re eating, how they are presented. Eat slowly and take the time to taste each bite that you take. Chew slowly and savor whatever your eating. Even if you’re eating a piece of toast, or a pack of peanut butter crackers, take the time to enjoy what you’re eating and to be present in the moment while you’re eating it.

If you can’t bring yourself to play with your food, or if you want to mix things up a little…….Try this little game.

You can play by yourself or with others, with meals you’re cooking or eating out: Write out on cards (or little sheets of paper) what you are going to eat for dinners this week, or 5 places that you would like to have dinner this week, or a mixture of both. Fold them up and put them in a little jar. Each night draw out one of the little cards and have that for dinner, or go to that place for dinner.

For example: Your 5 cards could be – Chicken Casserole, Mexican Food, Chinese, Pizza, and Seafood. You would write each of these choices out on a card, fold the cards up and place them in a jar or bowl, then draw one out each evening.

Not only does this alleviate the decision-making process each night, it also teaches us to be more flexible. Maybe even throw a new recipe in the mix or try a new restaurant in town.  

Let us know below how you choose to play with your food this week. Did it make you, and others around you, smile? Did others join in with you as you were having fun?

We believe that you should have fun every chance you get. Life can be stressful and there are enough things to be serious about each day. Give yourself permission to loosen up this week, make yourself smile, and make others smile in the process.

Smiley face made out of donut holes.

Move Over Meditation

A stack of rocks next to Lake Huron.

Meditation? Again? I can audibly hear the groans of those who are like, “Not this again. I’ve tried this and I just can’t. I can’t sit and clear my mind and wait for inspiration to descend. I don’t have the time”. For some, that method works perfectly. For others, not so much. I’m sure you’ve heard all of the statistics about how good meditating is for you, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Meditation lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure. It gives you more energy. It relieves stress, increases self-awareness, reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It allows you to be more in control of your emotions. The list goes on and on. If you want more go to Pinterest and type in “Meditation Benefits” in the search bar.

Now, all of that being said, have you heard of moving meditation? Moving meditation is basically just meditating while you are doing something else. “Shouldn’t I be mindful while I’m doing my tasks? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do, be present?” Yes. But, being present and meditation can go hand in hand. Being present in the moment is a form of meditation.

For example, while you’re washing the dishes: instead of standing there thinking about what you have to do next, being upset that no one is helping you, or wondering why your family can’t scrape their own plates, instead of rehashing the conversation you had earlier….take that time to meditate. Listen to the running water, feel it flow over your hands as you rinse the dishes off. Watch the bubbles form in the soap. Allow your mind to wander around aimlessly. Don’t latch on to any one thought.

Pretend that there is a bubble of space around your kitchen sink. When you step into that bubble it is your space to just be. Give yourself permission to stand there and day dream while you do the dishes.

Or take a walk around your neighborhood, or the park, or your office building. Do this without any music playing in your ear. Smell the fresh cut grass. Feel the warmth of the sun. Look around you and take note of what is there. Again, don’t get attached to anything. Just use this time to let your mind wander aimlessly.

This takes a little practice. I know this may sound crazy to some people, but try it for a week.

If you do this, you’ll be surprised at what starts to come up for you, what inspirations come your way. Our minds are full of good ideas, full of simple solutions that are waiting right there on the surface. We just need to quiet that daily chatter long enough to allow those ideas to come through.

Some other things you could try: doing TaiChi, Qigong, Yoga, or any other type of slow moving exercise. All of these practices cause you to focus on what you’re doing physically so that you can give that mental chatter a break. They are all forms of moving meditation.

Do a little something every day this week that allows you to just shut your brain off for a bit. Try not to control your thoughts, just let them flow. Whether it is once a day for 30 minutes or 5 times a day for 5 minutes each time, put the phone aside, get away from your work space, and give your mind a break. Sit on a park bench and just watch butterflies or squirrels, take a walk around the block or around the room, knit or crochet, shred papers, or dance around your house. Whatever works for you.

To be clear, if “regular meditating” works for you, then keep doing it. By no means am I knocking it. I simply want to offer alternatives for those who don’t like doing that style of meditation.

Another style you can also try is guided meditations. There are several free options on YouTube. Some of my favorites:

Melanie Beckler -of Ask-Angels.com. Her voice is very relaxing. Click here to try one that I really like.

Chris Shelton with Shelton Qigong, “How to Heal Chronic Pain and Inflammation Guided Meditation”.

Victor Oddo has a couple of great ones. If you watch his YouTube videos he often has a link to them in the comments section. I think this is one that you get for free if you sign up for his emails. Click here to see those.

There is also a channel called “Meditative Mind” that has guided meditations. They have music that is specifically designed to be played while you are meditating as well.

The whole key of meditation is doing it regularly. Everyone is different. If the thought of sitting still and trying to clear your mind of all thought just stresses you out, then you aren’t going to do it. If you don’t do it then you aren’t going to get any benefit from the practice. Find a way that works for you. Trust me, you will still get the benefits. 

Comment below and let us know if you will give meditation another try. Or if you already have a meditation that works for you, what are you doing? Share with us so that we can all learn from each other.