Slowing Down: Cultivating Positivity
Why should we slow down? How do we slow down? Modern technology is a boon in many ways, but like anything good, it's such a double edged sword. Today, we're all expected to be available 24/7; emails, texts, news, and social media updates come in around the clock. Making things even more challenging is the nature of medicine, which is often complex, high acuity and high stakes, requiring constant shifting of attention. Over time, it's no wonder we feel burned out.
Really, this post is about slowing down - and paying attention, bringing your mind back into your body. Instinctually, it makes sense for humans to be constantly on alert, our attention jumping from item to item, constantly scanning our environments for threats and opportunities. Sure, it helps us survive as a species and multitask at work, but does it make us happy? Not really.
So, I've been inspired by some of the techniques in Buddha's Brain. You can do this no matter where you are, whether it's during a hectic day at work, or a quiet evening at home - wherever is fine. The key is to tune into your surroundings and to cultivate a sense of well-being - that everything is ok, imperfect as it is.
1. Relax, physically, by taking several slow breaths, where your exhalations are longer than your inhalations. Feel any tension you're holding in your body; mentally, let it go.
2. Close your eyes and listen to really notice your senses - the sounds around you, the smells...If you're sitting, feel the weight of your body in the chair; if you're standing, feel the pressure on the soles of your feet. If you're walking, feel the changing nature of each step, the forward and back/up and down movement of your body.
3. Call to mind something that makes you feel cared about and warm. It can be anything that brings a sense of well-being, for example, having a chat with a beloved friend/sibling/family member, hugging someone you love, or just a simple smile from a stranger during the day, or a random act of kindness (received or performed by you) - anything that makes you feel appreciated and cared for. Try to feel that sense manifesting physically, feeling a warmth in your heart radiating through your body.
4. Stay with the sense of warmth and well-being for 20-30 seconds. Be present with the sense and really let it sink in. Over time, these positive feelings become rooted in your mind (as explained in Buddha's Brain, "neurons that fire together, wire together") and can provide a reserve against the inevitable negativity that arises in life.
These are a few of my favorite techniques for cultivating a positive "garden", so to speak, in my mind. I hope you'll find some peace each day, no matter how small or temporary.
Thanks for reading,