The Secret of Life: What ONE THING should I focus on?

June 5, 2015

Meditation illustration

“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” ― Amit Ray

Take a look at this video from the movie, City Slickers:

When I do these leadership programs, the participants always ask me,  what’s the one thing that I could do that would make the biggest difference?  I understand the question.  We are all busy.  We can’t do dozens of things.  We can’t commit to an hour in the gym, seven days a week.  We can’t go on a sabbatical for a month.  So what is that one thing that can make a huge difference?  It’s meditation. We strongly emphasize this in our courses.  In order to create well-being, in order to be productive, in order to tap into that higher power, we must have reflection time each day.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It can be as little as 10 minutes.  But it has to be consistent.  I probably average four to five days a week where I sit down and be quiet and not do any planning or worrying or problem solving.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that anyone who is trying to attain personal mastery should practice some form of meditation.

Studies have shown that meditation increases focus and changes physiology.  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases DHEA, the “youth” hormone.  It relaxes you.  It increases problem solving.  It increases your energy levels.  So if it does all of these amazing thins, why doesn’t everyone do it?  For some it seems too “new age”.  For some, it seems cult like.  They think that it conflicts with their religious beliefs.  But think of it as just an exercise in concentration.  You can apply your own belief system to these techniques so that you are comfortable with it.

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study on mediation.  The study published in May in a prestigious medical journal showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress.  This means that meditation actually helps prevent autoimmune diseases and inflammation that is linked to many diseases.

As if that weren’t cool enough, regular mediation actually lengthens the telomeres on our genes.  These shoelace-like structures shorten with age.  So meditation is a bonafide way to reverse the aging process!

Here is a very simple meditation technique:

Take a deep breath in.  Breathe out and think the number one.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out again.  Think the number two.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out.  Think the number three.  Breathe in a fourth time.  Breathe out and think the number four.  Then start again at one.  Other thoughts will enter your mind.  Politely dismiss them and go back to breathing and counting.  Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.

You will no doubt find this hard at first.  But the more you do it, the more you will be able to focus.  Not only during the meditation, but in all areas of your life and work.  You will be more relaxed and more resilient to stress.

I have created a guided meditation CD that takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by visualizations.  If you are interested, you can contact my Executive Assistant, Casey at casey@brentdarnell.com.  We should have it on the store on brentdarnell.com very soon, but we can find a way to get it to you if you are interested.

You can also check out my book, Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys if you want more information:

http://www.amazon.com/Stress-Management-Time-Balance-Tough/dp/0979925843/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318936277&sr=8-2

Let me know if you want to learn more about meditation and the various techniques.


How to Create Sustainable Change: Have a Plan A, B and C

July 10, 2014

changeAt the beginning of our programs, all participants create development plans.  Many times these plans are grand in nature.  I’ve seen things like “I’m going to run a marathon.”  or “I’m going to do an Iron Man Triathlon.”  or “I’m going to work out EVERY DAY!”  These are amazing goals to have.  And I applaud these participants for allowing themselves to dream big.  At the same time, some of these folks are starting from nothing.  They are doing no exercise at all and yet their goal is to do an Iron Man.  For those folks, we tell them to start small and always have a plan A, B, and C.

Plan A may be to train for the Iron Man.  Plan B may be to run three times a week.  Plan C may be to walk every day for 10 minutes at lunch.  Another example is:  Plan A is to work out every day.  Plan B is to work out three times per week.  Plan C is to do 25 push ups in the morning.  While these lofty goals are admirable, sometimes they can be discouraging.  When the participants don’t accomplish these goals, they feel like failures.  And they are not failures.

Real, lasting, sustainable change comes from tiny things done consistently.  If you can choose to eat right most days, if you can commit to walk for 10 to 20 minutes most days, if you can commit to meditate or manage your stress well most days, you are going to create some amazing, lasting changes in your life.

So have those lofty goals, and always have a plan B and C to fall back on and do those consistently.


Things My Dog Taught Me: Rely on Your Inner Strength

May 15, 2014

Ginger 09

 

My life feels like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities:  “It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”  In many ways my life and work are the best it’s ever been.  I have plenty of work and more work coming.  I don’t work too much.  I have moved my home office and now have a real office to go to each day.  I feel good physically.

But in some ways, my life is not so good.  My mom is in decline and I will likely lose her sooner rather than later.  And with any adversity like that, there are two emotional competencies that usually decline rapidly:  emotional self-awareness and impulse control.  The emotional self-awareness declines and I “check out” emotionally.  This is not good for my wife, my family, and sometimes my clients.  And the worst part is that I tend to use most of my energy to make sure clients are happy, which leaves little energy for family, especially my wife.  It’s not fair for her, and she and I are struggling with it.

The second area is impulse control, specifically with eating.  When I am stressed, I tend to eat a lot.  And I eat a lot of carbs and sugar.  This is not good for me or those around me.  I tend to zone out even more and have these highs and lows.  It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions and energy.

So how am I coping with all of this?  I’m doing the things I need to do to be fully present and aware of what’s going on around me.  I try to stay in the moment.  Sometimes I’m successful.  Sometimes I’m not.  I try to take care of myself and meditate daily, get an occasional massage, go to some movies, turn off work and focus on my wife and all of the things at home.

But the one thing that gives me the most hope, that helps me the most is something I learned from my dog, Ginger.  When she was in decline, she stayed strong.  She had such a vibrant soul and an inner strength, it was inspiring.  It still is.  I know I am strong.  I have that inner strength.  I know that I can deal with anything that life throws at me with courage and hope.  I feel like Ginger is watching over me somehow, encouraging me and letting me know that this too shall pass.

There will always be good times and bad times.  It’s understanding the transient nature of life and relying on that inner strength that keeps me going.  If you have a story of courage and inner strength, I would like to hear about it.


How to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

March 27, 2014

old person healthyJust read a great book called The Blue Zones.  The book is about lessons from people who have lived long lives.  Here are the basics:

Move naturally:  Bring movement into your life. This doesn’t have to be iron man triathlons or marathons.  I’m talking about walking.  Make it a point to move every single day.  Check out this video called 23-1/2 hours:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F5Sly9JQao

Know your purpose:  I recently talked to a woman at my mom’s assisted living place who was 102 years old.  She was still extremely sharp.  When I asked her the secret to such a long, healthy life, she said she always had a purpose.  She devoted herself to teaching and education.

Kick back:  You must learn to relax.  Recent studies on meditation revealed that this act of initiating the relaxation response actually changes the expression of your genes and increases the length of your gene’s telomeres. What this means is the even if you have a genetic predisposition to diseases like cancer or diabetes, you can change the expression of those genes and prevent that disease.  And it all starts with relaxation.

Eat less: Most folks eat around 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day.  These folks who live a long time eat around 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day.  Just be mindful of watch you eat.  I’m on weight watchers now and it forces me to rethink what I eat.  I’ve almost cut out snacking because it just costs me too much.

Eat less meat:  I was a vegetarian for a dozen years.  Although I’m back to eating meat, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  And with weight watchers, all fruits and vegetables are zero points!

Drink in moderation:  There are studies showing that alcohol in moderation is good for you.  The key word here is moderation.  Excessive drinking is harmful.

Have faith:  Belief in a higher power is a big key to emotional resilience and reduction of stress.  When you decide that you are just along for the ride, you can enjoy life more.

Power of love:  Love is essential for your emotional, physical, and mental well-being.  It’s no accident that married people live longer.  Cultivate love in your life.  Forgive those loved ones that may have wronged you in some way and re-establish that love relationship.

Stay social:  Many studies back this up.  People with good social networks live longer, healthier lives.  Creating and cultivating those networks takes a lot of time and energy, but it is well worth it.  Don’t wait until you retire to establish these networks.

So there you have it.  Very simple (but sometimes not easy) ways to increase your lifespan and health.


Meditation Part 5: Guided Meditation Helps Seattle to Win the Superbowl

March 20, 2014

This is the last blog for now on meditation.  See the past blogs for other types of meditation. There are many types of meditation.  Golf can be meditative. Walking, swimming, or music can be very meditative.  You have to find what works for you.  Here is another meditation.  It’s called a guided meditation.  It takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by a visualization.  Remember the Seattle Seahawks?  They used meditation and visualization to help them win the Superbowl.  You can use it to create powerful changes in your life.  There are thousands of guided meditations out there.  Find out what works for you.  Please don’t do this while you are driving.

Guided meditation:

Here is the story on the Seahawks:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine

meditation seahawks


Meditation, Part 4: Meditation with Sound

February 27, 2014

OK,  check out past blogs for meditation through breathing and counting, and visual meditation.  Now here’s a meditation with sound.  Check out this sound.  It’s the sound of OM, the sound that the universe makes.  It’s a sacred sound.

Click on the video, close your eyes (after dismissing the ad) and breathe.  Focus on the sound alone.  As other thoughts enter your mind, go back to focusing on the sound.  Do this for three minutes and then ask yourself how you feel.  And keep in mind, the reason we do these different kinds of meditation is to find what works for you.  So ask yourself which one was the best?  Breathing and counting?  Candle concentration (visual)?  Meditation with sound?  Stay tuned for another meditation technique in the next blog.

meditation suit


Meditation, Part 3: Visual Meditation

February 21, 2014

The last blog, we discussed a very simple meditation involving deep diaphragmatic breaths and counting.  Mediation actually changes us on a genetic level and likely helps to prevent auto immune diseases.  It increases DHEA, the youth hormone and decreases cortisol, the stress hormone.

Now we will talk about a visual meditation.  Click on this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfpLea9OurA

Stare at the candle and start your deep breathing.  Thoughts will enter your mind other than this meditation.  Just politely dismiss the thoughts and only think about the candle.  You can think about it giving light and heat, focus on the various colors, enjoy the music, but it can only be about this focus on the candle.  Do this for at least three minutes.  Set a timer if necessary.  Afterward, ask yourself how you are feeling.

I talk a lot more about meditation in my book, Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys, available on my website http://www.brentdarnell.com.

 

candle