Starting small

We’ve been looking at ways to support our efforts to turn our attention inward, away from blaming others for our unhappiness and away from expecting things to always go our way. Mindfulness meditation is a powerful practice that helps us channel our minds in a wholesome direction, but some of us need “warm-up” exercises.

A recent conversation with a massage therapist included the following:
MT: “You do yoga every day?”
me: “Yes.”
MT: “I can’t do it unless I’m in a class.”
me: “Well, maybe you can. Give this a try for one week: do three sun salutes before breakfast each morning. Just three sun salutes, but every day. See if it makes a difference.”

A month later, the same massage therapist told me that she was doing a half-hour of yoga every day before breakfast and it had changed her life. There was a dramatic shift from thinking that establishing a new, wholesome habit was impossible to discovering that in fact, she was perfectly capable of taking charge of her life, at least in this small way.

Many times I’ve heard people claim that they couldn’t get motivated to exercise, meditate, etc. on their own. It’s a false story we can tell ourselves. The trick is to start small; don’t make a big deal out of it, just make a small commitment to a simple practice that you know helps you calm down and become more aware of your body. The two-minute meditation recommended earlier is a possibility, but it could also be a short prayer; a few yoga postures or a breathing exercise; writing down what you are grateful for; walking backwards for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter exactly what it is – it’s the dailiness that matters.

Too often, we look at people with disciplined lives and think, “No way I could do that!” Well, sure – why should you? But what about setting the bar lower? A lot lower. Say, a day without alcohol once a week; a half hour where you just sit or walk by yourself and don’t worry about or respond to outside demands; a deliberate act of forgiveness; keeping truthfulness or silence for a half-day. These are small but powerful acts.

Consider what you might do to loosen the grip of compulsion or confusion on your mind. What small step might help? Give it a try; you have nothing to lose but your unhappiness.

2 Comments

Filed under Causes and results, Mindfulness

2 responses to “Starting small

  1. Wonderful advice – I’ve seen it work in my own life. The worst thing is to do nothing because of fear of making too big a commitment. Start small – anything is better than nothing! May this be benefit to many.

  2. “It’s the dailiness that matters.”
    Thank you.

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