Hey. Hey you! Hey, wake up! Open your sweet eyes…Time to wake up. Come on, time to start your life! Reluctantly, you open one eye but only a little tiny bit to let some light in. You stretch your legs, tightening your muscles, then relaxing them again. You drift back to sleep. It feels good right this moment. It’s just too hard to wake up. But you must. You can’t sleep your day away. Or life.
It’s time to wake up now.
Have you ever noticed that, no matter how tired you are, how hard it is to do it, once you get up, it’s ok, and you feel ready to go about your day? Most of the time, anyway. Right? Actually, often throughout your day, you fall back “asleep” without even realizing it. Have you ever noticed that you’ve driven somewhere and upon reaching your destination, you can’t really remember how you got there? I don’t mean dissociation; just that you don’t really remember intentionally putting your turn signal on, turning, braking, etc. You just drove to your destination. Or, when you make coffee in the morning. Do you really think about what you’re doing? Or do you just go through the motions until suddenly, you’re sitting down with a nice warm cup?
We all easily fall back on autopilot throughout our days. Throughout our lives. Autopilot robs us of living mindfully. It robs us of experiencing life consciously! Mindfulness means to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations, and of your environment, at each present moment, without judgment. Mindfulness helps you gain some space between your thoughts and feelings, thereby enabling you to respond, rather than react on autopilot. This can really improve your stress levels and your relationships, among other things. One way to start living mindfully is to meditate. Obviously, most of us have heard that meditation supposedly helps us awaken, and live more purposefully.
But I believe it is not just about meditation. Meditating once a day will indeed bring many benefits. But practicing mindfulness each moment of the day is truly what will do the most for you. That is essentially what my blog is about. Everyday mindfulness in these modern times.
I recently got my hands on a book that is exactly on my own wavelength. Living purposefully, in the modern world. Right smack dab in the middle of all the craziness of THIS world today. Not in a monastery. Not on a Tibetan mountaintop. But right there in the office. Right in the middle of the living room with kids running around. Right in the conference room. Right at the cashier of the grocery store. Staring right in the face of that judgy, bitchy neighbor. You know, Right amidst all of your triggers.
This book is called: “Wake Up! A Handbook for Living in the Here and Now,” by Chris Baréz-Brown. It offers 54 playful strategies to get you off autopilot, and living consciously aware so that you are no longer triggered (as much) to fall into unhealthy behavioral patterns. The author starts out by asking us to take a day or even a week to just try to notice how often you feel truly awake, conscious of your present moment, conscious of how you feel or what you’re thinking at any given moment.
The author suggests not just reading the book from front to back, but experimenting with the exercises and doing each exercise for one day, or several days in a row. Whatever works for you. This book is light on research and science, and heavy on “doing.” Waking up needn’t be a serious matter! And waking up cannot happen intellectually; it must happen through experience. There are exercises for doing and there are exercises for not doing.
There are exercises to “tune in” and focus on something important, “plug in” to resources that are all around you (but sometimes we don’t realize), and “power up” your body and/or mind.
Each exercise has three parts: (1) Insight (explaining the background of the experiment); (2) Plan (how to do the exercise); and (3) Payoff (what you can expect to gain from doing the exercise).
The very first exercise in Wake Up! is to breathe. Very simple. Spend three minutes, five times a day breathing well. Now, to be honest, I already do this exercise, several times a day. It has become my little lifesaver during stressful moments throughout the day. I can attest this one works wonders. It is simple and you don’t need a special space to do it. You can do it while sitting in a meeting, while driving, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, etc.
Another exercise is “Kill Your Television.” Turn the boob tube off! This is also something I’ve implemented in my life a long time ago. What I like about this book is that the author includes exercises that anyone can do. You don’t need a meditation retreat, a Zen master, or a PhD to do these, folks.
You also don’t have to get all serious about it. There are exercises like, for instance, “Climb a Tree.” Sound weird? Well, think about it. When was the last time you climbed a tree? Exactly. Way back when you were a kid with no real cares in the world, living each moment to moment. Mindfulness. Climbing a tree will get you out there, experiencing the moment like you haven’t in years. It offers a shift in perspective. But, see for yourself. Go read what the author, Chris Baréz-Brown, has to say about climbing trees.
Other exercises are a little more challenging. For example, “Just Say No.” When we’re busy, when we jam our days full of To-Do’s, our minds can’t do much else than go on autopilot. You simply don’t have much time to slow down, pause, or notice much. The reader is asked to take every day of a chosen week and find something you would usually say yes to, but instead, say no. The task here is to find something you’d usually find difficult to say no to. This one demands more discipline than just breathing well. But that is the beauty of this book. It doesn’t get boring!
Another exercise asks you to grab a friend, some colorful markers, and four pieces of paper. You draw two pictures: one of your life now, and one of your life one year from now, and then explain both pictures to your friend. Your friend does the same. What’s the point? Sometimes pictures can simplify our thoughts, needs, wishes and feelings in a way that we would never be able to do with words. You can make certain breakthroughs or realizations that words might not get to, because words keep us in our heads too much.
These are only a few of the exercises in Wake Up! I love this book because it is simple, easy, fun and flexible. The author makes sure the reader understands that they should not feel guilty about skipping exercises. This book is meant to help you. It’s NOT meant to put even more pressure on you!
So, dear readers, check out Wake Up!, try some exercises, and have fun WAKING UP and getting off autopilot!