In my training career it took me 3 years before I had the courage to cut the clients I didn’t want to train and restructure the way I trained my other clients so I had more time and fulfillment.
On Bootcamp Ideas it took me 4 years to overcome my fear of putting myself out there to record my first video where I talked to the camera.
It took me 2 years to have the courage to take the leap and leave training to pursue my dream of working on Bootcamp Ideas from anywhere in the world.
These all happened around the same time. So what had changed?
One Tiny Thing
In 2012 one of my long time clients began meditating. I had no idea exactly what that meant. She was approaching retiring from being a Psychologist and had been exploring alternative practices.
After a year of hearing her tell me about Zen philosophy, the experience of meditating and different mindfulness practices I began to get interested.
Of course, I was interested but I did absolutely nothing about it.
Then one day while reading Zen Habits, Leo posted about a ‘Zen of Work’ course he was going to do. A course showing you how to bring more mindfulness into your day to day work.
The course was 30 days long buy after just a few days I noticed a huge change in my behavior.
What changed for me
I am a very reactionary person. In fact for years I wore it as a badge of honour, biting off the heads of loved ones when they disagreed with me.
Now I am able to pause before I react and my relationships have become stronger and more caring.
I’m sure if I’d been born 5 years later I would have been diagnosed with ADHD. In conversations I would jump from one idea to the next often not even completing sentences. Very frustrating for Zoe.
Now I am able to focus for longer periods of time. I am able to notice when my brain starts jumping all over the place and what to do.
I always felt rushed and stressed. It felt like I always had 100 things to do. Bootcamp, then personal training, then grocery shopping, then blog post, then cooking, then planning sessions, then more training. If one extra thing came up I would get angry and freak out.
Now I know what things in my life give me fulfillment and happiness. Mindfulness allows me to identify the clutter in my life and instead focus on the good parts.
Being able to identify that was what allowed me to start pursuing goals like moving overseas or restructuring my training schedule.
Being mindful of the negative thoughts I was having allowed me to look at them with perspective and overcome them to step out of my comfort zone.
It all started with the practice of sitting (almost) everyday.
Starting a Basic Sitting Habit
Sitting is a word you can use for meditating which sounds less crazy. I feel like it removes any religious or woo woo conetations from the practice.
Starting a sitting habit is pretty straight forward but like learning any new habit you want to start as small as possible so for this guide we are going to start with just two minutes.
Make sure you aren’t going to get interrupted wherever you are. Close the door, sit when no one else is in the house or when they are asleep.
You can have background noise around you, that’s OK, we are practicing for real life which will involve noise. Sometimes I ended up with a cat end up on my lap. It happens. Close the door if you know it will bother you.
Getting set up
The key to a good sitting position is pretty much all about being able to maintain a neutral spine. You guys are trainers so I don’t need to tell you what that is.
Monks and Yogis have the flexibility to sit on the floor, in half lotus and maintain a neutral spine. My legs go to sleep and my hip flexors burn with the fires of 10,000 candles if I do that.
So I sit on the couch, legs crossed, two cushions under my butt and another one in the small of my back. Other people like to kneel, you can buy little stools for that.
You can also lie flat on your back and do it. Just be aware that you might fall asleep.
What to do while you are sitting
Many people have the idea that meditating is all about clearing all thoughts from your brain and achieving some form of bliss.
In the type of sitting we are doing we are working on mindfulness and focus.
Start by just focusing on your breath, feel the rise and fall of your chest as your lungs expand and release with air. Bring your mind to your body.
Then something will happen.
You will get distracted, your mind will start travelling to other places, thoughts will come to mind.
This is where the practice starts. And the first thing you should do is not push the thoughts away.
Remember, we are aiming for mindfulness here, not mindlessness.
Instead, observe the thought or emotion or feeling that has come to mind and then gently let it go. No pushing, just letting go.
I like to think of this as the difference between dunking your thoughts with a giant wave or letting them get carried away on a gentle current.
Bring your mind back to your breath again. Shortly you will get distracted again but just repeat the process.
Set a time. Or don’t.
How long you sit for is really up to you. For starting this practice I recommend starting small. Do 2 minutes for 2 days. Then 3 minutes for 3 days. 4 minutes for 4 days. Do you see where this is going?
If you use your phone’s countdown timer for this, just remember to change your alarm tone as the default one will scare the crap out of you. A timer like Insight Timer uses bells which are much nicer.
Alternatively you can set a minimum time, like 3 minutes and then once the timer goes off you can make a choice, keep going or stop for today.
Have a trigger
You probably aren’t going to be wandering around during your day thinking ‘Hm, now would be a good time to meditate.’ Your life is way to busy for that.
So instead have some triggers that you use to begin your sitting practice. I have three I like to use:
- First thing in the morning.
- First thing after getting home from training my morning clients.
- Right before bed.
Sometimes you get caught up in a thought
Sometimes, when you are sitting, a thought or emotion comes by and you latch onto it. Before you know it you’ve spent 10 minutes planning out your day tomorrow or cursing out your neighbour who insists on mowing his lawn at 6:00am on a Sunday.
That’s OK. You didn’t fail and you shouldn’t give up!
This is called practice. It’s all practice that we can hopefully put in to real life.
So take the pressure off. When that happens just let the thought go and return to your breath.
Help with being more Mindful
If being more mindful sounds like something you would like to try or experience, join us for next months challenge which is all about Mindfulness.
Each week I will give you a challenge to try and complete for that week.
We’ll also check in with each other each day to stay accountable.
Image: to see behind walls