Your First Summer of Meditation Challenge: Find Your Balance

Setta & Bone Mobile

It can be so frustrating to hear maxims like “let it go,” “be with what is” and “accept the present moment.” Mindfulness is not about pushing the spiritual bypass button and saying it is all good, when it is really not all good. Instead mindfulness is a relational quality—a dynamic stance we can cultivate between ourselves and the present moment.

It opens up an alive, creative space wherein we have room to relax narrow habitual reactions and to respond to situations in fresh ways. Summer is such an open season—it is a beautiful time to cultivate even more breathing room in your day to day life.

Welcome to week one of the Summer of Meditation Challenge!

There is a lot of content here, consume at your own pace. No need for overwhelm! And remember that unfortunately there are limited benefits from thinking, reading or talking about meditation. The stress reduction, immune system boost, and improved sleep come in the doing. Or as I like to describe it— the drinking of it.  Meditation is a nourishing tonic for your nervous system.
These eight weeks are designed to feed your meditation habit (and offer a step by step process for starting one) as well as to give you mindfulness practices to try out in the real world.
Feel free to hop on down to the challenge if you are in a hurry—but I wanted first to share two big mindset shifts which helped me cross over some final obstacles into a daily practice:
  1. thoughts in meditation are evidence of stress leaving the body 
  1. the moment you realize you have a thought is actually your moment of practice. In gently refocusing attention to breath, mantra, or the voice of your guided meditation you rewire your mind. Far from being evidence that you are doing it wrong, thoughts actually are what enable you to change your brain.
I hope you find this as hopeful as I do. Honor the path which brought you to this day and claim your own life-giving practice, starting now.
In general the recommended daily practices are a 20-minute meditation in the morning coupled with 10 minutes of gratitude reflection or a walking meditation in the evening. That basic pattern (half hour a day for 8 weeks) produces visible, measurable changes in brain structure. But those are the visible changes… I think the benefits actually likely occur much sooner! And even in shorter amounts of time.
So while 30 minutes might be a gold standard you are free to set your own practice. I do 20 minutes most mornings, with a more low-key gratitude practice in the evenings in the shower or at bed time. Experiment!
Each week of this etraining program contains three components:
  1. The Challenge describes the specific meditations + mindfulness practices for the week
  2. The Reflection is an exploration of the 8 pillars of happiness at work: Balance, Concentration, Compassion, Resilience, Communication and Connection, Integrity, Meaning, and Open Awareness. Lastly,
  3. The Commitment is your opportunity to make a choice and to set your intention for the week. (I’ll tuck in reminders of helpful resources as well.)
Are you ready, Birder? Let us start…
Week One: The Challenge
Meditation:
Morning Practice. Loving-Kindness or Metta Meditation. There are four traditional phrases: May you be safe, happy, healthy & live with ease. These blessings you offer first to yourself and then outward in concentric circles to a benefactor, friend, neutral person, difficult person and finally to the whole world. You don’t have to do all the categories each day– just always start with yourself and end with everyone. Here is a link to my free guided Loving_Kindness Meditation

Mindfulness Practices:

  1. Focus on What You are Grateful for in Your Work. This can be during your shower, on a walk, before you go to bed. Even if much about your work is stressful or upsetting, it can provide clarity to identify and observe the elements you enjoy, if only five minutes a day. This clarity can open up next steps– ranging from shifting your mode of attending to your current work to looking for new work. Plus what we pay attention to grows.
  2. Create Your Life-Giving Weekly Schedule. Hopefully with a journal and a cup of tea.
The Reflection: On Balance*
I’m sick of the word balance. And the whole project of finding a work/life balance just feels exhausting. I think it’s a myth. Work/Life Balance sounds to me more like a stressful teeter-totter— my children and husband piled on one side and writing, coaching, building a soulful biz on the other. And poor me in the middle desperately trying to keep them all airborne or at least having fun.
This kind of balance is not sustainable. More akin to surfing on a seesaw without rest, sweating to keep both sides rising and falling in some rhythmic pattern.

Perhaps you can relate?

You may have different things on the ends of your see saw as you try to balance work with the rest of your life: it could be your partner, hobbies, even your own self care which you struggle to keep in balance under the pressure of work demands.

What if instead of feeling like we live on a seesaw trying to create an illusive balance between work and the rest of our lives we saw it more as a mobile– and focused on creating a stable base on which to hang the different dimensions of our life: work, creativity, relationships, spirituality and body care?

Visualized as a mobile these different elements of our life turn and move distinctly yet hang together in a dynamic whole. Here is another mobile I made with seasonal elements one Fall.
This is the balance we are cultivating this summer, a vision which treats our whole life (including our work) as a creative project.
For we never come to some static equilibrium with our work. But we can notice if the mobile is seriously out of whack—if any element is so heavy it is pulling the whole thing out of alignment.
What are the different elements in your mobile?
Are any elements so heavy they disturb the natural movement of the whole?
Over a cup of tea or similar moment take stock of your weekly rhythm. What days tend to weigh you down? You may be surprised here. Sometimes weekends can be the most stressful, as we pile on household tasks to complete or especially if you have children in your home. Or maybe Mondays make you feel heavy as you transition to a job which is less than satisfying. Do you always feel great on Tuesdays and Thursdays after your yoga class? Or on the nights when you manage to make and enjoy a hot meal? Just begin to notice the overall pattern of your days, especially the ratio of work to rest.

Do you have any dedicated green time in your schedule? Or a day to unplug from technology? You may want to complete this exercise in real time, simply observing the flow of your week and jotting down a few words which capture the feel of each day as you go.

If you enjoy writing or journaling I encourage you to get a Summer of Meditation journal and to write down your reflections as we journey together.

Identify one next step you could take to create a weekly flow which feels more balanced.

This right balance between work and rest is what creates the stable foundation for your whole life. Again, don’t take my word on it. Experiment and see how the adjustments makes you feel.

* Weekly Themes drawn from Sharon Salzberg’s book:

Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace (2014).

The Commitment. Now its your turn
But first… a word about resistance. We can really trip ourselves up here. None of us like to be told what to do. Or we have a perfectionist streak so if we miss one day, we think it is all over. Challenge is a strong word. If you respond well to that—go with it. Or you can reframe these practices as invitations.
In this domain of personal growth/transformation I hope you always know to experiment within the context of your own life. We are bio-individualists. What works well for one not necessarily for another.
So take the challenge with a light touch, have fun with it, try it out.
Also know that the benefits will show up not during the practice but in the rest of your life. Be generous with yourself. Give it is some time to unfold.

Over to you. What do you what to try on this week?

Jumping in with both feet and committing to it all? Great. Dipping a toe in, ready to start with five minutes of meditation in your morning shower and some journaling. Wonderful. Whatever is right for you, leave it as a comment below.  I know you may not be “leave a comment” kind of people…but seriously, I’d love to hear from you and hold you in the process.

Warmly,

Courtney

PS If you enjoy the loving kindness audio… more guided meditations are available as part of the Meditation Support Circle (Now available as a self-study eCourse.)  

Also you can sign up below for the Summer of Meditation Challenge, a free etraining program,  and each week receive suggested meditation and real world mindfulness practices and more– right to your inbox!

Join the Summer of Meditation Challenge Here!

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