I have a quick question: what are you mastering today?
Do you have a quick response?
Or, are you not really sure what you are mastering today. I know, your mind is elsewhere. I know, you're not really doing any personal development work today.
When I understood the concept I’m about to share with you,
it changed everything.
Lean in; I want you to hear this: You are mastering something, every moment, because in every moment, you are practicing a thought. Practice leads to mastery. It’s our thoughts that create our experience, so why not practice mastering our thoughts?
Lean in again; let this passage from The Mastery of Love sink in:
You have practiced all of your life to be what you are, and you do it so well that you master what you believe you are. You master your own personality, your own beliefs; you master every action, every reaction. You practice for years and years and you achieve the level of mastery to be what you believe you are.
Does this inspire you the way it does me? I’m empowered to be ever-more mindful of the thoughts I choose and ever-more clear about how my thoughts produce results.
But, Anella, you ask, “how can I be more mindful of my own thoughts? Humans have 60-70 thousand thoughts every day!”
Exactly, which is why the importance of these four, daily, mindfulness practices is so high. Remember, you are mastering something right now. It's the same effort and the same elapsed time to practice desired thoughts into mastery, so why wait?
Daily Practice #1 - Meditation
I committed to a daily meditation practice starting in January, 2013, and it’s still a daily practice for me. I’ve taken a few short breaks from meditation, but those roads were short because they got bumpy. Really bumpy.
I had taken meditation classes back in 2006, but back then, I was way vexed by monkey mindedness and meditation felt like wrangling a calf. It was the year after my divorce, and I was desperate for some relief for my broken heart.
When I came back to the practice six years later, I had a different, “why,” that was motivating me, and I was fighting myself less, mainly because of my increasing dedication to a yoga practice. It was simply for the experience of meditating as a practice.
The fight that had been raging in mind had subsided and I noticed it that right away when I came back to meditation. It was an important shift from using meditation to salve my wounds. My old “why” for meditating was, “please just stop this pain,” but I wasn’t ready to let go and surrender to what was. This time, I was allowing myself to simply notice my thoughts without attaching to them, while breathing, sitting, and doing nothing.
So if you want to be more present in each moment, meditate. If you want a chance to master your thoughts, meditate. If you want to heal a broken heart, meditate.
Daily Practice #2 - Journaling
It’s woefully simple: get a blank notebook; pick up your favorite writing implement; set a timer for 15 minutes; write whatever comes to mind. No excuses. It’s for your eyes only, and expect yourself to tell the truth. I journal after meditation and that order feels important, as my mind is already quiet. In meditation, I desire to notice my thoughts but not process them. In journaling, I allow my language to surprise me. My thoughts spill onto the page in words that permit me to see myself in ways I had not before.
I think of journaling as the place to tell the truth to yourself, about yourself. What is truth? It’s that deeper understanding about our self that we so often shy away from seeking. It’s owning your own stuff—who you are, what your patterns are, what blocks hold you back from claiming what you want, what keeps you playing small in this world.
If you feel you’d benefit from having a more-structured, daily planner, I use the Daily Greatness Journal, along with a blank notebook; I use a wire-bound sketchbook I use for a journal, so I can open it up fully.
Daily Practice #3 - Movement
Few of us move our bodies enough, not just for the sake of exercise (though that is a clear benefit), but for the sake of showing ourselves what we are capable of doing. Moving your physical body every day will change your life. Ask your body: what am I truly capable of achieving? What answer did you get? Of course, be super-committed to listening to your body, but really listen to it. All of it.
Ask yourself where your resistance to daily movement is coming from. Is there a deeper fear? Explore this with yourself in your journal. Maybe ask, “who would I be if I moved my body every day?” These questions are deep, self-inquiry questions, if you feel uncomfortable or emotional while considering the answers, I encourage you to seek the support of a trusted friend, a coach or a health-care professional.
Another way to approach movement is to create a goal and then select an accountability partner. What would feel impossible to you? A mile walk? A 5K? A 90-minute yoga class? A Tough Mudder? A half-mile swim? Choose something that feels out of range and set a goal to practice your way into accomplishing it. In order to be successful, you will need to master the limitations your mind will try to convince you of.
You will also be well-served to create a support team to help you meet your goals. For example, I committed to myself that I’d finish a marathon, and my friend, Christy, and I decided to train together and through Team In Training, which raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Both of us had finished a couple of half marathons by that time, so we knew how important training-compliance was, and we both ran our weekly plan and showed up together at 6 am on Saturday mornings to train with the group. You don’t have to go it alone!
Daily Practice #4 - Observation
Be the curious observer of what you’re practicing toward mastery. I began to notice that, with regular meditation, my mind is serene more and more frequently, which allows me to be conscious and curious about my thoughts, more gently and compassionately than ever before. I’m on my way to mastering those ways of being toward myself.
My inner critic was in my head most of my 20s, 30s, some of my 40s for sure, and it shows up even now, from time to time, and with less impact, gratefully. I’ve practiced through meditation, journaling, and movement and have become skilled at the fundamentals of each. We all possess a number of human super powers, including our ability to think about our thinking, called metacognition.
Practicing metacognition is a key way to actually become skillful at gentle introspection and honest reflection, two traits that are critical to possess if we are to master our love for ourselves.