So perhaps you’ve just read Part One of On Making Transformation, and you’re thinking How do I actually start making space for this? I find getting the logistics sorted around having time for yourself can be just as game-changing as getting your head around it!
How do you make space?
As well as the ongoing nature of personal transformation, what we do daily (or at least weekly) has a profound role to play in our growth. I was humbled recently when I read Snatam Kaur, American musician and author raised in the Sikh and Kundalini Yoga tradition, describing her morning practice. She says “it takes about two and a half hours to complete, or about one-tenth of a day. I remember Yogi Bhajan saying that if we give one-tenth of our day to God, God gives Himself or Herself totally to us for the rest of the day.” Her practice includes a wake-up routine, a recitation, yoga, chanting, prayer, and more. Talk about making space. It could make spending 20-30 minutes on your meditation seat seem rather crummy! And YET, that 20 or 30 minutes is profound compared to not sitting at all.
These small practices can help you to start making more space for your own growth – and what I increasingly think of as your ongoing journey towards your most authentic self.
1 – Quiet 5 – breathe, ask – what do I need to know?
The smallest thing you could do in your day is to make more space for tuning in – to take what I call a ‘Quiet 5’. Simply sit somewhere comfortably where you won’t be disturbed and bring your attention to your breath. Sometimes good ideas or important things to remember can come to mind, so having a notepad and pen nearby to capture these can be helpful. At other times I might ask my unconscious mind, higher self or the Divine for guidance with a question I’m seeking answers to. In any case, it’s five minutes of quiet time for tuning into whatever is important for you there and then.
2 – Journal
Simply writing down what is coming to you can be a profound practice – and it’s a very different mental and emotional process to just thinking about it in your head, so don’t underestimate it. Capture what insights you’ve had from a book, or a great experience you had with someone today that was a signal that your approach has changed or your sense of self has strengthened, or your list of ‘to-do’s’ for your next session with your coach (or your wish list for when you feel ready to go work with someone). Capture your wins, your big cosmic questions, your insights about yourself. Anything and everything.
3 – Meditate or Chant
In practicing meditation for a few minutes a day, you naturally start to cultivate more stillness in the mind, more concentration and peace, and more mental resilience. You also become more accustomed to tuning in to your inner wisdom/divine guidance/intuition.
Make it simple. All you need is a comfortable chair or cushion and a quiet room or corner in which to sit for 5 or 10 minutes. That’s all.
If you’re new to meditation, the practice I like to start with is simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes. Here is a link to my free meditation downloads and I recommend checking out the Breath Awareness Meditation. It is simple, relaxing and all you need to start cultivating more stillness.
(You can also access these meditation tracks on the Insight Timer app (for iPhone and Android) where you will also find an amazing range of other mindfulness meditations.)
Chanting is another way to arrive into stillness and it feels amazing. I’m currently devouring Snatam Kaur’s new album, Beloved, and finding it a beautiful way to start my day. Choose one or two tracks that resonate for you and use them for your morning practice. If you’re new to her work, her album Grace is a wonderful place to start.
4 – Make space in your week, month, year
It’s a no-brainer to make time in your week for any of these practices, but it’s really easy for it to get pushed down the list. Work out the best time of the day for you – often the evening and towards bedtime can be good for these quieter practices, but don’t leave it so late that you’re too tired.
Negotiate/plan with your spouse so you can both have time out and get into the habit of making it regular, rather than the exception which is what I see happen a lot – hubby says, ‘Yes, have a couple of hours to yourself!” because he can see you’re about to split down the sides. Just take time out routinely so it doesn’t come to that. Perhaps it’s an hour to your self one evening a week, or one day a month. See what fits for you.
Plan your holidays for the year in advance. So many people are operating in survival mode where the aim of the year is to ‘get through it’ and work, and wait for the summer holidays to roll around. People who are not in this hamster-wheel mode plan ahead. They know it’s good to take a break through the year before they really need it, to plan ahead for a holiday they’d really like to have (rather than hastily booking an emergency holiday when they realise they’re about to hit the wall – been there, done that myself). Basically, don’t just plan for work, plan for LIFE.
If we give one-tenth of our day to God, God gives Himself or Herself totally to us for the rest of the day.”
Let’s make it okay to spend money/time/resources on personal + professional growth
I was talking with friends recently about how, in New Zealand where I live at least and even the UK, it’s still not what you might call widely acceptable or considered ‘typical’ to see a therapist or coach, or spend money on personal growth. It seems a lot more the norm in the US where individual growth and self-awareness are more encouraged and acceptable. It is changing here, but I think it’s a great shame it’s not more like that in New Zealand.
I’m aware the way I prioritise my spending of time and money around my health and spiritual growth makes me an outlier. Having a business coach makes me an outlier. While I do have some friends who do the same, many many people do not. And it’s not because I have more money to spend on this stuff, or that they don’t, it’s that they value and spend money on other things.
In the last 2 ½ years I have chosen to work part-time and earn less while I get to bottom of some of my health challenges. I’ve put my wellbeing at the top of the list and de-prioritised other things for a while. It’s my choice and not something I’m suggesting everyone else should do. But it has taught me to own what I value and get more comfortable with doing it differently to others. I’ve also learned of course, that without your health, the rest is pretty hollow. It was English writer, Thomas Fuller, who said “health is not valued till sickness comes.”
I have various friends who are almost the opposite; who prioritise financial or house or holiday goals over other goals, who feel it’s incredibly indulgent to have an ongoing coach, or will only see an osteopath if they can barely walk, and who view many health and personal growth approaches as luxuries or things to call on like an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff – not an ongoing part of living a healthy and ever-evolving life.
There’s nothing wrong with those choices, but don’t let these attitudes of others mess with what you feel is important to you. Spend your money on what you value. (It’s none of your business what other people think anyway.)
Why not bring personal growth related stuff into the rest of what is ‘normal’ in your life? For example if we were to budget for personal development in the same way we budget for yearly dental visits, we’d start to naturally make it part of what we do.
And keep an eye out for kidding yourself that you can’t afford these things – whether it’s to attend a mindfulness retreat, or see that coach, or buy that book. Perhaps you’re just not giving it the same priority as other things.
If we were to budget for personal development
in the same way we budget for yearly dental visits,
we’d start to naturally make it part of what we do.
I remember a few years ago getting an email from a newly booked-in client asking could she please postpone her first session as she ‘couldn’t afford it since she was saving for her upcoming holiday’. I translated this as she could afford it (if she’s saving for a holiday, she has spare money) but she wanted to spend it on her trip. Fair enough. She never re-booked and I understood that she just wasn’t ready – it wasn’t important enough to her yet to do the work.
I don’t see this as right or wrong, good or bad, but what I would say is that it pays to clean up the language around it so that we’re not tricking ourselves. It’s more accurate to say ‘I’m choosing to save money for my holiday instead of going to coaching’, or ‘Do I want to buy some summer clothes/a wetsuit or do I want to go to that retreat?’ because then we’re being more straight up with ourselves and therefore more in control.
Whatever you want, own it.