How to manage life with the internet

I was born in 1976 so my life can almost be split up into half life pre-internet, and half life with the world wide web.

Sometimes I think back and, through rose tinted spectacles, remember the halcyon days of pre-internet. Playing Chinese checkers with my grandma on the lawn. No video games, no computers, no internet, the only tv a 11” black and white set with 3 channels. Those were the days! It makes me feel positively old. You certainly didn’t have to worry about whether people were liking your picture of your cat on t’internet.

Would life have been more enjoyable with the internet? I don’t think so. It would have come in pretty handy for doing my homework, but apart from that I can’t say I lie awake at night – thinking if only I’d been able to read more twitter feeds as a child…

So here are some tips for navigating the world wide web.

Don’t read the comments.

I like this twitter feed,- don’t read the comments. I shall post a couple of my favourites.

“The problem with internet comments is that you can never really know who’s saying them.”

— Winston Churchill

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The problem with 24 hour news

News and the internet has become all pervasive. There is no shortage of information and opinion in the modern world, and whilst keeping up to date can have certain benefits – there is also a danger of being overwhelmed with news and articles which act as a permanent distraction.

negativitiy-poem

Thomas Jefferson wrote

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

Jefferson also illumines us:

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

How we would like the happiness of Thomas Jefferson!

Why I wanted to try take a break from the news

1. Negativity

The problem with the news is that it is mostly depressing, and accentuates the most negative image of the world and people. It can create a disconnect between perception and the reality of people’s good hearts.

The nature of the news is that it tends to focus on bad events. You can have 10,000 people leading good lives; but by nature this is not newsworthy.

2. I spend too long

The truth is I spend too long watching news, reading news online. It is too easy to fill a few minutes here and there. I can find myself checking news sites throughout the day. But, it’s not a profitable or useful experience. It’s bugged me for a long time, so I thought I would try something different over the Christmas holidays.

3. It affects me

The problem with being absorbed in a 24 news stream, is that you can end up thinking about it all day. Your mind cultivates opinions, and you can end up frustrated with the injustice of the world. Yet, at the same time, you are not doing anything to create a better world. You can’t help it, but the more time you spend on the news, the more your mind is jumping around with opinions of its own. It is an energy that is self-perpetuating. There is no peace, no connection with the heart, only opinions and endless un-winnable arguments.

Continue reading “The problem with 24 hour news”

Managing Time Effectively

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In modern life, time seems to weigh down on us; sometimes time passes laboriously slowly. At other times we have too little, leading to a frenzy of hectic activity. How do we get the right balance and make time work for us, rather than being a slave to the clock?

Create Your Schedule.

“To choose time is to save time.”

Francis Bacon 1

Often we slip into a mood of passive resistance. We don’t have much clear plan so we start to surf the internet, or channel hop. We go from one site to another because it is mildly interesting, mildly humorous. Before, we know it we have got sucked into an experience of reading much information, but, not really doing anything constructive or valuable. At each moment, we can inwardly decide what is the best thing to be doing – and then do it wholeheartedly. This doesn’t mean we become productivity zealots, always achieving something. No, we may just want to relax or appreciate some simple activity. The point is that if the best thing is relaxation, we should do it wholeheartedly and not be holding onto things we ought to be doing in the future.

Don’t Wish you Were Somewhere Else.

You can spend all your life wishing you were somewhere else or doing something better. But, once we start on this track it is hard to ever be satisfied. To really gain the secret of inner peace, we need to learn to be content where-ever fate puts us. The secret is to take whatever we do and give it our full attention and priority. If we do even mundane things with the right attitude we can be happy.

Every Second Counts.

“A moment’s love
Can and shall
Make the world perfect.”

– Sri Chinmoy 2

Every second, every moment can be sacred. We don’t need to be in a temple or on a mountain. The world needs our good will and positive vibrations, exactly where it is most difficult. We can offer goodwill to anyone, in any place. We don’t have to wait for a nice, inspiring person. It is easy to offer good will to these people. If we can offer good will to those who are unloved and unappreciated (and not particularly nice people) we will make a huge difference to both ourselves and other people. Each second is an opportunity to do something worthwhile. If we look upon time in this light, we will make better use of it.

Avoiding Stress

“Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side. “

~ The Talmud 3

Modern life make it easy to be stressed. Many people feel they have too many demands on their time. It becomes difficult to keep on top of the competing pressures. First we have to be easy on ourselves. Don’t try to be superman or superwomen, we can only do a certain amount. People will have to accept that. We shouldn’t feel guilty because we are unable to keep up the appearances of having a second subtle body to multitask… The best way to avoid stress, is just to take the most pressing issue and do it as best you can, when that is completed, move on to the next issue which needs dealing with. At least this way, you have started prioritising and you are working on one thing at once. Often by creating a plan and workflow it becomes more manageable and you can actually get more done.

Time to Yourself.

Every second counts, so can we really justify spending 30 minutes in absolute calm and stillness? Of course! If we really want to create time for ourselves, we will find it is definitely possible. It is a liberating experience to set time aside for meditation or moments to yourself. It gives a greater balance to your life and gives the necessary inner peace to deal with the outer world.

Photo By Pranlobha, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

  1. Excerpt from Essays of Francis Bacon
  2. Wings of Joy by Sri Chinmoy p112
  3. Talmud

How To Get Things Done

Mongolia child

There is an old saying “If you want something done, ask a busy person. ” There is a lot of truth in this. Sometimes, we struggle to do anything productive – even if we have time on our hands. But, at other times we can do alot because we prepare, are focused and do it with enthusiasm.

There are several small things that can make a big difference to how successful we become. These are some tips to help get things done.

Be Clear What you Want to do.

It might seem a rather obvious point, but if we are not clear what we want to do – how can we do it effectively? I have a student who always talks of giving up smoking. Half of him wants to stop, but the other half enjoys it. If you want to do something difficult like give up smoking you have to be 100% committed. If you do something but are holding onto reservations, you will not be fully committed and so it will be much harder, if not impossible. Too often we drift along with vague ideas we should be doing something; we hold a certain guilt for not doing it, but, we fail to clearly resolve to take action – so it gets left on the back burner.

Clear Out the Junk.

One of the biggest obstacles to being productive is getting distracted by small silly things. Having a tidy / clear workspace makes a big difference to being able to work with great focus. Entering a clear, simple work environment gives a definite subconscious psychological boost. Just try tidying your workspace, ruthless clearing out the junk and pieces of paper – you will definitely notice the difference. We have a rather romantic view of the eccentric genius working in paper strewn mess coming up with complex equations. But, for most of us, working in this kind of environment makes it much more difficult to do anything. Investing 10 minutes to create a clear workspace is a good investment of time.

Do One Thing at A Time

It is not possible to do more than one thing at a time and be focused. Our attention gets split and we struggle to do either effectively. This doesn’t just mean physically doing only one thing at a time; it also means having our thoughts focused on one particular task. When writing an essay, we need to ignore other thoughts of what we will be doing tomorrow. There is no benefit in worrying over things that we have no control.

Be in the Right Environment

As we have mentioned in previous points, the real secret for getting things done is being 100% committed and focused. Another thing that can help is getting into the right environment. For example, if you need to work at home, create a suitable space for your work. If you carry your laptop into the lounge in front of the TV, you can get easily distracted. Even changing clothes can make a difference. Sometimes, I wander out into the garden in my slippers and start half-heartedly gardening.  When you do something be in the right space, environment and with the right tools / equipment.

Prioritise

The art of getting things done doesn’t mean we have to be a permanent hive of activity, business and stress. The problem is that we are often ‘busy’ doing unimportant and inconsequential things. We need to make a list (either written or mental) of what needs doing and doing the most pressing things first, even if it is not necessarily the most pleasant.

Feel that whatever you do there is an opportunity cost. If we spend time flicking through tv channels it means we don’t have time for something more fulfilling and worthwhile.

Finish what you start.

The hardest thing with getting things done is often just getting started. It takes a mental effort to get started, so once we overcome this barrier try finishing it in one go. If we keep stopping and starting we will waste precious time and loose focus. Where possible try to benefit from economies of scale. e.g. rather than checking emails several times throughout the day, set aside one or two times to answer and deal with your inbox. This is more efficient than responding piecemeal to incoming messages. (and often when you are trying to do something else as well.)

Read the Instruction manual

It’s a bit of novelty in our ipod generation, but so many times I try to do something without any preparation, make it worse and then have to go back to read the instruction manual. Good preparation can save a lot of heartache and wasted effort. Jumping straight in without any clear plan isn’t usually the best way to get something done.

Be Enthusiastic for what you do.

If we can always maintain enthusiasm for what we do, our enthusiasm will carry us through all obstacles and problems. This is a real secret of getting things done.

photo by Prabhakar, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

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Why A Healthy Body Means A Healthy Mind

Since time immemorial, great civilizations have discovered and utilised the link between physical fitness and clarity of being. In the ancient civilizations of India, Greece and Rome physical fitness was given the highest importance – our title is in fact derived from the old Latin saying “mens sana in corpore sano“. This connection works on multiple levels and being aware of each aspect can really motivate you to have a fitness regimen as an integral part of your practice of self-improvement.

1. (The obvious one) Stress relief

During the day all the annoyances and troubles of the day slowly build up in our nervous system, turning us into the human equivalent of pressure cooker! But when we do some physical exercise, all that stored up energy suddenly finds a channel through which it can operate. So when you finish, not only do you have that feel-good physical factor, but also an enhanced sense of mental clarity.

2. Shake off lethargy

Often (especially if we have slept too much) we arise with a feeling of lethargy and sluggishness which can impair our effectiveness during the day. That’s why a run first thing in the morning works wonders in shaking off that half-asleep feeling. In fact, next time you get up and are tempted to go back to bed for a little while, try doing some exercise instead – you’ll be surprised how alert you feel at the end, and you will wonder where all that tiredness you had this morning went! Continue reading “Why A Healthy Body Means A Healthy Mind”

How to get by on less sleep

Often I think about what a shame it is that many of us have to spend eight hours or even more in a state of pretty much total unconsciousness. Of course, if we suddenly try to reduce that time, we just end up in a state of disorientation and crankiness, but there are a few things we can do to slowly and naturally reduce the amount we sleep and claim back more time for the things we really want to do:

1. If we have more quality, we need less quantity

When I was in college, I was convinced I needed nine hours minimum rest – however, when I look back, I see that rest included at least an hour tossing and turning around before sleep finally descended, and even then I could still sense my mind turning around like a washing machine. When I took steps to improve the quality of my sleep, I found that the quantity I needed also decreased. Here are a couple of things worth considering:

  • Try to turn off any mental disturbances (e.g computer or tv) half an hour before bedtime; the mental spill over from what we were watching or working on can often accompany us to bed and affect our sleep quality.
  • Many of us will take a shower and a change of clothes when we come home from work; it helps to put the workday behind us. Similarly, a shower (or even washing face and hands) before bedtime helps us to clense ourselves of the experiences of the day and not carry them into our sleep.
  • When the mind is calm, you can sink into a much deeper, more refreshing level of sleep. A five minute practice of meditation just before you turn in can give you that clarity of mind and enable a nights sleep unhindered by nightmares and other mental disturbances. Tejvan wrote about a meditation exercise you can try a few weeks ago…

2. A short daily nap

Much of our tiredness comes from stresses and strains which gradually build up during the day. A twenty minute nap in the afternoon can be just the thing to settle the nerves and give you a new lease of life going into the second part of the day. It also has the effect of tricking the mind into thinking that you’ve actually slept for longer, which means it can be a very good way to compensate for any reduced sleep you’ve gotten the night before.

3. Reduce sleep gradually, not suddenly

If you suddenly decide you are going to sleep for four hours a night, it will very quickly tell upon your health and well being. The best thing to do is reduce in small increments, say, fifteen minutes at a time. Once you have been at that level for a few weeks and your body has adjusted, then you can you can try and reduce by another fifteen minutes.

4. Try this concentration exercise

There are concentration excercises you can do which, when practiced properly, can be used in times of tiredness to give you the same amount of rest as sleep. This one in particular was suggested by my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy:

Try to feel that your entire body, from head to foot, represents a sea of peace. Feel that you have become peace itself, that you embody peace within and without. Try to feel your physical frame consciously, but at the same time feel that you are an infinite expanse of peace. When you can consciously feel this expanse of peace, you will see that your physical body, flesh, blood and bones, has totally merged and disappeared into that sea of peace.

In ancient times, yogis and meditation practitioners would use techniques like this to get the equivalent amount of rest in seconds to minutes and hours of sleep.

5. Another trick you can play on the mind

While I was researching the above quote, I found something else my teacher suggested which I had completely forgotten about:

Also, when you go to bed, just try to feel that you are going to sleep for twenty-four hours. Then, even though the clock will say that you have slept only three or four hours, your very first thought as soon as you wake up should be that you have slept for twenty-four hours. The mind can convince the outer consciousness, and immediately you will believe it. This is not self-deception; it is proper use of the conscious mind. The figure twenty-four has enormous strength. It immediately gives us a sense of comfort, relief, pleasure, fulfilment.

This advice has definitely saved me on a couple of occasions when I had three or four hours sleep with a big day ahead of me the next day.

If anyone has any additional tips, please let us know!

(Photo: stxchng.hu)

An easy to learn concentration exercise

Concentration is the secret key to a whole world of possibilities, enabling you to keep out distractions and focus on attaining your life goals. In addition it is an absolute prerequisite if you want to learn the art of meditation, as it helps ‘clear the road’ of any mental obstacles. However if anything the average concentration span is decreasing as life gets busier and busier and the world becomes filled with more things to distract and scatter our attention.

Here is one very easy-to-learn concentration exercise which was taught to me by my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy. It can reap tremendous rewards in terms of clarity, productivity and efficiency in your life, and it can be done with just a few minutes practise every day. People commonly view concentration as purely a mental exercise; but here we are also going use our heart centre, that space in our chest we point to when we say ‘me’ – helping to take some of the burden away from our tension filled minds.

Requirements:

An object of concentration – best is to use a candle or flower, but you can even use a dot on the wall.

Method:

  1. In this exercise, we will use the candle, although you can adapt the exercise to whatever object you are using. Sit with your back straight, and place the burning candle at eye level.
  2. First bring your awareness to your breath. Gradually your breath becomes slower and more relaxed. Try to imagine a thread placed in front of our nose; you are breathing so quietly it will not move to and fro.
  3. Now we look at the object. Gradually bring your attention to a tiny part of the candle flame, for example, the very tip of the flame.
  4. When you breathe in, feel that your breath, like a golden thread, is coming from that point on the candle and entering into your heart. And when you breath out, feel that your breath, feel that the light is leaving the heart, passing through a point in your forehead between the eyebrows and a little above (in Eastern philosophy this is a powerful concentration point) and then entering into the object of concentration. Try to feel that nothing else exists except you and the object you are focusing on.
  5. When you do this exercise, thoughts will invariably get in the way. When this happens, don’t be annoyed or upset, just bring your attention back to the exercise. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly it will take time to rein in your mind.
  6. (if you have the time) You can go one step further, and use your power of concentration to identify with the object’s existence. Try to feel on the inbreath that the existence of the flame, and the qualities it embodies such as radiance, serenity and aspiration, are entering into you and becoming part of your own existence. On the outbreath, feel that your existence is expanding and spreading out from the centre of the chest and entering into the candle. In this way, you concentrate on the object to such an extent that you feel no separation between you and the object; your existence has expanded to include the candle. In this way you can identify ourself with the entire world.

Start off with a modest goal – i.e 3-5 minutes a day, and then gradually increase with time. After only a couple of weeks of doing this exercise, you should notice the progress – a clearer mind, better ability to cope with tasks, less stress, more serenity.

If you are inspired to try, please let us know how you got on! Good luck!

Shane Magee regularly gives meditation classes in Dublin on behalf of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. For more information visit Dublin Meditation

Related:

How to keep many projects going and keep your sanity too

There are certain times of the year it seems as if there is a million and one projects all trying to squeeze out through this bottleneck called ‘you’! Depending on how we handle ourselves, we either look back on these times as ones of great stress and worry, or with the glowing satisfaction of getting a job well done. Here are a few tips on ensuring the latter result prevails:

Start the day with time for yourself

As tempting as it might be to wake up and suddenly rush into all the things you have to do, it is more beneficial to start the day an hour later and from a position of inner strength. In particular I would recommend two invaluable practices that will considerably reduce the stress overload from the coming day: meditation and physical exercise. A good morning meditation imbues you with a sense of peace and strength, and will considerably help your focus as you enter into life’s challenges. In addition 30 minutes of running, walking or other aerobic activity will also help to shake free any tiredness and crankiness and liven you up as you enter the daily battlefield.

Keep one focus at a time

When you are working on a project, work single-mindedly on it without thinking of the myriad other things you have to do. If an idea comes to you about another project, write it down and continue on with what you were doing, so you can then come back to it.

Continue reading “How to keep many projects going and keep your sanity too”

Five ways to reclaim the energy you waste every day

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Speaking personally, I often wish I had 48 hours a day to do all things I would like to do each day! Yet the main reason we fail to be as productive as we would like is not because of lack of time, but rather because of misuse of energies. Years of ‘practice’ has us spending countless amounts of energy every day doing things and getting into situations that leave us no closer to reaching our life goals. But here are some tips on how to reclaim some of that energy for things that you REALLY want:

1. Cut down on useless thinking

If we spent a day looking at the nature of our thoughts – mainly worrying about the future or agonizing about the past, often negative against others but more often yourself – it’s not surprising that at the end of the day we feel as if we have just fought our way through a battlefield! At the beginning we get a kind of perverse joy out of negative thinking, but this two-edged sword quickly turns on us and leaves us in a ‘me-against-the-world’ situation, totally devoid of hope and inspiration. The trick is to resist the initial thrill you get from negative thoughts, by remembering how damaging they are. It has been mentioned many times on this blog, but it always bears repeating how a practice of meditation can really help you in this regard, by training you to first still your mind, and then to allow in only the thoughts you want to have.

Continue reading “Five ways to reclaim the energy you waste every day”

Effective Strategies for Developing Will Power

red-tulip

“Man can accept his fate, he can refuse.”

– Sri Aurobindo.

Will Power is the capacity to do what we instinctively want to achieve. Will-power is the force which enables us to overcome lethargy, temptation and weakness. What will-power can do is unimaginable; it can illumine our weaknesses and enable us to lead the life we want to live.

Some people seem to have tremendous will-power, others think that will power is not within them. However, there is no reason why anyone cannot achieve greater will power. These are some tips for developing Will-Power:

Don’t Procrastinate

Procrastination is a powerful way to weaken our will-power. When we have the enthusiasm and determination to achieve something, we should act on our initiative and inner motivation. If we hesitate, we allow doubt to creep in; if we wait for more favourable outer circumstances to achieve something we will never succeed. Will-power doesn’t depend on favourable outer circumstances. When we have an inspiration to aim for something we should follow through with our inspiration and cultivate our will power. The best time to act is now. (see: How to Avoid Procrastination)

Never Give Up.

Will-power doesn’t mean we have to achieve our targets at their first attempt. Will-power is closely linked to perseverance. Will-power is the willingness and enthusiasm to remain unaffected by setbacks and difficulties. If we can persevere, even amidst set backs, we will strengthen and grow our will power. Adversity is a powerful motivation for encouraging stronger will-power. An easy life will do little to grow our will power; but, a readiness to face life’s challenges is the beginning of creating real will-power.

“I do not give up, I never give up – for there is nothing in this entire world that is irrevocably unchangeable.”

– Sri Chinmoy

Be Clear on what you want to achieve.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

– Henry Ford

If we are confused and uncertain about we what we actually want, it will be impossible to harness the power of our indomitable will-power. If we have a very clear focus and target it becomes easier to focus our energies on achieving our targets. If we are very clear what we want, it becomes instinctive to focus our energies and capacities on achieving it. For example, if you are trying to break a bad habit make sure you are 100% committed to changing; if part of you still subconsciously harkens after the bad habit, your focus will be split and you will not be able to generate the necessary will-power.

Continue reading “Effective Strategies for Developing Will Power”