Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin
When I opened my eyes this morning, I looked over at the corner of the room and took a deep breath. It was the corner near the fireplace, where for the last two weeks, I sat, crossed my legs, and closed my eyes for twenty minutes of meditation.
Now, some people still consider meditation as a strictly spiritual practice. Something reserved for chakra juggling mystics after new moon parties. However, scientific research credits meditation and mindfulness with reducing anxiety, improving cognition, and decreasing distraction.
In a world where external stimuli chase us down like an avalanche, a mindfulness practice can be a beacon in the snow storm.
Craving the benefits of this bicep curl for the brain, I committed myself to a 30-day meditation challenge. This morning would have been day 18.
I sat in my corner, felt the heat of the fireplace and wiped the sleep from my eyes. Eager to begin my cerebral scrub down, I set the timer. That’s when it hit me — I didn’t meditate yesterday.
I had told myself I’d find the time, yet somehow, the barrage of emails and mindless internet scrolling took precedence over my mental hygiene. All that time lost in thought. All that time rehearsing arguments in my mind I’ll never have in real life. It all added up to a day lost and a meditation streak broken.
“What a waste,” I thought, disappointed. “Maybe I’ll try again next month.”
This initial feeling of “all is lost” is a mental construct that surrounds many things. Some of us might consider dieting one day a week, or going to the gym once a month, to be pointless. We don’t believe lackadaisical regimens can produce the fast, proven, extreme results we crave.
What we forget, however, is what Einstein called the 8th wonder of the world — compound interest.
The power of compound interest is simple. In financial terms, it means we earn interest on both our initial investment along with whatever interest has already been earned. If we invest $100 and compound 1% interest every day, in one year we’ll have $3,778.34. That’s an increase of 37x.
I considered this 8th world-wonder and my last few weeks of meditation. I realized how my sense of contentment and emotional well-being had increased not only from when I started the challenge but how it continued to build upon the progress I made from each previous day. While I may have failed the 30-day challenge, all was not lost.
Mindfulness is the act of pulling ourselves back into the present moment. When we make the decision to stop and focus, to be grateful, and to notice our emotions without trying to change them, we improve the quality of the present AND invest in our ability to be more mindful in the future.
The moments we spend being mindful compound and pay interest in the form of clarity, gratitude, and presence.
But just like investing money, compound interest can be a double-edged sword. Markets crash. Days of enlightenment can be followed by days of darkness.
The time we spend lost in thought, emotionally scattered, or ungrateful — those moments compound as well.
That’s why adding up mindful moments whenever we can is so valuable. We’ll need them when life’s storms inevitably come.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Old Zen Proverb
The idea of meditating for an hour a day is noble in sentiment, for most of us, it’s not realistic. Carving out twenty minutes a day for a new habit is hard enough without worrying if more time is needed to even make a difference. That’s why we have to remember that with mindfulness, we are working towards clarity and appreciation for the present. Every moment counts.
For those who can’t invest an hour a day — or even twenty minutes — to meditation, there are other ways to increase mindfulness.
4 ways to become 1% more mindful each day without setting aside any extra time.
Taste your food.
We’ve all been there, starving as our slice of pizza arrives, ready to devour. We take a bite, pull out our phone, starting thinking about what so-and-so said last night. Before we know it — the food is gone and we have no recollection of chewing.
During your next meal, focus on those first few bites. Notice the smell. Identify the flavors. Tune into your body and mind during the meal. Resist the urge to solve problems or think about your schedule, this is your time to eat.
When you go from sitting to standing — check in.
Moving from one position to another gives us a chance to check-in with ourselves.
When you stand up from your workspace, are you in a hurry? That’s fine, don’t try to change it. Just notice it.
When you sit down does your mind begin to rush towards the rest of your day before finishing the task at hand? Gently reel yourself back to the present. Close your eyes, take a breath and focus on what’s happening right now. This only takes a few seconds.
Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning.
This is a tip I learned from the The Five Minute Journal. For how easy it is and for how little time it takes, I cannot express enough how much of an impact doing this consistently has had on my overall satisfaction with life. If you only incorporate one thing from this post, make it this.
When you walk…
Don’t let your monkey mind crawl around the cage while you stroll. Instead, feel the weight of your feet pressing against the asphalt with each step. Notice the temperature of the air on your face and hands.
You don’t need to make time to “go for a walk.” Do this when you walk to your car in the morning. Do it when you walk towards your bed at night. When you walk, be present.
Whether it’s embarking on a 30-day meditation challenge or just remembering to be a little more grateful once in awhile, remember — the power of compound interest is happening all around us.
Will you let it work for you, or against you?
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