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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Find Clarity in One Day

clarity-day.jpg
Photo: Stock Photo

Do you ever get so busy with the details of your life and the countless things you need to complete, that you end up feeling exhausted and disconnected?

The result: Your mind becomes clouded and unable to focus and you start to make poor decisions regarding your priorities. You end up working hard instead of working smart.

What do you do when this happens? Do you take the time to step out of the situation to regroup? Or do you continue with what you’re doing, all the while feeling that you’re running out of time, besides you still have a massive list of tasks to complete. In the past, my natural inclination was to do the latter and, in the end, I would be left feeling burnt out with my spirits down.

Lately I’ve been running around preparing for several major changes in my life. I’ve felt my mind becoming consumed by the problems revolving around these changes. My eating schedule became irregular and my decisions felt clouded. When my clarity started to fizzle, I found myself making decisions and judgments based on emotions rather than on logic or intuition arising out of clarity.

The following is a simple technique I’ve used to reconnect myself to what’s most important: my inner self. In doing so, Clarity came.

Clarity Day

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a Spiritual Day or a Clarity Day, in which you spend the whole day disconnected from the information world and the many distractions of modern life, and start to connect within yourself.

If this sounds too mystical, don’t get caught up with the words, they are just linguistic symbols to communicate ideas. When you really get into such a day, it can become a source of great bliss and understanding of one’s self. During these times, we can experience tremendous personal growth, peace, and satisfaction.

This is also the perfect chance to clear out the noise and mental clutter that collects in our inner space from the hectic demands of our life. Through better understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, we gain more than clarity, we gain self confidence.

Similar to Self Dates or Alone Time, on a Clarity Day your goal is to spend an enjoyable day on your own and away from everyday distractions. Aim for minimal planning, so that you spend the day following your heart and enjoying the spontaneous expressions of the present moment.

Here’s an example of how I spent this past Saturday, when I deeply needed clarity and to connect with myself:

  • Basics - From 8am to 8pm. I was doing everything on my own, without friends or family. All distractions such as cell phones, home phones, computers, and TVs, were turned off.
  • Salon - I’ve always enjoyed getting my hair done. My favorite salon straightens my hair at each appointment. I sat there with my eyes closed and enjoyed being there. The girls kept asking me if I needed a magazine, and I would say “No thanks. I’m happy just sitting here.”
  • Walk - I walked out of the downtown Salon and drifted randomly uphill to the Capital Hill neighborhood. The day was so beautiful. I enjoyed looking up at the sky and passing by families of tourists and Saturday shoppers.
  • Café - I found a comfortable corner seat by the large windows at a local café. I pulled out my book and my journal. Periodically, I would sit back with my book in my lap and enjoy watching people. People are so interesting, and if you try, you can sense what people are feeling. I had a fantastic seat for people watching and deeply enjoyed the experience.
  • Meet a Stanger - I started talking with an interesting new friend who sat next to me. We talked about happiness, art, and creativity. It was very simulating and felt good to connect with another human being; they add meaning and dimension to your life.
  • Read - I read Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. A short but enlightening read. It is full of bite sized wisdom to help find the stillness within you.
  • Meditation - 35 minute guided meditation. When I opened my eyes after the meditation, I felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. I felt calm and happy. I followed this up by lying down on my yoga mat and visualizing all of the things I am grateful for. I got up feeling incredibly centered and present.
  • Journaling - with my new found clarity, I wrote out my thoughts and feelings. In doing this, it gave me a chance to organize my thoughts (which were the source of my problems), along with options for dealing with them. I’ve learned that recording emotional events and personal realizations in a journal can be a fulfilling experience. Especially when you read the entries several years later.

I stepped out of the day in a peaceful state and had regained my clarity. I felt like my spirit had been recharged. It also became clear that my problems are only as big as I perceive them to be, in my mind.

How to Start

Despite the unplanned mantra of a Clarity Day, some level of planning is still beneficial for the sake of those around us. Here are some simple steps to start incorporating these blissful days into your life.

1. Time - Set aside a full day (8 hours minimum). Setup an appointment with yourself. Block out the time on your calendar, if necessary.

2. Communication - Let people know what you are doing, especially people you live with. You can either coordinate with your spouse, such that they are away from the house during this time, or you can plan to be away.

3. Turn off All Distractions - Turn off the TV, phones, blackberries, computers, radios and video games. Reduce exposure to public media: put away the newspapers, magazines, & fliers.

4. List Ideas - Answer the questions “What do I enjoy doing? What would I want to do if I had the time? What activities do I want to try?” List all your ideas down on paper. Making a list is not absolutely necessary, but it will encourage you to look forward to your day, and it also provides guidance if you aren’t sure what you want to do. The only rule is that these activities cannot involve the devices you’ve turned off in step 3.

5. Follow Your Heart - Go out and start doing these things. When you feel that you are done doing something, ask yourself “What do I feel like doing now?” If you are unsure, refer to the list you’ve created from step 4.

6. Awareness - Become present and enjoy everything that you are doing, as you are doing it. When you find your mind wondering off, bring your awareness back to the activity you are doing. For example, if you are taking a walk, bring awareness to your every step, or bring awareness to the details of your surroundings: the people passing by, the trees, the sky, the sidewalks, etc.

7. Remember to Breathe - Remember to take deep breathes. This will help you relax.

8. Wins & Realizations - Throughout the day, or at the end of the day, write out what you’ve learned about yourself, or other self realizations. Everything we experience can be taken as a learning experience; either as a lesson of appreciation or to gain wisdom and understanding.

Ideas for Clarity Day

The steps are pretty simple. Any activity that you enjoy not involving exposure to media will do wonders for your personal wellbeing.

clarity-day2.jpg
Photo by Kara Pecknold

If you need, here are some ideas of potentially enjoyable activities to get you started.

  • Brain Dump - Start writing on a piece of loose paper all the random thoughts coming out of your head. Write everything down, without editing, as fast as you can. It’s interesting to see the randomness of the clutter in our mind, often full of worry.
  • Hiking - Spend a few hours communing with nature.
  • Biking - Ride your bike around the city or park.
  • Working Out - Head to the gym and get a good workout.
  • Swimming & Running- great stress releases and excellent cardio workouts.
  • Writing in a Journal - Record your thoughts and current state of mind in a journal.
  • Yoga Class - Take a yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio. Alternatively, get a beginner’s yoga DVD. I recommend Rodney Yee.
  • Book Store - Browse through a bookstore.
  • Clean Up - Take some time to clean up and clear out the physical clutter in your living space.
  • Read a Book - Curl up with a good book you’ve wanted to read. I prefer inspirational books on these types of days.
  • Reorganize - Reorganize your bookshelf or CD collection
  • Listen to Music - Put on something you enjoy and try just sitting there listening to the music. Put all your awareness into the sound, and take notice of how your body is responding to the sound.
  • Meditation and Breathing - Try a guided meditation or spend 10-30 minutes in silence. Close your eyes and put all your awareness onto your breath. When you find your mind wandering off with random thoughts (and it will), simply let go of any self-criticism and return your focus back to your breath.
  • People Watch - Sit quietly at a café, restaurant or park, and observe the people around you, the people walking past you.
  • Draw a Picture - draw or paint. If you believe that you can’t draw, I highly recommend this book.
  • Take 100 Photos - Select a random number, say 100. Go out with a camera and take 100 pictures.
  • Sitting Outside - On a nice day, sit on your patio or balcony with a refreshing drink. Alternatively, go to a peaceful park. Feel yourself relaxing.

  • Communing with Nature - If you have access to a body of water or a stream, or views of mountains, or access to a forest, be with them. Sit in front of them and admire their enormity. Connecting with nature helps us to connect with ourselves.
  • Spend Time with your Pet - Take your pet on a walk. Play with them and pet them. If you have a dog, teach them a new trick or take them to a doggie class.
  • Stretch
  • Discover Your Life Purpose
  • Goal Setting - Write out your goals. For each goal, list out a set of sub goals which contributes to the larger goal. For each sub goal, list out a set of small projects to help you achieve them. For each project, list out a series of tasks and action items. Prioritize the tasks. Schedule to execute the tasks.
  • Soak in a Bath - This can be quite a relaxing and enjoyable experience. I prefer to listen to soft music and do some simple visualization while in the tub.
  • Visit the Zoo - Random, but can be fun. Brings out the child in you.
  • Simplify Your Life - Gather unwanted or unused stuff into a box. Donate it.
  • Visit the Library - Remember to avoid the magazine section on this day.
  • Gardening - Spend a few hours puttering in the backyard.
  • Gratitude - Focus on the things you are thankful for. You can either list them out verbally or write them out on a piece of paper.
  • Get a Massage - Threat yourself to a massage. You can often get discounted prices from a massage school clinic.
  • Symphony - Attend a symphony or local music event.
  • Meet 2 Strangers - Make it a goal to meet X number of strangers. I picked 2 randomly.
  • Do your laundry
  • Mindful Eating - Cook a healthy meal and practice eating mindfully: Take a small bite, put the fork down, and focus all your attention on the food in your mouth. Pick up the fork only when you have completely swallowed the last bite. When your mind wanders, bring your awareness back to the food or your breath.
  • Dance in the Living Room
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