A little over a month ago, I decided to create a new ritual. This new ritual combined creativity with mindfulness, plus a little special time with Milly — every Monday morning we sit down with our watercolors and paint.
Milly usually draws rainbows; I usually create more abstract designs. While I’m painting, I’m also searching for a mantra to guide me through the week — an energetic co-pilot.
The word “Mantra” in sanskrit, phrase or a word that gives guidance or direction for thoughts or actions.
If you take apart the word mantra, there is “man”, which means “to think” or “thoughts” and “tra” which means a device or a machine or a mechanism. So a mantra is a mechanism for guiding or processing thoughts.
I’ve been using these mantras each week to help me navigate the challenges of parenting, running my business, and living my life. They have been enormously helpful and I especially enjoy the ritual of creating art to initiate the mantra-making.
This week, I came up with the mantra “Keep It Simple.”
Already, within 24 hours of creating the mantra, I managed to completely trash it which is a fairly easy task since I happen to be the queen of complexity.
Instead of keeping it simple, I spent the day trying to multitask in an attempt to be efficient. I ended up burning some beets, ruining the corn I was going to use for corn soup the following day, and made a huge mess in the kitchen with almost nothing to show for it.
I lost my temper at both kids, in part because I was frustrated with things they were doing (or not doing) and in part because I was frustrated with myself for the kitchen failures, as well as my non-existent outdoor time today (a total of about 5 minutes, including the time it took me to take the photo of me and Archer in child’s pose in my backyard.
I worked a lot during the day, which also meant I didn’t spend as much time with my kids or almost any time outside. Instead, I stood at my computer, trying to listen to an interview from an online program I am registered for while trying to send out emails.
I taught a yoga class online, did a facebook live video on my new mantra (oh the irony), and led an online coaching circle for my Essentials program. I felt accomplished but also exhausted. Even my personal yoga practice was cluttered with intricate, complicated flows that made me feel creative but not so centered.
I had crammed a lot into my day and while much of it felt meaningful and important, I also hadn’t taken as much time for myself to pause and breathe.
So after finally getting both kids to fall asleep, I sat down and reflected on my day. I gave myself a little space to process and to think about what “keeping it simple” actually means to me and why I find it so important, yet so elusive.
Simplicity is hard for me because I want to get a lot done. I want to feel accomplished. I want to make the most of my time. If I am “keeping it simple,” my brain is thinking “do less.” While “do less” is appealing because I no longer want to feel frantic or overwhelmed or stressed out, it also feels a bit like not doing enough.
At the end of the day, though, I have 3 things that are of the highest priority to me: Eat delicious, fresh, healthy foods, move my body in a way that makes me feel fantastic, and spend quality time with my family.
If I’m not doing all of those things OR I’m feeling stress around them instead of joy and comfort, it’s usually because I am making them more complex and busy, instead of paring down and simplifying.
I spent some time journaling about what simplicity looks and feels like to me.
I also came up with a few tips for my fellow complexity queens:
1. No more multitasking.
Especially at dinner. Or when food is involved. Or ever. Focus on one task at a time and do a really, really, really good job doing that one thing instead of scattering your focus and not really doing any of it well.
2. Take breaks.
If you are a complexity queen, you probably haven’t taken an intentional break for a long time. Maybe ever. After you’ve accomplished a task, do something completely different. For me, this is going outside and doing a handstand or 5, if I’ve just finished a lot of work on the computer.
3. Make the little stuff easier.
For me, this is running the dishwasher at night instead of hand washing, especially when I’m solo-parenting. I used to never run the dishwasher and used it as a very large, very fancy, double level drying rack. Now I let it do it’s job, which makes my life considerably simpler and less stressful.
Not sure what this would be in your life? Think of one task that stresses you out or adds time to your life that makes that time of day or the actions around it, harder.
4. Get rid of distractions
Oof. This one is hard. It means not having multiple windows open on your computer or not checking your phone while using your computer or not listening to an audio recording (not music, but talking) while responding to emails or listening. Basically, not dividing the focus of your brain between 2 or more important tasks.
Listening to music or a podcast while I chop veggies is fine. Listening to an audio recording of a continuing education program I am participating in while doing anything else, is not fine. My mind will be more focused on what I am doing with my hands and will tune out the important pieces of what I am listening to.
5. Give in, sometimes.
Instead of the automatic no, say yes. This is an old improv trick that actually works reasonably well in life. “No” stops the action — the flow. As soon as you say “no”, it provokes an angry response or might require you or the person asking for something to come up with a new thing. “No” adds time whereas “yes,” allows you to move forward immediately.
Obviously there are times it is 100% ok or necessary to say NO. Obviously this is not a hard, fast rule, which is why I say, give in, sometimes not just give in. Also, these are not rules, but tips. So there’s also that.
6. Don’t try to plug all of the holes.
All this means is if you have some free time in your day or in your week, don’t feel compelled to fill it up. Maybe just have space. Sit and stare out the window. Read a book. Create art. Watch silly youtube videos of acrobatic dogs.
Don’t add. Just be.
Keep It Simple.
Am I missing any important suggestions for the complexity queens? Any recovering complexity queens want to share your insights here? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
And I’ll be doing a live broadcast every Monday sharing my Conscious Healthy Mantra of the week, so don’t forget to tune in every Monday at 12pm EST.