In this Journey Community feature, we’re chatting with Chris Adamo, Chief Business Officer at WhereBy.Us, a media and technology company that helps the world’s curious locals understand and explore their cities. Whether it’s through his business ventures, his move to Miami, or even the Hawaiian shirt on his back, you’ll learn that Chris is bold in everything he does.
Sarah Komers is a triple threat - Mom, Entrepreneur, and Meditator. Sarah is the founder of Mom Culture, a lifestyle shop selling fun and relatable merchandise such as t-shirts that say “Mother” and coffee mugs stating “Raising Tiny Humans is Exhausting”. Not only is she making the world a better place one mom mug at a time, she’s also building a community that empowers and supports moms in their journey of raising good humans.
From starting company meetings off with a Journey LIVE session to encouraging her 12-year old daughter to meditate before school, Sarah has made meditation and Journey LIVE an integral part of her personal and professional life. We were excited to be able to chat with Sarah to learn more about her and her meditation practice.
Summertime can be a much-needed break from our overly scheduled lives. This summer, resist the temptation to fill up your summer schedule with activities. Instead, try these ideas to truly enjoy those beautiful summer days, giving yourself and your children the gift of slowing down and being more present.
Take a moment and count to 5. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Now, think back to the last time you felt overwhelmed, out of control or generally triggered. In that moment did you offer yourself the opportunity to breathe and be still for a few seconds? Or did you dig into the distraction and begin to spiral out? First, let me say there are no wrong answers here. Whether you gave yourself the pause, used every bit of your imagination to spiral into worst-case scenarios or fell somewhere in between; it’s all good. We’re all learning what it takes to show up in our fullness from moment to moment.
One of the most essential skills we are building in a mindfulness practice is the power of concentration. In our modern, busy world, we are constantly distracted and our attention is continually being drawn in many different directions. We live in a state of continuous partial attention. This is exhausting and stressful. And, when we need to focus our attention, we often have trouble “turning off” all those distracting thoughts and reigning in our attention. Mindfulness practice, in which we are learning to intentionally bring our attention to the present moment and hold it there, builds our power of concentration and offers many benefits to our health and wellbeing.
My dear friend playfully refers to the obvious moments of self-awareness as “duh, jerk” moments—and the scientific fact that we need sleep for peak performance certainly qualifies as a “duh, jerk.” The CDC has shown that we need sleep for cognitive sharpness and that we’re chronically sleep-deprived. And while it’s annoying if one of our kids or a tossing and turning partner has denied us some shuteye, it can also be life-threatening.
The First Step In Meditation
There are several ways to approach a meditation practice. From reading a book, to learning from a teacher in-person, listening to audio recordings or downloading a mindfulness-based app.
Regardless of your in-roads to the practice, and no matter the style of meditation, I have consistently noticed that there is one step any and every new meditator must take. This step is all about laying the groundwork and creating stability in order for the mind to be able to meditate.
As a New Yorker, I get it — we’re busy. I’m a long distance runner, and know that sometimes food is only fuel — calories consumed to keep our bodies in movement. I’ve squeezed plenty of packets of electrolytes in my mouth while running, and for lunch today I microwaved a burrito while taking a conference call and reviewing train times for my next appointment. But I also love cooking and eating. And, news flash: mindfulness is not a speed, it’s an attitude of curiosity and compassion for whatever’s happening.
Mindful Eating is often thought of as the classic “slow eating of a raisin” exercise made famous by Thich Nhat Hanh and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training. It’s a wonderful way to pay attention to the subtleties of eating.
Peace of mind, defined as “a feeling of being safe or protected,” is not something that is bestowed upon us when, say, all our ducks are in a row, or external circumstances are calm and harmonious. Peace of mind can be cultivated in the most turbulent times; amidst the most turbulent emotions. It is a continuously cultivated quality. One breath at a time.
Showing kindness to ourselves can be one of the more challenging practices to commit to. Life happens, challenges arise, we get busy, and it is only illness, fatigue, burn out, and moments of overwhelm that ask us, with urgency, to prioritize self-care. Yet, by living in a human body we have every tool needed to support ourselves in sustainable well-being.
One of the simplest means of showing kindness to ourselves is to create personal rituals. Rituals are a single action or series of actions that are meaningful and performed the same each time. Rituals are tools that offer us space to pause, honor ourselves, and become present.
When life gets really busy it can feel like you’re always catching up on your to-do list. Even when there isn’t much going on, your mind may default to a pattern of restlessness.
For greater mental clarity, it’s important to develop your practice. Here are 4 strategies to help you manage a restless mind:
The holiday season is heralded as the most wonderful time of the year, and certainly there is a whimsical and romantic quality to it all. However, along with the celebration comes the inevitable stresses of family, travel, the closing down a year, and the anticipation of another one. If you wake up a little less merry and a little more Grinch, you are not alone. More than that, you have the capacity to support yourself through the mindfulness practice. Taking a moment to reset through breath, movement, and awareness.
The simple practice of Loving-Kindness has come to be one of the easiest and most powerful ways to bring happiness to others, thereby multiplying my own. The brief act of sending out well wishes to all by silently communicating a sentiment such as, “May I be happy and free. May he/she be happy and free. May all beings be happy and free” is a practice I can do anytime, anywhere.
Often, we find ourselves holding back from saying certain things to people, but when it comes to our own inner dialogue -- we have no filter. Think back to a time where you were feeling down even though you knew you were being too hard on yourself. Fortunately, by paying attention to our inner dialogue, we can free ourselves from self-doubt and become more comfortable with who we are. Here are 3 ways to stop negative self-talk:
Think back to the last time you had a conversation with someone and it truly felt like the other person was giving you 100% of their attention. It feels good, right? You probably opened up more and felt a better connection with the person. For some people, this comes more naturally, while others have to be intentional about mastering the art of mindful communication.
Have you ever had an “aha!” moment when you least expected it? Maybe you were in the shower, on a run, or simply drinking your morning coffee when suddenly... the answer became clear. There’s a reason why these breakthrough ideas strike at strange times and it’s most often when you have a clear mind.
In order to do your most creative work, you have to silence any anxious and stressful thoughts, especially if you have external pressure like pending deadlines. The good news is you can learn to distance these negative thoughts, while your creative mind goes to work.
To find out how others stay creative under stress, we reached out to:
Kevin Huynh, Partner at People & Company
Ramon Mortiz, Senior Associate at iProspect
David Li, Technician and Fulfillment Specialist at KeyMe
Here’s what they had to say about distancing anxious thoughts and letting your mind be creative:
Identify Anxious Thoughts
“What’s the first thing you do when you find your mind racing from anxiety and stress?”
Once you notice your mind start to race take a moment to pause and breathe. Try to assess the situation. Ramon suggests considering your “current situation, emotions, [and] thoughts,” by asking questions like:
How did I get to this point?
Why am I thinking this?
Where did this feeling come from?
You can also try writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Kevin finds “that putting [his] thoughts into words helps [him] reflect on what [he’s] feeling and why [he] feels that way.”
Put Things Into Perspective
“How do you silence these anxious and stressful thoughts?”
A common thread among the contributing influencers is to always put everything into perspective. For some, this means introspective reflection, while for others it means talking things out with a close friend.
Kevin says, “nothing silences stressful thoughts like talking them out with someone I trust. Often those discussions with my partner or business partner don't change the circumstances but they put seemingly overwhelming things into perspective.”
Priority Over Pressure
“When you have other tasks to complete, how do you focus on the task at hand rather than the building pressure?”
For Kevin, his “good days start with lists”. Especially when times get busy, Kevin proactively makes lists for each day of the week. However, we all know how easy a to-do list can quickly get out of hand.
This is why it’s important to focus on the present moment says David. He highlights the importance of tackling each task one-by-one even though it can feel “almost paralyzing to focus on whatever you may have on your plate at the moment.
Here are some best practices for writing your to-do list:
Include work-related and personal items
It’s important to make sure you complete all of your work. It’s even more important that you maintain good physical and mental health. Make time for yourself.
Identify urgent versus important items
This helps you determine which items need to be prioritized first, while others can wait until a more appropriate time. Focus on the urgent problems first.
You can read more about writing sensible to-do lists here.
Enjoy the Moment
“Do you have any exercises or habits or hobbies that help you clear your mind and prevent stress from wearing you down?”
Everyone has an activity, hobby, or something you enjoy doing. It’s important that you make time for yourself and these types of activities. For Kevin it’s cooking; he says, “cooking is rejuvenating. There's something about preparing, creating, and consuming food that makes me feel more like me.”
Have you ever felt like the answer was right in front of you all along? When making a major life decision, it’s easy to overthink your options. All the “what-ifs” and “buts” can make it seem like there is no right decision -- it happens to the best of us.
Sometimes the best path forward is clearly defined, while other times it’s not. Fortunately, a proactive, mindful approach can help you see your options clearly to make the best choice moving forward.
A Process for Mindful Problem Solving
Before you make any major life decision, it’s important that you take a moment to slow things down. Breathe. It’s natural to feel emotionally charged when there is some sort of stake on the line. Don’t get caught up trying to uncover the “right” and “wrong” answers. You will naturally identify the best solution as you ask yourself these 5 questions:
1. What is your challenge?
The first step is to define the problem you are trying to solve. This is typically the major life decision you are trying to make. From choosing a field of study, career path, life partner, and more. You want to be crystal clear about what it is you are trying to solve.
Try asking yourself questions like:
What’s the challenge you are facing?
Why is this a challenge that must be addressed now?
What important details am I dealing with?
What do I want the outcome to be?
What bothers you about the problem?
What doesn’t bother you?
Who is involved?
Where does the problem occur?
When does it happen?
Why is it happening?
How does it happen?
How does it make you feel?
How do you react/respond?
Sometimes the problem you are facing will be very clear and already pre-defined. Other times the problem may be vague or require more effort to put it into words.
2. What are your possible outcomes?
Now it’s time to brainstorm all of the possible solutions to your challenge. It’s natural for our minds to focus on one “ideal solution”, but it’s important to let your mind search for multiple solutions. Think of this as an opportunity to brainstorm possible outcomes you may not have previously thought of.
To help you get started try thinking about solutions in terms of what it looks like you doing, feeling, and seeing. Focus both on what you do want to happen, as well as what you do not want to happen. Decide on your top 3 possible outcomes and keep these in mind.
3. What are your strategies to achieve these outcomes?
This is where you develop your ideas to craft a truly workable solution -- a plan you can implement to overcome your challenge. Try to think of as many strategies as you can for each of your 3 possible solutions from the previous step. These are actions you can take that will help you achieve a particular outcome. Remember, any idea is fair game at this point. Don’t criticize the merits of your ideas at this stage... we will get to that!
4. What are the consequences of your strategies?
In order to determine the best plan of action moving forward, consider the likelihood of success for each of your strategies from the previous step. Once you’ve done that, consider which of your outcomes from Question #2, has the most strategies that are likely to succeed. Of course, you’ll need to implement a specific strategy, but this is where you’ll have the best chances of success.
5. How can you implement this plan of action?
Now that you’ve arrived at a specific strategy to achieve a particular outcome, the final piece of the puzzle is to put it into action. Break your strategy down into a series of steps that take you from your current situation to your chosen outcome. By this point, you’ll have made a very intentional, mindful decision about the best course of action to overcome any challenge.
There are two types of exercise critical to reaching your peak performance in life: mental and physical. Physical exercise is organized, premeditated, focused physical movement that is intended to achieve a set of fitness goals. Common physical exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and yoga. With repetition, you get better over time.
Mental exercise is a bit more complicated. Your brain is active 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The brain is a super-powered processing machines constantly analyzing your external environment, while commanding your bodily functions. Your brain also regulates emotions, stores memories, and processes information both consciously and subconsciously. Just like physical activity, there is a distinction between brain activity and mental exercise.
Mental exercises are challenging. They require more cognitive power and eat up more energy. They are also the activities that make you smarter. Some examples include learning a new instrument, studying for a test, strategizing a new business model, and even reading for long periods of time.
Mutually Exclusive or Complementary?
What you may have noticed is that these examples of physical and mental exercise are not mutually exclusive. To play piano, you need to think about which notes to play and move your fingers and feet accordingly. To swim a proper breaststroke, you have to apply a learned technique to move efficiently and get better.
It is important to understand the difference between mental and physical exercise to understand an even more powerful type of exercise - the mind body connection.
The Mind Body Connection
Going as far back as ancient Greece, people believed that the mind and body were deeply intertwined. Medicine and sports were predicated on the idea that our bodies and minds depend on each other for peak performance. This notion was almost lost at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but has come back to popularity. Scientists in modern times have found again and again that the body and mind are a synchronized unit. For example, what separates Olympic athletes from recreational athletes is not their superior bodies; it’s actually their ability to make decisions on the fly, and command their muscles accordingly. Vice versa.
Here’s another example. Think back to the last time you were very hungry and trying to work. Not easy right? A body that’s properly fed, hydrated, and has stable glucose levels feeds a sharper, more focused, and calmer mind.
Though we do not yet fully understand the connectivity between the mind and body, it is a growing topic in a variety of fields from meditation to physiology to fitness. Peak performers, doctors and scientists all want to know how this relationship works. One thing is for sure. If you want to reach your peak performance in life, it’s critical to find a happy balance between mental and physical exercise.
Ever notice how you seem to find workout tips at every turn? Magazine articles at the checkout counter promise “5 ab exercises to get shredded”. Or the guy on the YouTube ad before your video has “the secret to weight loss in 30 days or less”. While each of these likely contain effective exercises, a good workout always starts with listening to your body.
How do you define a good workout?
For some it means burning lots of calories, while for others it’s all about lifting heavier weights, or running for a long time on the treadmill. At times, it can be hard to measure what counts as a good workout. Despite personal metrics there is one thing that’s the same for everyone. When you have a good workout, you feel great afterwards. To feel great after every workout and avoid getting lost in all the workout “information overload”, try listening to your body.
Tune Into Your Physical Self
Before you begin your workout take some time to sit or stand still. You can even do this laying down, which is a great option. Do a full body scan starting from the bottoms of your feet and make your way to the top of your head. Take your time, as the entire scan can take anywhere from one to three minutes.
Plan Your Workout Accordingly
After you’ve done your scan, you can choose which types of exercise would complement your body today. Maybe your shoulders are sore right now, but your core feels rested. In that case, you can make the workout about stretching your shoulders, loosening them up with some cardio, and focusing the hard exercises on your abs.
The Difference Between Good And Bad Pain
While you’re performing the hard exercises, you’ll likely experience a certain amount of pain. If you plan your workout by listening to your body, it’s probably good pain. Your heart will pound and your muscles will burn, but you’ll feel alive, strong, and vital while you workout. Bad pain is different. If you’re working out and feel sharp discomfort, or you’re finding it difficult to muster the energy to continue, then consider giving that muscle a break.
The key is to notice the difference and honor what your body is telling you. Although a good workout starts with the right mindset, it begins with awareness of your body. By choosing to listen, you are allowing yourself to become more self aware, cultivating a practice that will give you true lifelong fitness.