I have a ridiculously passionate desire to live a happy life. And as a former athlete who trained for hours and hours to attempt to make the Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing, and a sports marketing and television executive who climbed the corporate ladder, I can tell you that finding happiness is no different than achieving mega-success. It takes commitment, and practice.
I didn’t decide to merrily walk down this path to find happiness. I was pushed down it, when I contracted Lyme disease in my mid-30’s. In less than a year, I not only lost the ability to excel in sports, but to walk, think, or function without pain. All the characteristics that defined ‘me’ — ‘super Mom/wife,’ uber-athlete, and ‘iron chef,’ disappeared. It was both terrifying and freeing. And when I began to heal with the help of both eastern wisdom, and western medicine, I realized that this ‘self-image’ that I tried to hold onto through my illness, was what caused me the most pain. Letting go of it was the path to my happiness. Why do we construct a self-image? And why is being insignificant so terrifying? Can we truly care for others when we spend so little time caring for ourselves? Is getting sick how we get well? These were questions I sought to answer. So I spent the next 15 years learning about the body/mind connection, using meditation and mindfulness practices to understand how thoughts, and beliefs influence our physical and emotional health.
Thanks to the magnificent teachers I’ve learned from over the past years, I’ve been gifted the opportunity to introduce and teach mindfulness and conscious leadership at eBay, The Aspen Institute, The Watson Caring Science Institute, and World Caring Conference, the Conscious Capitalism Summit, New York City’s ‘Peaceweek,’ and with private clients who share my passion to transform the world from the inside out.
Here’s a simple practice I do at home, on airplanes, in the car, anytime, that instantly settles me into a ridiculously calm and and happy place!
Alternate Nasal Breathing
1. With right hand, fold down index finger and middle finger to the palm of the hand, next to thumb. Place thumb lightly on rightnostril, ring finger lightly on left nostril.
2. Gently press and close right nostril with thumb and inhale through the left nostril for a count of 3….”1,2,3.” Now block left nostril with ring finger, release thumb on right nostril, and exhale for 6 counts…”1,2,3,4,5,6. Inhale through right nostril 3 counts. Block with thumb, and exhale through left nostril. Inhale through left nostril, exhale through right, inhale through right, then back to left. Do this either 12 times, a circuit begins with inhale on right, and ends with exhale on right.
A couple secrets…smile to increase the feeling of well being, gently “puff” the belly on the inhale, draw navel toward the spine on exhale, and feel the nervous system being stimulated. For deeper experience, increase the count…inhale for 10, exhale for 20. Relax, enjoy, have fun!
We can use breathing meditation to deepen our ability to dwell in deep states of calmness and concentrated awareness. Staying with the breath no matter what ultimately leads to deep experiences of calmness and awareness.” Jon Kabat-Zinn