Monthly Archives

January 2017

Wanting Someone Else to Fulfill Our Lives

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By Leo Babauta

I have a friend who is lonely, who has such a good heart and desperately wants to find a partner who appreciates that goodness, to share a life with.

We have all felt this, I’m guessing: this desire for a deep connection, this hope that another person will just get us and want an intimate relationship with us, the idea that if we could just find this person and merge with them, we’d be fulfilled.

What if we tossed that idea out on its head?

What if everything we need for happiness and fulfillment is within us?

What if all the requirements for fulfillment were in this very moment, not in some imagined ideal future?

What if the idea of a romantic partner who is perfect (because of their imperfections!) and who fills our every need is just a fantasy that isn’t helping us?

The truth is that even those of us who have partners know that it’s not all honeymoon, and in fact a long-term relationship contains a lot of struggle. The fulfillment that we get in life ends up (mostly) not coming from the other person, but from ourselves.

What would it be like if we let go of this fantasy of a fulfilling partner, this fantasy of a better future … and instead focused on finding fulfillment in the here and now, within ourselves?

Where We Get Fulfillment

Another person isn’t going to fulfill us — at best, they’ll make us feel better about ourselves, and listen to us. The listening part is great, but we can get that from friends or family as well. The feeling better about ourselves is a function we can fulfill on our own as well. I’m not saying a partner is useless, but I am saying that a partner isn’t needed for fulfillment.

So how can we fulfill ourselves, by ourselves?

Well, what brings fulfillment? In my experience, focusing on pleasures like food, entertainment, online distractions, sex, drugs, alcohol, and thrills … these only bring temporary pleasure, but in the end you’re left wanting more.

Fulfillment comes from something deeper — finding meaning in life, finding appreciation for the fleeting beauty of every moment, being in service of others, loving.

But we don’t need a partner for those things. We can find meaning by searching within ourselves and in the world around us. We can start to appreciate the impermanence and joyful moments around us all the time. We can be in service of others in our community. We can love anyone, from those already in our lives (even if they don’t know we’re doing it) to strangers on the street, to all living beings.

Fulfillment From Within

What if we could do all these things just sitting here, doing nothing?

What if this very moment contained all we need for fulfillment?

Try looking within:

  • Stop and be still. Sit and do nothing, finding stillness and just noticing the moment.
  • Notice your body, your breath, emotions that happen in your body (like a tightness in your chest, or a warmth in your heart area), your thoughts.
  • See that there is constant change within you, and a loving goodness as well.
  • Fall in love with all that you see, from the emotions and thoughts to the body and breath, from the impermanence to the underlying goodness.
  • Reflect on a desire to be in service of yourself, and others.
  • Cultivate a love for yourself and all others by radiating a wish for everyone, including yourself, to be free of suffering, to be happy, to find joy.
  • Reflect on your innate connection to others — reflect on how others support your life, how the food that nourishes you is brought to you by thousands of others, how you’ve been created into the person you are because of the influences of every person you’ve met and connected with. This web of connections is how you are always a part of everything and everyone around you, a deep connection that is ever-changing and everlasting.
  • Reflect on your surroundings and in the constant change and beauty that is in every single thing, in the ocean of matter and energy that you are a part of.

These and more are always available, right now and in every moment, in you and all around you.

This practice can bring fulfillment, and nothing is required but attention, appreciation, gratitude and love. You have that in you.

Approaching Life with Beginner’s Mind

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By Leo Babauta

A lot of our troubles could be solved by one simple practice.

A lot of joy could be found with the same practice.

And it is simple: practice seeing life with a beginner’s mind.

I’m stealing this of course from Zen Buddhism’s shoshin and Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, and I’ve written about it numerous times. But it’s more fundamental than most people realize.

It’s not just something you practice when you’re learning something — though dropping the “expert’s mind” and seeing the learning as a beginner is an important practice in learning. It’s something you can practice every single moment of the day (if you can remember to do so).

What is beginner’s mind? It’s dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a beginner. If you’ve ever learned something new, you can remember what that’s like: you’re probably confused, because you don’t know how to do whatever you’re learning, but you’re also looking at everything as if it’s brand new, perhaps with curiosity and wonder. That’s beginner’s mind.

But imagine if you could apply this to every activity. Take eating breakfast, for example:

  • You start by seeing the activity of eating with fresh eyes, as if you don’t know what to expect, as if you hadn’t done it thousands of times already.
  • You really look at the food, the bowl, the spoon, and try to see the details that you might not normally notice.
  • You truly notice the textures, tastes, smells, sights of the food, pay close attention as if you don’t already know how the food will taste. Everything seems new, perhaps even full of wonder.
  • You don’t take anything for granted, and appreciate every bite as a gift. It’s temporary, fleeting, and precious.

As you can see, this practice of beginner’s mind transforms the activity.

Why It Matters

When you practice beginner’s mind with an activity:

  • Better experiences: You aren’t clouded by prejudgments, preconceptions, fantasies about what it should be or assumptions about how you already know it will be. When you don’t have these, you can’t be disappointed or frustrated by the experience, because there’s no fantasy or preconception to compare it to.
  • Better relationships: If you are talking to someone else, instead of being frustrated by them because they aren’t meeting your ideal, you can see them with fresh eyes and notice that they’re just trying to be happy, that they have good intentions (even if they’re not your intentions), and they are struggling just like you are. This transforms your relationship with the person.
  • Less procrastination: If you’re procrastinating on a big work task, you could look at it with beginner’s mind and instead of worrying about how hard the task will be or how you might fail at it … you can be curious about what the task will be like. You can notice the details of doing the task, instead of trying to get away from them.
  • Less anxiety: If you have an upcoming event or meeting that you’re anxious about … instead of worrying about what might happen, you can open yourself up to being curious about what will happen, let go of your preconceived ideas about the outcome and instead embrace not knowing, embrace being present and finding gratitude in the moment for what you’re doing and who you’re meeting.

As you can see, the practice of beginner’s mind can transform any activity, get rid of a lot of our difficulties, allow us to be more flexible, open, curious, grateful, present.

I’m not saying all of this happens automagically. It takes practice, but it’s worth the practice.

How to Practice

Beginner’s mind is what we practice in meditation. Instead of sitting in meditation and thinking you know what your breath will be like, or the present moment in front of you will be like … you pay attention. See it with fresh eyes. Drop your preconceived ideas and just look clearly at what’s in front of you.

A daily meditation practice is extremely useful in developing this beginner’s mind. Here’s how to practice:

  1. Sit comfortably and upright in a quiet place.
  2. Pay attention to your body, then your breath, trying to see them clearly and freshly.
  3. When you notice yourself having preconceived ideas, wandering from the present moment, thinking you know how it will be … just notice that.
  4. See if you can drop the ideas and thoughts and fantasies and stories that are filling up your head. Empty yourself so you can see what’s actually in front of you. See what your breath is actually like, right now, instead of what you think it will be or what you’re thinking about.

Repeat the last few steps, over and over. See the thoughts and fantasies, empty yourself and see what’s actually there with fresh eyes.

You can practice this right now, with whatever is in front of you. With how your body feels, how your breath feels, whatever else is around you.

You can practice whenever you do any activity, from brushing your teeth to washing the dishes to walking and driving and working out and using your phone.

You can practice whenever you talk to another human being, dropping your ideas of how they should be and instead emptying your mind and seeing them as they are. Notice their good heart, their difficulties, and be grateful for them as they are. Love them for who they are and find compassion for their struggles.

This is the practice. Do it with a smile, and with love, with fresh eyes and gratitude for the only universe we’ll ever get — the actual one in front of us.

Finding Stillness

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By Leo Babauta

I’ve heard from many people who say, “I think too much,” or “I can’t get out of my own head.”

This is pretty common. Thinking isn’t the problem, but the struggle comes when we’re constantly spinning stories in our heads and getting caught up in them.

Our minds jump from one thing to another, seeking distraction or avoiding difficulty. We can’t focus, we can’t be present in the moment, and we feel the need to be constantly busy.

The answer, I’ve found, is finding stillness.

Our mental processes — jumping around and distraction and being caught up in stories — don’t have to cause anxiety, actually. They’re not only common, I think it’s the normal human condition. If this is how our minds are most of the time, then feeling afflicted by this condition is probably going to cause us constant anxiety.

Instead, I find it more helpful to learn to:

  • be aware of these mental conditions;
  • be present with the mental pattern and stay with it; and
  • work with the condition in a mindful way.

The only way to do all of that is to start with stillness.

A Moment of Stillness

Take a minute out of your busy day and try to do the following:

  1. Sit still and look away from all devices and other activities. Just sit there, maybe with your eyes closes, maybe looking at nature or a wall.
  2. Take a moment to assess your condition. How do you feel? Are you tired, anxious, frustrated, calm, happy? What state is your mind in?
  3. Assess how you’ve been behaving recently (today, or just in the last hour) … have you been constantly distracted? In a state of busyness? Focused? Procrastinating? Anxious or fearful? Irritated? Feeling down?
  4. Stay with these feelings for a moment, just being curious and non-judgmental about them.
  5. Face each of the feelings you’re noticing, and notice the mental pattern that caused it. If you’re frustrated, are you stuck in a resentful story about someone else or your current situation? If you’re anxious, is there some desired outcome that you’re holding tightly to? If you’re feeling down, are you comparing your situation with some ideal that you don’t have?
  6. Bring your attention to your body. How does it feel? What sensations can you notice in your head, neck, arms, hands, torso, hips, butt, legs, feet?
  7. Can you find gratitude in this moment? Can you find love or compassion, for yourself or others?

You don’t have to do all of these things each time you sit still, but these are all things you can try doing. Pick a couple and focus on them for a minute, then next time pick a couple more. Take a few deep breaths, then give yourself permission to return to work or whatever activity you’re doing.

Cultivating Stillness

As you can see, it just takes a minute of stillness to work with your spinning stories and other mental patterns. We can use this minute of stillness to bring less busyness and anxiety and more calmness, mindfulness and gratitude to our lives. It just takes a bit of cultivation.

Some ways to cultivate stillness in your life:

  • Set reminders to get away from technology for just a minute or two, and sit still somewhere.
  • Build time in your day for just sitting. It could be sitting meditation, or simply sitting somewhere pleasant and doing nothing.
  • Find time for disconnected reading — using a paper book or dedicated ebook reader.
  • Have tea in the morning or afternoon. Just sit and drink tea, noticing its smell, flavor, warmth.
  • Do a couple yoga poses — child’s pose for a minute or two, for example, or downward facing dog or pigeon’s pose. This can be a meditation, where you’re staying with your breath and body for a couple minutes and getting a stretch in as well.
  • Go for a walk. While this isn’t technically stillness, it’s moving your body in a healthy way while not allowing yourself to be distracted.

When you notice your mind racing, when you notice distractions and procrastination, when you notice anxiety or resentment … take a stillness break.

And in this stillness, notice all of the wonders of life that we take for granted.

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Zen Habits

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By Leo Babauta

Unbelievably, this month marks 10 years since I started Zen Habits. I’ve had an amazing decade, and I’d like to reflect on those years today.

I’ve seen so much change in the last 10 years that I can’t possibly reflect on all of it.

Just a few examples of how my life has changed:

  • Zen Habits became my career. I had a full-time job (and was a freelance writer) when I started the blog in January 2007, with no idea it would change my life. A few months in, I decided that Zen Habits could be my calling, and I went into it full bore. By the end of the year, I quit my day job and never looked back. It has been amazing and gratifying.
  • I published numerous books. By the end of 2007, I had my first book deal, and I published the Power of Less in 2008. I’ve also published numerous ebooks (some of which I’ve taken off the market) and self-published the limited-edition Zen Habits book and then Essential Zen Habits. Last year I published several ebooks. It’s one of my favorite things, writing and publishing a book. These past 10 years have made me so happy as a writer and book lover.
  • I launched Sea Change and numerous courses. I’ve had the honor of starting my membership program, Sea Change with so many amazing members changing their lives. In addition, I created a number of other video courses (including an upcoming course called Dealing with Struggles). I’ve been so happy to be able to teach this way.
  • My kids grew up. When I started the blog, I had kids who ranged in age from under 1 year old to 13. Today, I have three grown kids and one who’s almost 18. It’s been quite a decade watching them turn into their beautiful grown selves.
  • I traveled, a lot. When I started the blog, I’d barely traveled anywhere outside of Guam except the west coast of the U.S. Since then, I’ve traveled all over the world, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. I still have a lot of places I want to visit, but I feel awfully lucky to have been able to go where I’ve gone, and meet people from so many cultures.
  • I learned a lot about habits and mindfulness. I thought I knew a bit about mindfulness and creating habits, but I’ve learned about a hundred times as much through my own experiments and teaching habits and mindfulness to thousands of others. I’ve written books recently on what I’ve learned.
  • I moved from Guam to San Francisco and then Davis. When I started the blog, I’d never lived anywhere else as an adult but Guam (I lived on the U.S. west coast). But we made the huge move from Guam to San Francisco in 2010 with our six kids, and it was quite an adjustment and learning experience for all of us. We went car-free and explored California. We absolutely loved it, and yet we missed our home and family tremendously. Today we live in Davis, California, completely changed because of our moves.
  • Eva & I became vegan. I became vegetarian shortly before starting the blog, and Eva slowly transitioned to vegetarian by 2010. In 2012, we both went fully vegan for ethical reasons (not wanting to participate in animal cruelty) and we have never been happier.
  • I made great friends, and lost one. While I had wonderful family and some really good friends on Guam, when I moved to the Bay Area I formed some of my closest friendships. While we no longer live near each other, I still see many of them regularly and I love them with all my heart. One of those friends, Scott Dinsmore, died tragically in 2015, and I miss him dearly. He was a brother to me.
  • I lost two fathers, gained some family. My father died in the beginning of 2015, and Eva’s father died last month. These were terrible losses for our family. They still hurt to this day. That said, I gained some gorgeous nieces and nephews, and brothers-in-law, and I love them all deeply.

That’s just the start of the changes, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of big things. Honestly, I’m a completely different person and my life woiuld be unrecognizable now to my 33-year-old self. Life changes all the time, but for me it has felt like accelerated change.

This has been a decade of growth, loss, learning, fatherhood, loving, service and joy.

What I’ve Learned in 10 Years

It’s been a decade filled with learning for me … too many things to put into one post. But as I’ve been reflecting on it all, I have a dozen or so notes I’d like to share with you.

Some of the things I’ve learned, starting with personal lessons and ending with lessons about my business:

  1. Focus on intentions rather than goals. As you might know, I experimented with giving up goals after being very focused on goals for years. It was liberating, and it turns out, you don’t just do nothing if you don’t have a goal. You get up and focus on what you care about. Read more here. Instead, I’ve found it useful to focus less on the destination (goal) and instead focus on what your intention for each activity is. If you’re going to write something … instead of worrying about what the book will be like when you’re done, focus on why you want to write in the first place. If you are doing something out of love or to help others , for example, then you are freed from it needing to turn out a certain way (a goal) and instead can let it turn out however it turns out. I’ve found this way of working and living to be freeing and less prone to anxiety or procrastination.
  2. Small actions really add up. By focusing on getting out and going for a run each day, I ran several marathons and eventually an ultramarathon. By writing a blog post or part of a book chapter every day, I’ve written well over a thousand blog posts and many books, articles and courses. Small actions every day can really add up to a mountain.
  3. Working resistance is the key to habits. What I’ve learned in working with others is that most people fail at habits because of resistance. When the time comes to meditate or exercise or write, resistance arises and we procrastinate. I’ve written a whole book on overcoming this resistance, but until you start to face your resistance and become mindful of it, you won’t be able to overcome it.
  4. Working with attachments is the key to happiness. What gets in the way of happiness? Frustrations, anger, anxiety, feeling down, disappointment, procrastination, self criticism, getting caught up in our stories. The root of all of this is attachment to something — what we want, the way we want things, the way we think others should act. If we can let go of those attachments, we can be happier. I’ve been working for years to get better at being mindful of my (many) attachments, and letting go when I can.
  5. Mindfulness is the key to everything. If working with resistance is the key to habits, and working with attachments is the key to happiness … then mindfulness is the key to both of those things. And more. The deeper I dive into mindfulness, the more I find that you can’t really work with anything important without it. Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness for more.
  6. Health can be made simple. I’ve done all kinds of experiments to get fit and healthy, and they were all really interesting … but in the end, I’ve learned that only a few things really matter. Eat whole foods — my favorites are vegetables, beans & legumes, nuts, fruits, whole grains. And be active — my favorites are strength training, running, hiking, yoga, cycling and sports. I just pick one of these to do practically every day. In addition, floss, meditate, sleep. Each of these might seem hard, but if you just gradually work towards these simple things, you’ll get healthier over time.
  7. Consumerism & distractions require vigilance. The pull of distractions and urges to buy things (to solve problems or give us pleasure) is incredibly strong. Consumerism pulls on us every day, every time we watch TV, read online, see friends or strangers using products … and results in us owning too man possessions and getting too deep in debt. Distractions are a constant pull on our attention as well, pulling us away from what’s most important, taking attention away from the present moment. How do we overcome these powerful attractions? Constant vigilance: notice when you’re buying too much or becoming too distracted, and start becoming more conscious every day.
  8. Life is incredibly precious. The deaths of loved ones, and the growing up of young ones, are powerful reminders of how short life is. And how important it is to appreciate this gift we’ve been given. I really believe life is a miracle, and to take it for granted is kind of a crime. I do my best to realize the preciousness of life every day, and appreciate as many moments as I can. I try not to take my loved ones for granted, because I have no idea how many more moments I have with them.
  9. Focus on one small project at a time. I often have a bunch of projects on my radar, but I usually focus myself on one small project. A short ebook, a lesson for a course, the redesign of a website. If a project is too big, I make it smaller or focus on just one part of it. I like projects that take less than a month, and ideally just a week or two. Any longer, and it becomes overwhelming. By focusing on small projects, I stay focused, have lots of energy, and feel accomplished as I get things done. Btw, I know that this might seem contradictory to the goal-less method I mention above, but I honestly don’t focus too much on the goal (I hold loosely to them) and try to focus more on my intention.
  10. Copyright isn’t necessary. One year into doing this Zen Habits blog, I uncopyrighted the blog and all my books. It was a scary and liberating move, as no other bloggers or authors that I knew of were doing it at the time. But I really believe in the open-source software movement, and decided that none of the ideas that I write about are my original ideas — I steal them from people before me like everyone else. And though I don’t try to control my work through copyright, I can still sell my books and membership program. I’ve found that people appreciate the uncopyright, and seem happy to support me.
  11. Focus on what matters to the readers. I’ve learned that a lot of things that people seem to focus on for blogs, websites and businesses don’t really matter that much. For example, people track all kinds of visitor stats, focus on how many followers they get, and try all kinds of promotional tactics (like popup subscriptions). These don’t really matter. What matters most? Helping your readers/visitors. I got rid of blog stats and comments and advertising and most social media, and I just focus on writing articles (and books) that help my readers. This has freed me from obsessions and other distractions, and instead I have the happiness of trying to help people.
  12. My readers are incredible. These last 10 years have been a true wonder for me. Not only have I gotten to make a living doing what I really love, but I’ve learned so much from all of you. The kind emails I’ve gotten, the notes of sympathy or joy, the feedback and suggestions … it has meant the world to me. I can’t express how grateful I am for all of you. It has been a true joy writing for all of you, hearing from you, being your friend. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I could go on all day about what I’ve learned, but these are some of the ones that have mattered most to me. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!

Tenniversary Gifts

I thought about creating a gift for all of you on the 10-year anniversary of Zen Habits, as a thank you. But I just haven’t had the time, with our monthlong Guam trip (necessitated by the funeral last month). I am creating a new course called Dealing with Struggles that I think you will all love, but it’s not quite ready yet.

Instead, I will highlight my best offerings, as a hope that you will consider them a gift, or at least consider supporting me in some way:

  1. My Sea Change Program. I have worked for years to create the content in this program, and each month I offer a new monthly challenge with course content to accompany the challenge. I hope you’ll check it out.
  2. My best books. In the last couple years, I’ve created a handful of books that I think will help most people in a powerful way. Check them out here.
  3. A plea to try veganism. I know many of you truly love animals, and a wonderful gift to me would be to try to be vegan for 7 days. It’s not hard, and I would be deeply grateful. As would the animals!

Thank you all for being a huge part of my journey for the last 10 years. Your love and support has brought me to my knees.

How to Cultivate a Year of Mindfulness

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By Leo Babauta

In 2016, I practiced mindfulness more than I ever have before, after 10 years of sporadic practice.

I meditated regularly, practiced with a local Zen group, did a great one-day sitting, went on a retreat, took courses, read books, practiced mindful eating and exercise, learned some great new practices, and taught several mindfulness courses.

I learned a lot about how to cultivate a more mindful life, and I’d like to encourage you to try it this year.

Why? A few good reasons:

  • You learn to be awake to the present moment more, and lost in the daydream of your thoughts less.
  • You begin to see your mental patterns that affect everything you do, and thus begin to free yourself of those patterns.
  • You learn to be frustrated less, and let go more. And smile more.
  • You learn to be better at compassion, equanimity, love, contentment.
  • You learn to be better at not procrastinating, and better at building better habits.

I could go on about better mental and physical health, better relationships, less fear … but the reasons I’ve given are strong enough. It’s important stuff.

So how do we cultivate a year of mindfulness? I’m glad you asked.

Tips for Cultivating Mindfulness

I’m just going to dive in and share my favorite tips for creating a year of mindfulness:

  1. Commit to sitting daily for a month. It would be great to commit to a year of sitting meditation practice, but I think that’s too long for the brain to commit to. So I recommend trying to sit everyday for a month. Tell people about it, set reminders on your phone and calendar, put a note somewhere you won’t miss it, and keep the meditation short — just 2-5 minutes to start with, until you become more regular. This is the foundational practice for being more mindful, so make a big commitment to sitting.
  2. Find a group. If you can find a meditation group in your area to sit with once a week, that’s ideal. It doesn’t matter much what kind of group it is (Zen, Tibetan, Vipassana, etc.), just meet with them and meditate however you like when you’re on the cushion. If you can’t find a group in your area, find a group that meets online (San Francisco Zen Center has an online practice group, for example). This commitment to a group deepens the practice.
  3. Practice mindful eating. I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t practice this as much as I should. But it’s a good example of how you can take something you already do every day, and use it as a meditation. Simply commit to doing nothing but eating — single-task instead of multitasking. As you eat each bite, pay attention to the food, the textures and flavors and colors. Notice when your mind wanders. Savor the food. Showering, brushing your teeth, washing your dishes, walking and sweeping are other good activities to use as meditation.
  4. Take a course. This is a bit self-promotional, but I’m offering mindfulness courses in my Sea Change Program. However, you can take any online or in-person course, free or paid — I find that they force you to practice and reflect on your practice, so that your learning deepens even further.
  5. Find a teacher or partner. I am lucky to have a teacher who I meet with every couple months … I find that just knowing that I’m going to be talking to her means that I’ll try harder to learn, remind myself a bit more, reflect on my learning more so that I have something to talk to her about. If you can’t find a teacher, a learning partner can function the same way.
  6. Watch your frustration. When you get irritated, frustrated or angry … let it be a mindfulness bell! It is a great opportunity to drop out of your story, and notice how your body is feeling. What got you hooked? What story are you telling yourself? What is your mental pattern when you get hooked? What is the physical feeling in your body at this moment? Practice as much as you can!
  7. Read a good mindfulness book. You learn mindfulness by practicing, but a good book can guide your practice. I recommend checking out my recently published Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness, and I also like Mindfulness in Plain English.
  8. Practice yoga or mindful movement. Yoga is moving meditation, and I highly recommend it. If you aren’t drawn to yoga, try walking or running or doing other exercise while trying to pay mindful attention to your body and breath. Either way, see it as an opportunity to meditate as you move.
  9. Sit with procrastination & fear. Whenever you start to procrastinate or run to distraction, there is fear at the root of your urge. Instead of running, sit with it. Notice the fear or resistance. Stay with this feeling, become intimate with it, be friendly towards it, smile at it. Stay, stay, until it dissolves.
  10. Journal & review regularly. The best learning is deepened by reflecting what you’ve been learning about, reflecting on your obstacles and challenges, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. You evolve your learning through reflecting. Journaling is a great tool for that — it helps you reflect in a mindful way. Journal daily, weekly, or monthly, reviewing what you did the previous day (or week or month) and what you learned from it, and what your intentions are in the coming day, week or month.

That might seem like a lot of things to do, but you don’t have to do them all at once! Nor do you have to be “perfect” at this (perfection doesn’t exist). Just try one or two things, try another couple things later, and explore with no real desitation or outcome in mind. Play with these practices and tools. See what happens.

Challenge: A Month of Mindfulness

To start your year of mindfulness, I challenge you to do a full 30 days of mindfulness, starting today. That means meditating every day, for at least a few minutes (start small), and trying to incorporate mindfulness practices in your life in small ways.

Are you up to the challenge? If so, commit to it by announcing it to your loved ones, on social media, or emailing your friends. It’ll be an amazing way to start this year.

If you’d like to go deeper with mindfulness, sign up for my Sea Change Program. We’re doing a Month of Mindfulness in January, and I’ve issued the same mindfulness challenge to my members (we check in once a week). Don’t worry if you’re starting mid-month … it doesn’t matter. Go on your own schedule, let go of the idea of perfection.

Join us in Sea Change today!

Sea Change Program: Change Your Life in 2017

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By Leo Babauta

I believe the freshness of this year brings a renewed energy for changing our lives. I believe 2017 can be great for all of us, with a bit of focus and effort.

So I’ve created a revised Sea Change Program that’s geared to creating a great 2017 for all of you, full of positive life changes.

How can Sea Change help you change your life in 2017?

  1. Video Courses: I’ve created a huge library of content: video courses and articles that are aimed at helping you practice mindfulness, exercise, eat healthier, declutter, stop procrastinating, get out of debt, overcome fear, find gratitude and more. I’ve been building up this content library for 5 years! I think it’s pretty awesome.
  2. Challenges: Every month I plan to have a new challenge. This month, it’s a Mindfulness Challenge — try to meditate every day of the month. Report on your challenge once a week. It really helps you to stick to change more to participate in a challenge.
  3. Forums: You can discuss the challenges, report your progress each week, and in general support each other’s changes.

So video and article content on changing your life, a monthly challenge, and a forum to connect with and get support from other people who are making similar changes. I’ve found this to be a simple but effective method for change.

If you’re ready to make changes in 2017, try my Sea Change Program for one week free (and $15/month after that).

Deeper Levels

In addition, if you want to go deeper, I offer Gold and Platinum memberships to help support people who are ready to fully commit to life changes.

How do these levels help you go deeper? A few key ways, in addition to what’s above:

  1. Live Webinars (Gold and Platinum): Gold members have access to monthly live webinars where I give a talk about the current challenge and answer member questions. My members have found these to be a great resource.
  2. Ask Questions (Gold and Platinum): Members can submit questions during the month and I’ll do my best to answer them. I highly recommend asking questions, as it deepens the learning process and helps me to see where you need help. People who ask questions are much more likely to see change.
  3. Accountability Teams (Platinum): I’ve created a Sea Change team on Slack for Platinum members to discuss their life changes, and more importantly to provide accountability teams of about 5-10 members to support each other’s changes.
  4. Twice-monthly Calls with Leo (Platinum): I’ve just added this feature for the new Platinum membership level … I’m going to have twice-monthly calls where people can ask questions and I’ll answer them, and other members can share their progress, I can even do some one-on-one coaching on the call with other members benefitting from listening. I think this will be a great help for people who are ready to go deeper into their learning and habit changes.

So four tools for more personal support, which I’ve found to be a key ingredient to lasting change.

Key Ingredients to Lasting Change

Through changing my own life in a hundred different ways, to helping others change theirs, I’ve found some things to be incredibly helpful if you want to make a change that sticks:

  1. Motivation: Do you really want to change? If you care about the change, and are willing to focus your life on it for a little while, you can make it happen. If it’s just “it would be nice,” then it probably won’t last until you are ready to get serious about it.
  2. Small changes, gradually: Most people hear this and ignore it, but they are missing one of the most important ingredients. If you want to meditate, start with just a couple minutes. If you want to exercise, just do five minutes. Start small, increase only gradually. Do less than you’re capable of, and the change will last.
  3. Reminders and focus: If you forget to do your habit, you won’t change. If you can set reminders, put up physical, visual reminders around you, and keep your focus on the habit, you’re much more likely to stick to it.
  4. Social support: Doing the change with other people is remarkably powerful. I haven’t found another tool more effective than this, if you are willing to put it to use.
  5. Gratitude & mindfulness: OK, you can have lasting change without these final ingredients, but I’ve found them to be essential in my personal changes. Why? If you aren’t mindful, you’ll give in to urges to procrastinate or quit your change, because you won’t even notice the urge, you’ll just follow it. And if you find gratitude as you do the habit, you’ll enjoy every step of the way, which means it won’t be a sacrifice but a joy. These are two amazing ingredients, use them!

So those are the key ingredients. You can change your entire life over the course of a year or two if you make small, gradual changes with mindfulness, gratitude, motivation and social support. I’ve seen it over and over.

It’s possible. Take the step today and join me and thousands of other members in Sea Change:

Join Sea Change

Filter Out the Noise

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By Leo Babauta

It can seem like our lives are filled with busyness, noise, distractions, and often meaningless activities.

What if we could filter out all that noise, and focus on the meaningful?

What if we could find stillness instead of constant distraction?

I believe that most of us have that power. In my experience, most of the noise is there by choice, but we’ve fallen into patterns over the years and it can seem like we’re not able to change them.

Let’s talk about ways to filter out the noise, then how to find stillness and meaning.

Ways to Filter the Noise

Take the rest of today to notice what noise you find in your life. Even take a little time to make a list, whenever you find distraction or busyness.

For example, noise in my life comes from: email, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, blogs and other sites I like to read, text messages, Slack, and watching Netflix. You might have other sources: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, news, cable TV.

Once we’re aware of the noise, how can we filter it out? We have to decide that we want more quiet and meaning in our lives. That it’s important enough to “miss out” on some things in those noisy channels.

Then we can take action:

  • Turn off notifications as much as possible. Including the unread messages count by each app on your phone.
  • Decide to check on some things (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) just once a day. Others you can check twice a day, or three times if needed (like email or Slack). But set a limit.
  • Delete accounts or delete apps that aren’t giving you real meaning (I deleted my Facebook account years ago).
  • Unsubscribe from everything possible in your email account. And from Twitter or any other app where you’re “following” people or blogs/websites. If you use an RSS reader, unsubscribe from as many feeds as possible. Leave only a handful that give you meaning.
  • Tell people that you are only checking your messages once a day, to set expectations. Don’t use an autoresponder — I find those annoying. Instead, just send a message to the people who matter most, and ask that they be understanding.
  • Set a time each day when you watch TV or movies (if at all). Set a time of day when you read news or blogs (if at all). If you say, “I only watch TV after 7 p.m.,” then you’ve limited how much space this takes up in your life.
  • If there are some things (like email, for example) where you need to stay connected because of work, try to negotiate with your boss or team so that you can find periods of disconnection. For example, ask if you can take a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon to be disconnected, to focus on more important work.

If you take these actions, you’ll filter out most of the noise.

What’s left? Time for quiet, stillness, focus and meaning.

Finding Stillness & Meaning

Once you’ve filtered out the noise, you are left with a few interesting problems:

  1. Changing your habits of busyness and constant movement.
  2. Figuring out what’s meaningful.
  3. Learning to stop and stay still.

I think those are wonderful problems to be faced with. Most people never even consider them. Find gratitude that you can work on this at all.

Take some time to notice your constant need for busyness or distraction. For example, if you have a moment where you’re not doing anything — you’re waiting in line, you’re alone at your restaurant table while your friend goes to the bathroom, you’re sitting on your couch — what do you try to do out of habit? This is your pattern of busyness and movement.

Now see if you can let go of those patterns. Catch yourself, and instead opt for stillness and quiet. Try to just sit there and notice your surroundings. Soak it all in. Savor the moment. Meditate on your breath. Reflect on your day. Ask yourself what you’re grateful for right now.

Start building new patterns of stillness. For example, try morning meditation on your breath, even if just for a few minutes every day. Try going for a morning or evening walk, without your phone. Try turning the phone and computer off and just journal.

Start finding activities that are more meaningful to you. This doesn’t have to be done in one day — you can slowly experiment to figure out what’s meaningful to you. You might start writing a book or screenplay, for example, or taking photos or drawing or making music. You might decide to start a business or charity that changes the world. You might start to learn something that’s meaningful, or teach others. Find ways to help others and make the world a better place. Journal, meditate, exercise, make healthy food, declutter, make dates with people who are important to you.

When you notice yourself running to busyness and distraction, pause. Turn instead towards stillness and your meaningful activities.

Build a life around stillness and meaning, and notice the difference it makes in you.