This was an email from a father of two small children, who also works full-time and is going to school full time. (He was a film directing student of mine - not a meditation student):


Q: so last night you mentioned you were concerned about my work load.   
thanks by the way

any ideas on how to not burn out?



A: Pauses.

Literally.  (and other stuff added below)

That could mean meditation, or just simply 'stopping'.   By the way, this is a wonderful thing for kids to get young.  We live in a 'driven' society - always pushing to the next thing.  It's always about the things that need to be done, our lists, what we want, what we do and the last thing we do is tune into ourselves.  You can think of that like not having an air holes - a kind of suffocation, really.  (And the body, which “doesn’t lie”, will almost always, at some point, break down in response to this – either sickness, backaches, headaches, etc. - in addition to emotional responses – depression, anxiety, etc.)

When we're in a period of our lives of lots of commitments, as you are - and as I was for the first half of this year, where it just seems like everything is important and there's no let up, that's the most important time to incorporate into the fabric of all the 'doing' - little stops, pauses, breaths, moments to tune inside.  

You can get a little 5-15 min. guided meditation CD to follow, just sit and follow the breath (mindfulness – i.e. tuning into your own experience – is proven to be beneficial for alleviating discomfort, stress, trauma.)
If you want to really help kids get it (and one of the nicest ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else) is to have a bell – remind me and I’ll bring one to class – and whenever it rings they’ve got to close their eyes and feel the vibration of the bell in their bodies and not move till the ring is totally gone.  Works for really little kids – I did it when my niece & nephew were 3 & 5.  My (adult) meditation students all remark that, now, just the sound of my bell as we begin a meditation puts them into a deeper state.  (A kind of Pavlovian/Skinnerian conditioning.)

Or you can just stop and count 10 breaths, noticing the movement of the body as it breathes, the expansion & contraction & the pause between breathes.
And whenever the mind wanders into thought, gently bring it back to the breath.

By literally moving the focus inward, it's a kind of watering of the plant.  It's been proven we physically benefit - in addition to developing new neuropathways in the brain.  (I went to a workshop at UCLA, by the way, research done by Dr. David ___? can't remember last name, showed that when a parent instead of focusing on the child's behavior - focus on their intention - the child literally develops parts of the brain that help with social functioning - i.e. affecting all relationships & interacting in their lives.  Interesting, no?)

The other things that I, personally, happen to believe are extremely important for physical, mental, emotional & spiritual health are:

  1. Meditation/mindfulness
  2. movement (working out, walking – some kind of movement that moves energy through your body – also helps sleep be deeper & more restful)   I happen to be big on stretching, but you don’t have to do that much.  (I use body in a way I don’t expect others to.)  Just bend over and stretch out your back & legs, get a good neck massage from your spouse, massage jaw, loosen joints.
  3. Get in nature (can be incorporated with walk – i.e. Better oxygen)  The body doesn’t lie and the body is nature.  I happen to believe that when we’re in nature, the body aligns or naturally adjusts to the ‘frequency’ of nature (vs. The frequency of ‘doing’) and it can be quite healing
  4. Drink lots of water (the body is mostly water and stress can act to ‘crystallize’ vs. keeping us fluid.  - Watch “What the Bleep do we know” if you don’t believe me.)
  5. Eat healthy (hamburgers from vending machines as last options.....)  What animal protein does to your body is similar to...handing a bowling ball to someone who’s having trouble swimming.  I mentioned this in class the 2nd day.  When you’re tired, weak, sick, you don't want to make your body work extra hard to break down food.  A hamburger, milkshake & French fries (w/’bad’ fat) is like hitting yourself with a sledge hammer.  When people get really sick, they almost always report they’d been tired or stressed and then ate a hamburger (or equivalent) the night before and were sick the next day.  The kindest thing to do is eat food that is mostly water – veggies, fruits.  Occasional meat is fine, but when your body is stressed, just know it’s harder to process and that’s where the energy is going – not to your immune system, etc.  And don’t eat before bed.
  6. Get Rest/Sleep.  See note on eating.  If you eat, especially protein, before bed, the body is up all night working – i.e. Pulling an ‘all-nighter’ and you’ll awake feeling tired.
  7. Make love/be held/hold  - Loving human physical contact can be extremely healing.  It could be holding a sleeping child, or lovemaking (gentle or intense.)  I did a lot of ‘healing energy’ work and we all have that capacity.  Any time one human being touches another with the desire/intention to heal, it sends healing energy.

And if you’ve got 2-3 days with no ‘break’ - take an hour or two and just go sit, by yourself, under a tree, read a book, do a meditation (loving kindness or other), do something that isn’t work related.  I know it will feel like you don’t have time to, but it’s important (especially to fight depression) to give the mind a break from ‘having to do.’  You need time to process/digest all that ‘doing’.  This can be incorporated with the nature.  

Sorry you asked?