Three Daily Practices Inspired by My Broken Neck

In two weeks I will say good-bye to the hard plastic brace that has cradled my neck since breaking it at the end of December. And while I look forward to the cervical freedom that accompanies this milestone (cervical as in “of the neck,” which I have, not “of the cervix,” which I do not), I worry that in losing said brace I will also lose the fresh acuity of mind I have enjoyed since my accident. It’s like I can see the window of wisdom closing before me, so I want to make the most of this while the breeze of enlightenment still blows softly and somewhat self-righteously through it.

I have learned a lot from this ordeal. Those learnings in turn have inspired the creation of some new daily practices and reaffirmation of some old ones, which I want to share with you in the hopes that they might bring some meaning and clarity to your day as they have to mine. On the “Deepak Chopra Kim Kardashian Scale of Enlightenment,” I have always drifted towards the latter end of the spectrum. So please bear with me while I enjoy the view from the Chopra side of things just a little while longer.

PRACTICE ONE: Meditating

Despite all the material that has been written about the many benefits of meditation and the fact that many highly successful people practice it, I had always thought it was a somewhat flaky endeavor and that sitting for any length of time without aggressively thinking or making things happen was, well, just lazy. But a couple of years ago, my partner suggested we start meditating each morning, and I was amazed at the difference it made to my mood, focus and creativity for the rest of the day. Our meditation is nothing too extreme: no incense, chimes or contorted positions, just a soothing voice on an audio track guiding us through 10 minutes of stillness. I had let meditation lapse from my life; now it’s back, and I am the better for it.

PRACTICE TWO: Expressing Grateful Intentions

Giving credit where credit is due, this next practice was inspired by my good friend Leslie, who herself was inspired by Tony Robbins’ “Peak Performance 60” (don’t judge her). After we meditate, my partner and I have a routine in which we each express…

  • Three Things We’re Each Grateful For — This can be anything from the profound (e.g. Being able to walk away from my accident, my friendships, an exciting new client) to the superficial (e.g. “House of Cards” Season 3, our new dining room chairs, Ranch dressing).
  • Three Intentions for Our Day — Three things large or small that we each hope to accomplish by the end of the day, work-related, personal or otherwise.
  • Three Intentions for Our Year — Reaffirming some of our individual goals and wishes for the year, many of which become reoccurring guest stars day by day. I know from experience that the simple act of vocalizing your goals and regularly bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness helps tremendously in your ability to reach them.

PRACTICE THREE: Showing Kindness to Others

About three years ago, I found myself in a particular period in my life that my partner now respectfully refers to as “Bill’s Angry Time.” The crowning moment of this phase was when, eating lunch during a day of skiing, I found myself yelling across a crowded restaurant at an 11 year old boy who kept propping open a door that I had repeatedly tried to close. Under the deservedly judgmental glare of just about everyone in that restaurant (“Uh Bill,” my brother-in-law said to me across the table, “I think you just lost the crowd.”), one thought dug its way through my layers of shame: I needed to be nicer.

Since that episode, I have always tried to do something nice for someone every day. It doesn’t have to be much: holding the door open for a stranger, buying a coffee and scone for a homeless guy, letting the woman with only two items cut in front of me in line at the grocery store. I’m not changing the world with these small gestures of kindness, but I am changing, if only for a moment, the way I feel about that world and the connections I have with others who inhabit it…and hopefully I am doing the same for someone else. It’s amazing how good it feels to intentionally do something nice for someone. A former colleague of mine, Sarah Chauncey, writes beautifully about this notion in her article “The Gifts of Giving,” which I encourage you all to read.

My younger brother has been on a retreat in Northern India since the start of the New Year and coincidentally sent me this photo this morning. Deepak Chopra says there are no coincidences in life (Kim Kardashian says, “What’s a coincidence?”), so I felt sharing this image would be a great way to end this post. Namaste.

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