The world is crazy but you don’t need to be.
These words appear prominently on the website of Pedram Shojai, a man otherwise known as The Urban Monk. A couple of years ago he published a book, appropriately titled The Urban Monk, that serves as a guidebook to remaining calm and focused, even when chaos is breaking out all around you.
Shojai himself lives in the Los Angeles-area and is well-acquainted with the stresses and challenges of urban life. He identifies the problem by saying that “resting and relaxing are not acceptable in our society…productivity is everything.” Yet, our goal must be to get off the hamster wheel of the 9-to-5 world and put together a plan of action that allows us to live in a more chillaxed state.
Shojai’s book is chock full of what are known as life hacks, tips for making life easier to navigate including sections on “getting right with food” and dealing with money and spending. But what stood out to me were the tips designed to help keep us calm and relaxed, by instituting a few small tweaks to your daily routine.
I’ve pulled out my favorites below, including a few I heard about in the past but had forgotten. I’ve done some light editing to Shojai’s words and added my own thoughts in italics. See if there aren’t 2 or 3 you might want to add to your life.
10 Life Hacks from The Urban Monk
- Go Barefoot. Cutting off the flow of vital qi to your body is a bad idea. This happens as we cut off our contact to the natural world. Take off your shoes and touch the earth. He also recommends “getting in the dirt” by gardening. The fact is even though you may live in an area surrounded by concrete, it’s good to occasionally ground yourself by going barefoot at the park or on a beach. In my home, we kick off our shoes the moment we walk through the door.
- Surround Yourself with Purity. Instead of isolating yourself from nature, honor her and bring her with you everywhere. Silently walk in nature. Communicate with plants. Even though you may be miles away from “nature.” Shojai devotes several pages to the act of actually communicating with plants, an interesting concept—but just having greenery in your home can be enough to brighten your surroundings and lighten your mood.
- Rest When You’re Tired. A power nap goes a long way. A 5-minute meditation break can tap into the same energy. Simply closing your eyes for 5 to 10 minutes can help you power down and recharge in the middle of the day. The goal is to learn to unplug and drop down into a deep, relaxed place. On days when I can do it, I find there’s nothing more revitalizing than a quick afternoon power nap. It’s better than a cup of coffee.
- Follow Pareto’s Principle. It states that 80% of our positive output comes from 20% of our time and effort, and the flipside is that 80% of your time goes to bullsh*t. Find where you’re best and engage there. Another words, eliminate the bullsh*t. How many minutes or hours did you waste today mindlessly scrolling through your smartphone? We all like to use our phones, me included—just do it less and focus more on what matters.
- Try a Candlelight Meditation. I’ve written about meditation many times before, but here Shojai adds an interesting twist. Darken the room and light a candle, and as you meditate stare at the flame. You might also try this while sitting in a nice, warm bath.
- Prepare for Sleep. Have a notebook by your bedside and use it nightly to dump your excess thoughts. Get the “to-dos” out of your head and onto paper. Do what you need to do to clear your head, including shutting down your devices and TV at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Slow Down on Vacation. Doing is the disease of modernity. Being is a long-lost art. On vacation, be extra lazy. Nap when tired. Eat when hungry. Ease into a book. Only do things that sound good. Vacations should be an escape from a regimented schedule. Do less, enjoy more.
- Treat Sundays as a micro-sabbatical day. Do only what feels natural and try not to make any plans. Give yourself some space to relax and let the day unfold. Even if you don’t attend Sunday church services, you can use Sunday mornings as a time to engage in spiritual activities. Meditate. Read spiritual texts. Contemplate. Take a walk in nature.
- Do Not Stay Up Late on a Sunday Night. This is suicide. Enough said. You want your batteries fully-charged for the coming week and starting a full work-week with a half-a-tank of gas may leave you feeling empty by mid-week.
- Remember that everybody has something to teach you. When you’re interested in information and learning about life, every person you encounter has the potential to offer you something. That also means the negative encounters. That person who irritates you may be teaching you patience. The person who whines may be teaching you compassion. The person who hates may be teaching you the importance of tolerance.