Saturday, September 01, 2007

How jet lag can improve your life

I’ve popped over to Singapore to do some workshops for the National University of Singapore business school. With a 12-hour time difference, you can’t really fight jet lag – you just have to give into it. But jet lag isn’t all bad.

The mindful pleasures of ironing

What do you do when you are fully awake at 4:30 am, before all the lovely amenities of the Shangri-La Hotel have opened? I ironed my clothes. Slowly and carefully, since I had a lot of time to kill. First my suit and tie; then all my dress shirts; then my jeans. I lovingly attended to every ironing detail. And you know what? I felt really happy.

Mindfulness is being in the moment. “Now I am ironing,” the mindful mind observes. “Now I am turning the sleeves inside out because I once heard that’s what you are supposed to do. Now I am attending to the collar. I am doing these things rather than thinking about global warming, or whether I will forget my passport when I check out.”

Buddhism holds that the monkey mind is always part of ourselves—the monkey mind being the voice that constantly judges and raises points of dissatisfaction. The way to freedom is not to talk ourselves out of vexing questions, but to rise above them by attending to the moment. In this case, ironing.

New frontiers of exercise and community

After a big travel stint last year, I ended up with back pain, weird sleep patterns, and, let’s be honest, constipation. So I decided to go to a Bikram Yoga class since there is a Bikram studio in Singapore.

Normally when I think about going to a hot sweaty 90 minute yoga class, I mentally seesaw for several hours asking myself should I go, will I like it, is there enough time. But with jet lag, I had a lot of time as well as great urgency to do something constructive.

So I went, and it was awesome. “Say hello to Michael from New York, everybody,” the peppy instructor said. I sweated through my bad airplane juju energy, and felt great.

Time to be and time to plan

When your body clock is off, you don’t automatically fall into the normal work, socialize, check email routine of our lives. You have a fair number of hours when you are just hanging out.

So after a lapse of several months, I returned to journaling my Artist Way-inspired “morning pages.” I also spent a fair amount of time planning and replanning my day, to make sure I could do all the cool things that Singapore has to offer – taking advantage of delicious street food (which, in Singapore, is arranged in nice clean indoor food courts) and planning my trip to the Singapore Zoo’s night safari. Plus getting ready for my workshops. The end result was that I felt ready for my days, because I’d taken time just to reflect and anticipate, rather than just to jump in and bounce from activity to activity.

Jet lag can make you gorgeous!

You can curse jet lag or you can cheer it. Notwithstanding the great street food, I haven’t been all that hungry so I’ve eaten lightly. Plus I went to Bikram Yoga three times. So I’ve lost like five pounds. So now I’m coming back confident and trim rather than bloated and regretful. Hooray for jet lag!