Updated: Apr 15, 2019
by Jay Austin March 4, 2019
Last night, I was reading a document online about nurturing children to adulthood. As I read the document, my mind kept getting confused and distracted - not because of the content of the document, but because of the format, lack of good margins, and pop-up ads. Sentences that should have started new paragraphs ran together. Words were jammed up at the very edge of the webpage. And banners that stated “Shop Now” kept popping up. I immediately recognized what was causing my confusion, so I copied the text and pasted it into a word document. In the process, I re-established where the paragraphs belonged, created a good, clean and wide margin around the text, and eliminated the distraction of “Shop Now” pop-ups. My mind calmed down, and I was able to comprehend what I was reading.
Today, your life will likely be filled with bad formatting, lack of good margins, and distracting pop-ups - not the written kind, but instead, the kind that come from overwork, personal failed expectations, and the expectations of others. Knowing that this will likely be your experience today, tomorrow, and possibly most every day, it is important to intentionally set the right format and good margins, and eliminate pop-ups before your day creates these for you.
In my coaching, I term a set-aside time for creating margin “Meditation.” Now, before I lose you, I am not talking about meditating to empty yourself, as some philosophies and religions would teach. On the contrary, I am suggesting that you meditate on things that are going to fill you up with life-giving thoughts and put you in the right state of mind to proactively face the day. The meditation that I suggest begins and ends with this Scripture verse in mind:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
Below, you will find a 17-step meditation process that will Create Margin Today for a Healthy Mind Tomorrow. This process should only take you 15 to 20 minutes, but it will impact your entire day! This process will include focusing your mind in the right direction, getting your brain and body physiologically ready to function, aligning the desires of your heart with God's word, reminding yourself that you are in control of your words, attitudes, and actions, and preparing you to be an encouragement to others. Walk through each of the following steps. Choose not to shortcut the process. First thing in the morning:
1. Do not look at social media, email, or anything else until you have gone through this meditation process.
2. As soon as you wake up, read Philippians 4:8-9. Gradually, you will have this memorized and will not have to read it.
3. Stand up and stretch your arms over your head. Take in 5 deep breaths through your nose and release them through your mouth.
4. Reach down and touch your toes (if you can), holding this position for 20 seconds.
5. Stand back up and stretch your arms over your head again. Take in 5 deep breaths through your nose and release them through your mouth.
6. Think of 3 things you are thankful for, and say each aloud.
7. Think of 3-5 people whom you are grateful for, and say their names aloud.
8. Ask God (pray) to forgive you for anything you have done that is unkind toward someone else, and anything that you've done that you know is not God's best for you.
9. Read a section of Scripture from the Bible. Use an actual printed Bible for this (if you have one) so you will not be tempted to look at social media or email. Start with the book of John. It is located in the New Testament after Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
10. Close your eyes for two minutes and take notice of what is going through your mind. If you are anxious, simply say to yourself, "Spending time setting my margin is the most important thing I can be doing at this moment. Relax and enjoy this moment."
11. Stand up and stretch you arms over your head. Take in 5 deep breaths through your nose and release them through your mouth.
12. The next step will require that you take 5 minutes the first time. Write down at least 10 things about yourself that you intend to live out throughout the day. After you write this down the first time, you can simply read it to yourself daily. Here are some examples to get you started:
I am loved by God; today, I will show love to others. I am creative; today, I will create. I believe that God is in control; I will be at peace. I love my spouse; today, I will let them know that they are admired, respected, care for, and wanted. I love my children; today, I will encourage them and build them up. I can make a difference; today, I will give my full effort to the work that God is allowing me to do. I am an encourager; today, I will build others up and reject the temptation to tear anyone down. I take action; today, I will not be passive in doing the things that add value to others' lives. I am in control of my actions, words, and attitudes; today, I will not allow destructive habits or addictions to control me. I believe that today will be a good day, and I will keep my emotions under control. I am thankful for the day ahead. I will do my best. I will trust that no matter what happens, I will learn something new and be better prepared to make a difference tomorrow. I am God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
13. Write down 1, 2 or 3 thoughts or ideas that are going through your mind during this time of meditation. 14. Thank God (pray) for the time that you have had to set the margins in your mind and heart which have prepared you for the day ahead. Ask God to keep you from falling into negative thinking and destructive behaviors. 15. Stand up and stretch your arms over your head. Take in 5 deep breaths through your nose and release them through your mouth. 16. Reach down and try to touch your toes, holding this position for 20 seconds. 17. Stand back up and SMILE as big as you can for 10 seconds. (If you know me, then you know that this is something I actually do. It feels silly, but do it anyway!)
Within three weeks, this exercise of creating good margin in your life will begin to become a habit. It will transform the way you think, feel and respond throughout the day. Do not take the power of the meditation process lightly. It can be the starting point for you to bring transformation to your marriage, the way you relate to your children, your work, but most of all, your relationship with your Creator.
BONUS INFO FOR READING TO THE END! An added post-meditation step that will have a great and powerful impact on your spouse and children is to hug them for at least 20 seconds sometime during the day. This simple action is both healing and empowering. Older children might not always act like they want this level of intimacy, but trust me, they need it. God has made us to need positive, appropriate, sustained, and loving touch. I dare you to try it for a week.