We have heard. Mindfulness will help you win Superbowl games, help you be a better leader, lover and person with enhanced relationships and more success. Mindfulness is all the rage. But what exactly or even sort of..is mindfulness?
It is the practice of being where you are, understanding what is happening, really happening, right here and right now. That sounds simple enough until you think about the one thing which gets in the way of all that pure reality and that is, well, thinking. Most of the time while life is going on around us we are not observing what is actually happening but what our thoughts are instead. The problem is that our thoughts are not reality–they’re just thoughts or distractions from what’s real. It’s a lot like being at lunch with someone who matters to you and who you wanted to meet but checking your e-mail on your i-phone instead. You don’t mean to do it yet you do. It’s as though it just happens somehow on it’s own.
The good news is that with some training we can stop that mechanism from occurring and be exactly where we are- perceiving mindfully and reacting with care and appropriateness. When you know and recognize what’s real you can respond so much better than when you are lost in your own head and thoughts which most of us are most of the time.
Knowing that and deciding you want to change is really the hardest part.
So now that you’re ready here are some things you can do anytime you notice you’re drifting into thinking instead of observing:
1) Take a few deep breaths through your nose (this can be subtle so no one sees or hears) and pay attention to where your feet are. Put them flat on the floor or ground and feel them being firmly supported. This helps you notice where you are.
2) Allow yourself to be silent and feel that silence. When you go truly quiet you are slipping into something real and coming back to your source of power.
3) See what or who is in front of you but don’t react, just look with an open mind. Allow curiosity to spring out of that.
4) Do not be one step ahead in conversation or plan what you will say next. Listen fully to the person speaking as if you will have to repeat back what they said. This will keep you focused on what is really being said so you can respond correctly.
5) Allow your body to guide you. It is your internal compass. If your shoulders are tight or your heart is beating fast then your body is reacting. That means that something is happening which may need attention. Breathe deeply again and stay open but focused. Once you know the source of your body’s reaction you can respond correctly.
To sharpen your ability to be mindful and in tune rather than reactive takes training. To start; work on your breath and feet before an important meeting or conversation so you can feel what it’s like to be present as opposed to being in your world of thoughts. Also do this if you start to feel upset. Just breathe and plant without reacting and you’ll see the difference right away.
Another thing that can sharpen your mindfulness is simple meditation daily. Even if you can only sit quietly for ten minutes a day, then do that. Do not try to make your mind silent or tell it what to think. Just notice your thoughts without engaging in a conversation with them or reacting to them. This teaches you to settle your mind so you can be alert and observant in the here and now.
Throughout the day take a minute to breathe deeply through your nose and into your belly a few times and ground yourself through your feet. You’ll notice your body being more relaxed and your ability to be calm and mindful will increase. You can do this driving, eating, sitting at your desk or walking. The more you do it your awareness and alertness will increase so that you can feel the difference.
What we want is to be clear, non reactive and able to interact well with others. Mindfulness training will help you do that and it will also help with those sore shoulders, stiff necks and lower back pain because you are bringing oxygen to your system and letting those muscles loosen throughout the day. That’s an unintended good consequence of mindfulness. Happiness and the discovery that most people want the same things you do are a couple more nice side benefits.
Remember that every thing you do can be mindfulness based training; noticing your breath on the treadmill or after a good game of basketball is mindfulness. Walking, sitting in a meeting or talking to a friend or family member offers you the opportunity to be where you are, absolutely aware and engaged. In so doing you will learn things you never knew before.
So go ahead-take the challenge and start your training. It won’t hurt, not even a little bit and it might even make you happy.