There is something out there nowadays called “Mindfulness Training”, and it’s growing in popularity with some pretty big players in the world – Google, Goldman Sachs, the US Military, Facebook, Apple, Farmers Insurance, and many, many more. What’s the big deal with mindfulness? And what does it mean?
I’ve been reading a lot about mindfulness recently. It’s the sister to meditation – a key part of the Ageless Diet™. But it’s different than meditation. After researching it, I’ve found this definition from Psychology Today sums up mindfulness well: “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Being mindful is taking yourself off autopilot. Instead of thinking about the long commute to work while making the bed, you’re just making the bed. Focusing on the feel of the crisp sheets, folding the blanket just so, taking pleasure in moving your body around the bed.
Being more mindful keeps you present and it helps you feel more focused, more connected to yourself and others. It alleviates some of the stress of daily living – it’s good stress management. When you’re focused and feeling connected, there is less stress. Stress is one of those inflammatory responses to life that becomes chronic, causing physical pain and dis-ease. But the paradox is that you can’t go into practicing mindfulness thinking about eliminating stress. It’s a side benefit but the point is the practice.
Being mindful and present seems like really basic stuff but it’s not. We’re a purpose driven society. We like to recognize a problem, find a solution, and move forward. Being mindful is not about that. There’s this image of being a Zen garden, present to the sounds of the gentle flow of water and the feeling of the breeze on your skin, allowing illuminating ideas to flow to you. But that’s not often the case. Sometimes you’re being mindful in a crowded subway, and a feeling will bubble up and it’s not a good one. Part of mindfulness is also the uncomfortable feelings, and the key is not trying to change or judge them, but letting them flow through you, being aware of them.
So how to be more mindful? Here are a few easy ways to practice mindfulness in your day:
1. Practice mindfulness during your everyday activities. Take yourself off auto-pilot. When you brush your teeth, focus on how that feels, the water, the taste of the toothpaste, the bristles on your gums. Do just that one task in that two minutes.
2. Let your mind wander. Give yourself five minutes everyday when you just sit and daydream. It’s good for your creative life, and it’s a great way to be a little more mindful. Once you’ve given yourself permission to have a “wandering mind” you’ll find it easier to focus and be present. Notice where your mind wanders to and gently bring it back to the present, without judgement. A big part of mindfulness training is observing without judgement.
3. Use the times in your day when you’re forced to wait, in line, on the phone, in the car, on the train, to be practice mindfulness. Focus on your breath, the way it feels in your rib cage, the inhale and the exhale. Look around you, observe the scene and your thoughts about the scene, without judging it or yourself. If you feel irritated that you’re stuck in line waiting, notice that feeling. Let that wash over you and then flow out of you. Turn your focus to your feet, how do they feel, are you grounded? What’s going on? Use the frustration you might feel in wasting time waiting to be present.
Mindfulness is one more tool in your belt. It’s not the cure-all, and it is a practice. But it does give us a more centered, grounded experience in our lives. We live in a fractured, sensory and information overloaded world these days, and mindfulness can offer some relief and perspective. It helps us live a more authentic life. We experience joy and sorrow more fully and are able to process it more easily. We have deeper, richer experiences with others and ourselves when we live this way. We often look so far ahead, to what’s next, to what others are doing, to what’s on our screen, that we miss what’s going on right now.
The only chance we have for eternity is in this moment right now.
Filed Under: Blogs
About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.