Mindfulness is the ability to cultivate awareness of the present moment while putting aside our programmed biases. It is being in connection with the direct experience of the present moment, the here and now. When we connect to the spaces of our lives with mindfulness we can experience “The Now Effect,” “aha” moments of clarity where we’re in touch with an awareness of what really matters. An accelerating amount of research is showing that engaging with mindfulness can help us heal our stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain, and open us up to joy, love, self-compassion and a greater sense of connection with ourselves and others. There is even evidence that it can help us nurture a stronger and healthier brain.
Many programs have been created to support people with various conditions of suffering that include mindfulness. These include Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression, Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
Mindfulness and Meditation are often a path to loving “again the stranger who was yourself”. Give yourself the gift of tasting this practice and realize The Now Effect.
The How of Mindful Living
A person once said to me, “I hear about all this research where mindfulness can be healing for stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain, etc.., but I have 3 kids and work 50 hours/week, where would I ever find time to sit and practice meditation for my mental health?” While having certain traditional disciplined meditations can be enormously supportive, it can be difficult to cultivate this without guidance. There are many audio CDs and MP3s on the topic, a community is often an important factor that supports us in sustaining this practice.
However, even without the time and place in life to set up some formal practice, from the minute you get up in the day to the moment you lay your head on the pillow there is opportunity to engage mindfulness as a way of life, opening you up to greater focus, calm, and peace.
Here are some tips on how to weave mindfulness into your workday and life:
- As you open your eyes in the morning, instead of jolting out of bed, try and see if you can make room for a STOP practice (Stop, Take a breath, Observe -thoughts, feelings, emotions -, Proceed). This tends to start the day off differently with great calm and present moment awareness setting the stage for you to be more calm and steady during challenging moments through the day.
- As you get in the shower, notice if your mind is already at work thinking, planning, and rehearsing all the things that may happen that day. When you become aware of this, gently bring your mind back to the question, what is my purpose right now, what is most important. The answer is getting clean in the shower or waking up. So bring your attention back to your senses, smelling the soap, feeling the sensation of the water on your body, listening to the sound of it in the shower. Becoming more present.
- If you have a family or partner, consider taking a morning to practice mindful listening and connecting with them before rushing out.
- As you leave the house, slightly slow down as you walk to the car, check in with your body and notice any tension. Try and soften it.
- As you drive, once in a while, try driving a little slower and let red lights be reminders to just notice your breathing.
- As you walk to the office, walk differently today. Breathe in with every three steps, and breathe out with every three steps. Notice the sensation of walking; it took you over a year to learn how to walk in the first place.
- If you sit at a desk, practice STOP before checking the computer for emails or updates.
- When doing tasks at work, block out time to focus on a group of similar tasks. For example, block out time just for planning and do not attend to any other tasks during that time. If you can, turn off your email during this period.
- If possible, maybe once a week, eat by yourself in silence, eat slightly slower and really tune into the sense of taste while eating.
- Sprinkle STOP or breathing space practices throughout the day, checking in to see if you are in a proactive, reactive, distracted or waste zone. Then choose what is the most important thing to be doing right now.
- When walking back to the car from work, practice the same way you walked to your car.
- Remember, it doesn’t pay to rush home to relax, drive slightly slower and experiment with new radio stations, maybe reflect on what you actually did that day. What was positive, what was stuff you would like to do better? You can also choose to plan how you would like to be when you get home.
- When getting home, if you have a family, practice STOP before entering the house, notice if your body is tense, and if so, try to soften those muscles by breathing in and out of them, with awareness, and just letting them be.