I was incredibly fortunate to attend this year’s Mindfulness Leadership conference organised by the Wake Up Project. It was so nice to see that 400 business leaders have taken 2 days out of their busy working schedules and participated in a new wave of education and awareness that’s so needed in our corporate and business environments. But what is mindfulness exactly and how can it improve the quality of your life both at home and at work?
One of the best definitions of mindfulness I found is by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction. He said that mindfulness is, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
THE BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS
+ ability to manage stress and difficult situations by regulating emotions
+ mindfulness trains your attention and emotional reactivity decreases as a result of that
+ changes our genomic set up and evolves our genes to become more adaptable – chromosome markers that switch on inflammation turn off with regular practice of mindfulness
+ enables innovation and stimulates the brain to come up with creative ideas
WE DISTRACT OURSELVES INTENTIONALLY
As Seth Godin said: ‘We live in the connection economy’. Digital devices like smart phones and tablets have delivered a new era of connection facilitating enabling access to a quick exchange of data and information that often times results in overwhelm. We are literally exploiting our precious time by wasting it on meaningless online consumerism. Heard of candy crush?
Did you know our minds wander 47% of the time? This % can be a lot higher for you if you are not meditating or doing some form of a mindfulness based activity. So what exactly do I mean by mindfulness based practices?
TOOLS FOR CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS
It is that simple – focusing on your breath, the motion of the in breath and out breath through your nostrils. I would encourage you to seek out a quiet place for your breathing exercises – it can be somewhere out in a park, in a quiet room or a meeting room at your workplace. The practice doesn’t have to be long, the important thing here is to actually make it a regular practice each day for a few minutes. Sit in a comfortable position – it can be on a chair by planting both of your feet on the ground, have your back straight supported by the back of the chair or a wall and most of all be comfortable. If you’ve got a meditation cushion and enjoy sitting cross legged, then by all means that’s your position. Please make sure your back is supported.
Point your awareness to your breath and notice what’s unfolding in your body. Can you feel your feet touching the ground? Can you feel the heaviness of your body? Can you feel your skin and the air around you? What else are you observing about the present moment? If your mind and thoughts start wandering and you catch yourself suddenly thinking about something just bring your focus back onto your breathing and body.
If you would like to learn about the different types of meditation techniques you can read about those in an earlier post: The magic in meditation
Walking in nature, breathing in the fresh air and moving your body have all very amazing affects on your well-being both physically and psychologically. Aside from the release of the feel good endorphins, you can practice mindfulness during movement like walking. Some of you will find it difficult to part with your music or podcasts that you might be listening to, but stay with me and try mindful walking with no distractions.
Walking is really placing one foot in front of the other. Slow down your walk to the point that you are actually observing your body moving and your feet touching the ground. Do you have the tendency of rolling your feet inward or you place your weight more onto the outer edges of your foot? As you are walking observe your hands, shoulders and muscles in general. Can you observe the movement of the entire body in a way that’s conscious? This mindfulness activity can be performed for any movement or every day activity – yoga, running, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating. Mindfulness is all about being ‘WITH’ the moment, ‘IN IT’ and ‘fully immersed’ rather than letting your mind take you away into the past or future (what have I done or what am I going to do).
YOU ARE NOT THE VOICE IN YOUR MIND
This one is a biggie – the voice inside your head, that you might be having regular conversations with, is not you. That nagging voice that says: ‘You are not good enough’, ‘It’s too risky’, ‘It’s too difficult’ etc. is just your ego or mean girl/boy keeping you away from evolution. There is nothing more threatening to the ego than being present with the moment, acting and behaving in a non-judgmental way and being kind (to yourself and others) so do more mindful acts of kindness and be present with what you are doing. Block the ego and tell him/her to just ‘shut it’. You’ll feel soooooo much better for it – I promise:-)
How often do you catch yourself thinking about something whilst someone else is still talking to you? Therefore missing what they are actually saying? I see this in meetings, in interactions with friends, in small or big groups of people… We spend countless hours of our lives participating in conversations or meetings that we miss entirely – what’s the point then? Active listening and being truly present in the moment can help you build more meaningful relationships and prevent misunderstandings. Making eye contact, asking curious questions and truly being present with someone is a gift that will make an impression on others. Meaningful authentic connections are fulfilling – the rest is just lip service. What do you choose?
EXERCISE COMPASSION NOT JUDGEMENT
We live in an incredibly judgmental society – all I have to do is to turn the TV on or read a magazine. We judge people who are more successful than us, who are worse off than us, who are thinner than us, who are fatter than us and the list goes on. Human behaviour has been conditioned to always compare one self to others. It’s also the basis of the incredible competitiveness in everything we do.
I challenge you to catch yourself when you start judging something or someone – in your thoughts to yourself or in conversations with others. Yes, the good old gossip and backstabbing. When you catch yourself doing this, ask yourself: ‘Would my parents be proud of me right now?’ Probably not if you were raised with the value of respect and compassion for others. Further to that, ask yourself: ‘How can I express compassion for this situation, person or towards myself?’ Because the judgement, yes can actually be very much self inflicted. We are our worst critics! Just remember, you are not the voice in your mind. When this happens, just breath in and out deeply, maybe even close your eyes and think of something positive to frame your mind away from the judgmental behaviour. Catching this behaviour is the beginning of a beautiful awareness you can start cultivating every day.
And remember, change always starts with you. Cultivate trust within yourself, feel your fears and release them. Pause often – observe, part with judgment for good and embrace the present moment. There is no better time than now…
Love and light,
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SIDE HUSTLE TO FREEDOM
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