Talking about mindfulness is one thing, learning how to practice mindfulness can be a new and interesting process for most people. Our team decided it was time to bring the practice of “mindful meetings” each week into our Tuesday morning team meetings. We made a small and simple shift during our check-in, but it was enough to bring everyone into focus as to how present our mind and bodies were before we dove into our packed agenda. Each of us rated ourselves on a 1-10 scale (10 being completely “here”) as a way to describe how mindful and present we were in the room.
Looking around the room at a skilled group of people that put their heart and soul into every interaction, activity, and therapeutic process each day while ALSO living full lives of family, friends, responsibilities, and fun, it was not surprising that the numbers were low for many. I listened to folks sharing about the barriers to being present which included family crisis, upcoming weekend adventures, excitement of having a new exchange student, and thinking about what was ahead with clients for the day. Overwhelmingly, it was clear that shifting from personal to work life and even more so, focusing on the now and quieting the brain was not an easy task!!
Then a few spoke up and it seemed possible to be there, in the moment and in the room with all of us. They were there as a strong “10.” Present and focused despite all of the other craziness happening at work and home. I listened for the gem, the light bulb, the clear lesson that someone had to share about how this was possible!!….and then it was stated, “When your intention is to be mindful and present with another, you have to consider that exact moment, as the MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT and that person as THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON in your life at that time.” There is no other place to be, no other person to be with, and no judgement around what is happening. When people experience this level of presence and state of being during an interaction, the possibility of true connection is endless.
In addition, to connection that happens in these interactions, the benefits of mindful practice in everyday life is astounding. Research suggests you can experience reduced stress levels, better immune functioning and reduced chronic pain. In addition, those who are mindful have reported being happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. Jay Dixit of Psychology Today says, “(mindful people) have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces… impulsivity and reactivity.” (source)
Being mindful occurs when a person gives active attention to the present and is awakened to the experience. Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center defines it as “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Now the questions becomes…how, when, where, and is it really possible when you find yourself carting kids around, balancing work and home, paying bills, helping with homework, hitting the gym, and just trying to have a little down time.
Although it takes effort to make this shift, the practice itself can begin with simple awareness.
You pick up your child from school and you notice that her attitude seems to be a bit off. Your mind is racing from the work call that just ended, you aren’t sure what is for dinner, and you still have to get to soccer practice. You turn it all off and you are present… you take a moment to check in and see how you can help. The most important moment and the most important person is happening right now! There are opportunities everyday…you are doing dishes and taking notice of the water hitting your hands, the smell of the dish soap, and the sounds of the birds chirping outside; eating a quick lunch, but you take 2 minutes to be aware of bringing the food into your mouth, how many times you have chewed and what is happening with your taste buds; walking your dogs and taking in the sound of the trees blowing, the feel of the leash in your hands, and the curiosity of your dogs as they stop at every smell. Simple awareness.
When we live in a fast-paced and over-booked world, we sometimes forget to stop and live in the moment. To-do lists, work, and stress can wait. Practice taking ten minutes each day to be mindful of your body, your surroundings, your people, and your present moment. Take a walk, meditate, practice yoga, play a focused game of basketball, really listen to a friend, or just sit and breathe.
Mindfulness plays a significant role in the EQ Manifesto. Check it out here!