Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Last week I was out to lunch with a friend and she asked me if I’d be willing to speak at her team’s offsite this Fall. I asked her what she wanted me to speak about and she said “mindfulness”. My initial feeling was one of excitement … what a fun topic! And then I almost laughed out loud at the fact that she was serious. Mindfulness? ME?! The future-focused worrier?
Yes, mindfulness – a topic I was suddenly qualified to talk about. Me, the self-proclaimed unconscious person who lived on autopilot and was anything but present and mindful for most of my adult life was now being asked to speak about the beautiful topic of mindfulness; about being present and living consciously. What a great honor to realize that these glorious things I now experience as my norm.
As I thought about what I could actually speak to the group of busy professional women about related to mindful living, I realized there were a few key things I’d done the past year to become a person qualified to speak to others about and set an example of mindful conscious living.
First, there was the awareness that I was hardly ever fully focused in the present moment. Aside from when I was writing or coaching a client, my mind was typically future focused on what I had to do next… the next hour, next day, next week. And then suddenly it was the next week and I would think “what the heck did I do the past week?” When my Dad got sick and passed away last year I became super present. Knowing I had limited time with him flipped a switch for me. When I was with him, especially at the very end of his life, being with him was the only thing that mattered; listening to everything he said and experiencing his presence was all that mattered. I didn’t think about the next hour or even the next moment; probably because I didn’t want the next moments to come. I didn’t want the moments with my Dad to end and I knew they would. That was the most present I’d ever been in my life and it set the stage for the way I wanted to live my life. We only have now. This moment is all we ever get. If we spend our time focused on the future or yearning for the past, we’re not truly living the only moments we get – the present ones.
Once I became aware that I wanted to live a conscious, present, mindful life all the time (not just when I was writing or coaching), I started to do things that helped me get there. First and foremost was recognizing when I was allowing myself to wander out of the present moment. This happened a lot. It was the norm. How did I learn to bring myself back to the present? There are many ways to do this but the following three practices are my favorites and the easiest for me:
Focusing on your breath is the quickest and easiest way to re-center yourself in the present moment. Simply shift your awareness from wherever your thoughts wandered back to your breath. In and out. In and out. You are now in the present moment.
Pay attention to your physical body. Wiggle your toes. Feel your butt in the chair. Stand up and feel your feet on the ground. Doing this brings you back to the present moment. If possible, go outside barefoot and stand in the grass. Stand there and breathe deeply. This grounds you to Mother Earth and is an instantaneous way to re-center you in the present moment.
Use your physical senses to feel whatever it is you’re doing. This brings you back to the present moment. Are you typing on your computer? Feel your fingers against the keyboard. Eating a meal? Chew, taste, and savor each bite of food. Be very conscious of each sip and bite. Walking? Pay attention to each step. Count each step. Feel your foot hitting the ground and the weight of your body on your legs. You get the point. Use your physical senses to keep you mindful of what you’re experiencing in that moment.
Do one or all of these things on a regular basis and you will eventually find yourself living mindfully, in the present. In addition to these three things that will quickly bring you back into the present moment and help you begin to be more mindful, there are more things you can do to integrate Mindful Conscious Living into how you exist. I will cover these in the next blog post. In the meantime, become aware of when you allow yourself to wander away from the present moment and practice bringing yourself back to mindful living with the above suggestions. Let me know how it goes for you – I’d love to hear!