Mindfulness: What’s Your Mind Full Of?

Becoming more mindful – it’s on my personal learning agenda for 2013. I’m currently taking a course and am about three weeks into practicing meditation, which is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! Why, you ask? Because mindfulness is about being focused on the present. Mindfulness offers heightened awareness and sensitivity to ourselves and our world – like an outer-body experience, hovering over yourself and watching what is happening.

Mindlessness, however, is a mental state in which the mind generates a constant swirl of remarks and judgments that create a barrier of words and images, really separating us from our true selves and our lives.

What I’ve learned is that when we sit and think, our thoughts are about the future or the past. “I should have handled that meeting differently.” “I’ve got to call the doctor & go by the store on my way home.” “I wonder if I’ll get approval on my proposal?”  You get the idea – I call it monkey-mind and I can’t seem to shut it off! That along with multitasking can make a girl crazy!

In my journey to be more mindful, practicing meditation allows me to train my mind to focus on the here and now and shut off all that noise coming from those monkeys! What I’m learning is that being mindful allows us to become keen observers of ourselves and gradually transform the way our minds operate. Some of the benefits I’m experiencing are enriching my life. Things like:

  • Taking notice of my physical surroundings and the people I’m around – tuning in more to body language, tone of voice and other subtle nuances being communicated
  • Fragrances & sounds
  • The actual taste & texture of the food I’m eating while considering the nutritional value (or lack there of)
  • Better concentration and focus in whatever I’m doing
  • Calmness
  • Acknowledging the small miracles that happen daily to make my world go around

I recently read and reviewed Emily Bennington’s new book, So You Think It’s A Man’s World and she has a chapter that addresses how mindfulness can help beat stress & anxiety on the job – Chapter 4, “om the job”. Emily presents the idea beautifully:

“..the things we tend to bungle at work usually don’t stem from a lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of awareness when it comes to the feelings behind our actions & the actions of others. When you are fully present, you become highly attuned to the perceptions driving behaviors, which in turn, drive results.” 

She then offers 5 ways to cultivate mindfulness:

  1. Be mindful of your breath – mindful breathing is practiced by closing your eyes, listening to your deep breaths and counting them to keep your focus on them. Deep breaths also decrease stress by increasing oxygen flow to your vital organs.
  2. Be mindful of your surroundings – a messy, cluttered desk can result in a cluttered mind. “Treat outer junk as a symptom of inner junk.”
  3. Be mindful of how your treating your body – it’s easy to mindlessly shove food in our mouths around the office – donuts at the morning meeting, candy bowl in the reception area, soda for the afternoon caffeine boost. Grabbing fast food for lunch or on the way home is a common practice as well. Pay attention to what you are putting in your body – treat yourself better and you’ll feel better!
  4. Be mindful of what you’re working on in the moment – back to multitasking again! It’s often a sense of pride but the truth is, our brains really can’t focus on two things at once. Concentrate on the project in front of you – and forget everything else until it’s complete. Through this process you are retraining your mind to focus on the work instead of worrying about the work.
  5. Be mindful of your stress triggers – when you’re aware of your personal stress bombs, you can plan FOR them instead of react TO them. If you want to change your results, change the story you’re telling yourself. The majority of time, our reactions have less to do with the situation itself & more to do with the story we tell ourselves about it. When your boss asks you about a due date, is your “story” telling you that you’re being attacked? OR is she just asking a simple question about timing?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes in Emily’s book, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart”  — Anonymous

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.