What is mindfulness, and why is it so hard to apply in our daily lives?
We can all agree on the general benefits the practice of mindfulness provides us, but when it comes to that very moment of exercising that muscle, the mind runs loose.
Sure, mindfulness is a basic ability all humans can be equipped with, but having the capacity to be fully present in any situation with your most grounded state of self, takes a bit of practice.
What is Mindfulness?
Your mind is a machine filled with curiosity and wonder. The cognitive aspects like consciousness, perception, intelligence, imagination and memory in our limitless mind is surely to drift anywhere but where we currently are. You can sometimes catch yourself lamenting over something you can’t change from the past, or worrying about something in the future that hasn’t even happened yet. But as Eckhart Tolle profoundly articulates, the power truly does lie in the NOW.
Mindfulness can be practiced through different modalities such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga. However, mindfulness doesn’t have to be this big performative task to put on your daily to-do list to live a virtuous life - it can be as simple as taking a moment to be still, take a breath and listen to the thoughts that are running through your mind. Just the act of doing so can peel so many complex layers and diversify your way of thinking through a calm headspace. Taking a moment to pause can create more brain room to be fully aware of the present environment, while honoring one’s thoughts and feelings, including your own.
“Mindfulness is the gateway into the full dimensionality of being human.”
The “full dimensionality of being human”... Let’s let that sink in for a mindful minute.
What’s being expressed here is the full 360 of the human experience - - the happy, the sad, the mundane, and everything in between... It’s about embracing ALL of what life has to offer and being masterful in navigating through it all, with the quiet resilience of the mind.
Mindfulness is an innate quality that exists inside all of us - you just need to learn how to tap into it.
So how exactly do we bring our mental state to a mindful one?
The Two Different Structures of the Human Brain
First, it’s important to understand how our mind functions.
The human brain runs off of 2 different structures - the “Modern Brain” and the “Primal Brain”.
The Modern Brain, known as the “slow brain”, is responsible for storing memory, solving problems, reasoning, controlling and language. The Primal Brain, known as the “fast brain”, is responsible for survival instincts such as self-preservation, reactivity, aggression, and dominance.
When your primal brain is fully engaged, your modern brain is disengaged, and vice versa. But both must exist to practice mindfulness. The more we can observe our monkey brain and become aware of its antics, the more opportunities we have to rewire our thinking using our modern brain. This converts our primitive thoughts into intentional actions. The object of the game is to slow down your roll... Put a break on your “fast-brained thoughts”, take a step back and reassess.
Knowing is half of the battle. Next time you find yourself in a particular situation, ask yourself, “Am I formulating my reactions through my modern brain, or my primal brain?” 🤔✨
Mindfulness can also be practiced by “creating moments” in your day-to-day that brings your focus back to the present now. Actively creating these mindful moments means carving out space for you to breathe, think, feel and become an observer of all 3.
5 Ways To Create Mindful Moments Throughout Your Day
Here are some ways you can create mindful moments throughout your everyday life.
- Rituals are all about developing a consistent practice that makes sense for you and for the positive change you want to see in yourself, from yourself.
These daily routines are a practice of mindfulness on a micro and macro scale. Micro-scale in a way that you are building an intimate relationship with yourself in the present moment, and macro-scale in a sense where you are committing to your higher self in the grander scope of life.
Mindful Workdays - how we behave behind closed doors is often different than how we are in public. But what if we cultivated an attitude where we can be consistent in any environment we’re immersed in?
Practice active listening - Listen carefully to what is being communicated and reply thoughtfully, actively choosing your words wisely.
Be aware of your body language - Your body language sets the tone of the energy you are emitting with your colleagues. Pay attention to your posture and the way you gesture...
Respect for all people - Despite disagreements and conflicts, everyone deserves to be heard. And sometimes, your colleague’s intention may not align with your intended outcome. Even though you may end up sticking to your belief at the end of the day, listening to an opposing opinion can help diversify your way of thinking.
Mindful Workouts - Begin your workout with gratitude, finding appreciation to have an able body to perform at such a physical level. Think of your fitness session as a time to strengthen your mentality, just as much as your physicality.
Don’t form an opinion. Developing an opinion on a particular thought will automatically take you to a mindset of labeling something to be good or bad. Opinions force you to take a side, when sometimes, things don’t need to be labeled whether right or wrong, and just allow it to be. If something is too heavy or difficult to execute, acknowledge that challenge, but move on.
Synchronize the mind-body connection by coordinating your breath to movement. Find a rhythmic pattern and stay present with each breath… each bike pedal push... each rep.. You can make it through!
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Mindful Meals - Be present with every chew. Food is medicine. Every bite of food entering your body is essentially “data” being downloaded into your DNA.
Take 3 nourishing breaths to transition your mind into the meal.
Begin your meal with gratitude, visualizing where the food you’re about to put inside your body came from. Narrow in on a single ingredient - “These are carrots from the Farmers Market.” You can even take it a step further and think about the interaction you had with the farmer you bought the carrots from. Do you remember any details from that energy exchange? Thinking in this granular way can help you connect back to your thought-process of how you came to eating the food you are consuming in the present moment.
Relish, relish, relish! Relish in the flavor, texture and the abundant nutrients the meal is providing for you! And bonus points - It’ll loop you back to the feeling of gratitude.
Mindful Processing (Emotions) - When you’re feeling “some type of way”, really sit into that emotion. What’s the communication between your mind and heart as you’re experiencing this emotion? Take a breath, and face reality with the deepest part of your heart.
Experiencing conflict - When you get angry, is there a physical sensation that is triggered when you feel this emotion? Does your chest tighten? Does heat rise to your head? From awareness of that physical feeling, you now have a choice of either staying angry, or you can breathe through that space of uncomfortability. This kind of physiological response truly only takes 90 seconds for the rushing chemicals of negative thoughts to flush out of you (Jill Bolte Taylor)
Self Check-Ins - Have you been breathing? (You’d be surprised!) Any tension you feel in a particular part of your body? Notice the quality of your thoughts. Mindfulness is also about creating a voice for your body. So lean in, and listen.
Mindfulness Practice Takes Time To Develop
Just like how there is no one glorified way to lose weight, there are no shortcuts in living a conscious and mindful life. Every person has their own set of triggers and traumas that are answered through impulsive reactions. But the more present you are with every thought and feeling, the more qualitative you’ll be with your actions, interactions, and reactions. It’s about honoring the peace and silence in the midst of a fast-paced environment, as we amplify our truth, our inner voice.
Shauna Shapiro couldn’t have said it any better - “Mindfulness is paying attention with kindness.”
Through each awareness, establish a pathway of kind attention, and cultivate that sense of compassion like a mental muscle. That small act of kindness we practice on ourselves provides us the resources we need to make transformative changes.
In the beginning, infusing mindfulness into your daily life will require a lot of effort. But as we all know, what you practice grows stronger - and the mind you strengthen through that practice is the most powerful asset you can carry with you in any life situation.
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