Updated: May 11, 2020
What is Mindfulness and why does it make me more powerful? Put simply Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment with full acceptance. The term acceptance can be expanded to include the “Meta practices” of loving-kindness and compassion which I will discuss in another article. WTF? What do the present moment, acceptance and loving-kindness have to do with power? These practices can seem to be the antithesis of power which I usually associate with problem-solving, being in charge and taking control. In fact, because we are blessed (and cursed) with our highly developed brains we have long memories that store an incredible amount of past information and we also have the amazing capability to explore and anticipate a vast number of future possibilities and scenarios. These capabilities have allowed us to be incredibly successful as a species as we can learn from our past to take control of our futures. So what could be the problem with that? The problem is that as I check on my thoughts throughout any given day I notice that most of the time they flow between what has happened or what might happen and when I am stressed (which is most of the time) this flow gets more extreme and it becomes tainted with a “negativity bias” (another gift from our brains). The negativity bias means my nervous system will focus on what’s wrong because that is what is threatening, creating a swing of negative emotions from sadness, anger, guilt, and shame about the past to fear and anxiety about the future. What gets lost in this swing between past and future is the “present” and the moments that occur which make my life special. When something is screwing up at work and I’m driving my son to hockey practice, if I'm not practicing Mindfulness my mind will flow to the friggen mistake that happened yesterday and because of it now I’m going to have to do this, this and this tomorrow to repair the damage. Even though I’m geographically right next to my boy I’m miles away in my mind and I have now completely missed a moment with my Son. To compound the situation my Son’s nervous system will detect my emotional distance triggering negative emotions in him etc. An accumulation of these types of events can create negative emotional cycles that ripple through (or more appropriately tear through) whole families. The practice of Mindfulness allows me to be fully in the moment with my Son with all of my senses present and with gratefulness and appreciation in my heart. Practicing Mindfulness even during mundane, everyday events such as driving to sports practice can be completely trans-formative in preventing these negative cycles from taking over my relationships.
Next time you’re with someone you care about try this exercise. In the beginning, this is easiest to practice with someone you genuinely love.
1. Imagine if this was the last time you were to ever be with that person how would you want that moment to be? I know this might sound morbid but the recognition and acceptance of loss and impermanence are what drives the feelings of gratitude and appreciation.
2. Take 3 deep breaths with your focus flowing with each breath into your body from your nostrils down to your belly and see if you can feel the gratitude and appreciation in your body (if you can’t don’t worry about it)?
3. Then using all of your five senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) connect with that moment with that person you care about – again likes it’s the last or first time ever seeing them.
4. If you find your focus going up into your thought stream curiously observ
e whether they are about the past or future or both. Then with acceptance and without moral judgment of your thoughts (i.e. without trying to change them) use your breath to connect again to the moment.
If you keep practicing this exercise you’ll notice it gets easier because it literally rewires your brain, which I will discuss in a future blog if you're interested?
Please drop us a message if you have any questions or comments. We would also love to hear stories of your own mindfulness successes.
I hope you have a Mindful day,
April 14, 2020