Mindfulness is not controlling your thoughts.
Nor is it controlling your emotions.
And no matter what anyone says, mindfulness is definitely not #goodvibesonly.
Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time or preventing “bad” emotions from popping up.
And it’s not about stopping yourself from thinking or feeling.
It’s much simpler than all of that.
The Ability to See and Choose
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness practice won’t make you immune to frustration, overwhelm, anger, or any other challenging emotion.
You’ll still feel rage when you get into a heated political argument with your uncle on Facebook.
And if you ever find yourself grappling with self-doubt? Well, you’ll still experience that, too.
But with mindfulness practice, that rage and fear and doubt loses its power.
Instead of getting pulled along by the anger, sadness, worry, anxiety, and exhaustion that you feel, you’ll be able to unhook yourself from those emotions and instead navigate to where you want to be.
Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness in the present moment.
So, when you practice mindfulness, you’re able to see exactly what you’re experiencing.
And that awareness gives you the ability to choose how to respond to a difficult situation, rather than feeling forced to react.
Mindfulness practice gives you the superpower of seeing the whole world more clearly. Through practice, you’ll discover a deeper, fuller experience of your life (both professional and personal).
Which is pretty damn great.
So, instead of trying to “stop procrastinating,” or “stop feeling like you’re not good enough,” or “stop being so afraid of failure,” you can cultivate mindful awareness of those thought patterns.
Then, when you see that they’re happening, you can freely choose what to do next, rather than getting pulled along by the challenging thought or emotion.
Mindfulness isn’t easy. It goes against what most of us do habitually.
It means challenging the impulse to judge and react as quickly as possible.
But when you create space with mindfulness, you gain the kind of boundless internal freedom that makes it possible to take the action you need to take, no matter what barriers stand in the way.
(say goodbye to getting stuck!)
Mindfulness practice has tons of other benefits, too. These include :
- Stronger focus
- Greater calm under stress
- Improved memory
Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s get you some of those benefits!
How to Practice Mindfulness
There are many ways to practice mindfulness.
Seriously. Like, infinity ways.
You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor in a monastery in Tibet with your eyes closed and only the sound of a babbling brook to break your concentration. (although that does sound pretty nice…)
No matter where you are, no matter how much time you have, you can practice mindfulness right now.
So, to get a dose of calm focus that’ll help you stay un-stuck and overwhelm free, try one of these exercises:
Mindful Awareness: What do I notice, right now?
Time: 30 seconds (or more, if you like)
When to use it: you’re feeling stuck, worried, distracted, or pulled in too many directions. You can use this exercise while sitting at your desk.
How to do it:
- Pause whatever you’re working on
- Decide how much time you’d like to practice — this could be as short as 30 seconds or as long as 10+ minutes (if this is your first time, aim for 30 seconds)
- You can close your eyes if you like, or leave them open
- Ask yourself:
- “What do I notice, right now?”
- With open awareness, observe what you notice:
- Physical sensations in your body (tension, relaxation, pain, itching, comfort…)
- Sensory input (sounds, sights, touch, smell, taste)
- Thoughts (planning, ruminating…)
- Emotions (excited, worried, relaxed, tense, content…)
- And anything else that comes into your awareness
- As you allow your awareness to move freely, observe when you find yourself getting pulled along by a thought or emotion
- If you find yourself analyzing, daydreaming, or ruminating, intentionally bring yourself back to the present moment. (pro tip: I find it helpful to intentionally come back to something specific. When I notice that I’m daydreaming, I’ll often bring my focus to what I can hear)
- No matter what comes during this practice, meet it with non-judgment. This is definitely one of the most challenging parts of the practice, but the practice of non-judgment is a true game-changer. See if you can just observe what you’re experiencing for what it is, rather than spiraling into judgment about why it’s “bad” or “good” or proof that you’re “bad at mindfulness.” If you’re practicing, you’re doing exactly what you need.
Time: 2-10 minutes
When to use it: you have some space and quiet time to yourself and you’d like to get really focused and come back to center so that you can do your best work (or your best relaxin’ — this is good for that too!)
How to do it:
- Pause whatever you’re working on.
- Give yourself 2-10 minutes (or more) and set your intention to practice mindfulness for that amount of time.
- Pro tip: set a timer so that you don’t have to worry about the time (I love the app Insight Timer)
- Allow your eyes to close and bring your focus to your breathing, just breathing naturally through the nose.
- Notice when the mind wanders to other thoughts, physical sensations, or external stimuli.
- When you notice that your focus has wandered away, pause for a moment and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
- When your time is up, allow your eyes to open and notice what you feel.
In your day-to-day life, you can bring mindful awareness to any activity. All you have to do is notice what is happening, in this moment, without judgment.
When you do that, you’re able to freely choose how to take action so that you can efficiently grow your business (and, you know, enjoy the other areas of your life too).
Sometimes, during mindfulness practice, you’ll notice some really unpleasant stuff. And sometimes you’ll notice really lovely stuff. And other times you’ll notice not very much stuff at all. None of those are bad.
The key here is that you’re building awareness — the kind of awareness that cultivates freedom, clarity, and ease.