I’ve noticed a trend lately when doing stress reduction workshops that when I mention the word mindfulness several people immediately respond by telling me that they meditate, and are surprised when I tell them that it is much more. In the current podcast episode I wanted to focus on how to use mindfulness and forget having to set aside time to meditate… well almost.

Mindful_visualization - Logo

Somehow the western mind has come to view being mindful as downtime away from things. Part of that, I think, is because you hear the phrase “quiet the mind” in connection with mindfulness and people view that as meditation. On the other hand, the Eastern mind connects it with meditation as well as moments throughout the day.

I’ll use myself as an example: A few days ago I was in a rush to attend a monthly group meeting and despite leaving plenty of time to arrive, ran into construction along the way. Traffic had slowed to a crawl and at the speed I was moving I knew I was not going to make my appointment in time. Let me also add here that I hate to be late and to avoid that will often arrive early. I view time as valuable, because it is something you can never get back. That said, I value the time you’re giving me right now…

But I digress. Back to sitting in traffic and getting stressed by the second, counting the amount of time I would be late, and the minutes are beginning to add up. And then I did what some might call a body scan to ask myself: “How are you feeling right now?” I noticed my body was tense, I was laser focused on the road and the line of cars ahead of me, and had a death grip on the car’s steering wheel.

I asked myself what was causing me to be so tense? Right then and there I could feel myself began to loosen my grip on the steering wheel and had a conversation with myself. The lines of cars drifted away and I mentally responded “I’m going to be late.” Next I asked what I expected to happen if I was late. I came up with all the reasons I could think of, things like they might start without me, people would notice, I would feel uncomfortable being the last one to arrive and on and on.

As I ticked off all these things it came to me that the world would not stop because I was late and the rule to be early was a standard that “I” had set for myself and not the other people attending. I thought back to previous meetings where thinking_filters 2others arrived late and remembered how that didn’t spoil the fun of hearing everyone’s news. I could feel my grip loosen even more on the steering wheel as I gradually allowed myself to think about how excited I was to meet with the group and told myself to let go of expectations and enjoy the new experiences of not knowing what I was going to hear, the food I would eat, or the scenery in this new restaurant. My stress level went from 10 to almost zero and I arrived at the restaurant just as the waiter was asking for orders.

This experience is what I meant that mindfulness does not have to be close yourself off meditation but a simple moment of asking yourself how you are feeling right now, of slowing things down and stepping back to look at how you are experiencing the world one minute at a time. And then, adjusting your thinking to be conscious of how you are taking the world in. Once I did this I had time to realize it was a beautiful Florida Spring day, an amazingly restored muscle car with South Florida plates was in the lane next to me, and I felt kind of pretty in the outfit I was wearing.

I’m featuring this because we all have a lot on our plates and in trying to finish everything on those plates thinking of being mindful as only meditation it makes it just one more thing in our already hectic lives. Think about all the things you’re trying to fit into a day (remember time is valuable) and how you set yourself up for failure when you have to steal time just to hear yourself think.

I treasure the time I have each morning to quietly set the tone for the day but you also have to remember that early morning boost wears off and there are 5 or 6 times during the day when you can build in a refresher to ask yourself what is going on right now to slow things down a little. In doing my workshops I’ve learned that some of you already have creative ways to do a mental reset by taking mindful moments. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal techniques in the blog comments, because how you work in those moments may help someone else in a similar situation. And now, I’m off to an appointment and plan to use a few of those moments to just be mindful of how I’m taking in the world.

Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter to get updates available only to subscribers