The intention of being more present in our lives is inspiring many people around me. I never would have imagined some of them practising mindfulness but they now sit in daily meditation.
When I look at the Seattle Seahawks, and think of our Army Vets or politicians sitting in the “Quiet Caucus” room, I’m filled with a whole lot of hope. When I see an increasing amount of kids and teens being taught mindfulness in their schools, I see possibilities.
My wife and I ran a family retreat and long before the deadline, it was sold out hinting at an increasing desire among parents to incorporate this practice into the fold of their families.
- People who practice mindfulness tend to have a beginner’s mind. Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders of life,
- Doubting the process is not a sign of failing at being mindful. They are opportunities to learn about the hindrances of life and understanding how to overcome adversity,
- As we practice mindfulness, we come to understand that nothing is permanent and in this way, life becomes increasingly precious.
As people start to engage in mindfulness, I’ve noticed a few things that they attempt to do differently.
1. Practice Being Curious
One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is the beginner’s mind. This is engaging something as if for the very first time. People who practice mindfulness bring this attitude with them throughout the day.
When they take a shower, they imagine for instance that it was the first time they felt the water, smelled the soap or watched the steam as it shifted and changed before their eyes. Novelty is one of the fastest routes to creating new neural connections.
Even a meal or snack becomes a chance to pause and reflect on how this simple piece of food. They think of all the people from around the world who contributed to putting the ingredients together.
This mundane snack becomes a source of gratitude and a moment of recognizing the interconnection between seemingly disparate things.
Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine, and routine is resistance to wonder.” Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders of life.
2. Forgive & Invite
Life comes with its obstacles and engaging in a mindful life is not too different. Throughout the process there are times when we get too tired or too busy, find ourselves doubting the process, get caught up in avoiding what’s uncomfortable, or just feel too restless.
We come to understand that these are not signs of failing at being mindful. Instead, they are opportunities for learning about the hindrances of life, what gets in our way, and understanding two things: what we need in those moments and the fastest route to begin again.
The simple phrase “forgive and invite” can be enormously helpful. When we get caught in an obstacle, we “forgive” ourselves for the time gone by, investigate the obstacle to learn from it, and then “invite” ourselves to begin again.
Practicing “forgive and invite” over and over again in life becomes an incredibly strong vehicle for growth.
3. Hold Their Emotions Lightly
When you start paying attention to any emotion you start to experience that it is an energy that is “in motion.” It has a certain nature of coming and going and in experiencing this we can naturally hold them more lightly.
This enables us to not get so wrapped up in the difficult feelings, but instead hold them with a gentleness and tenderness – maybe even learning from them as we get better at understanding what we need.
We also hold comfortable emotions lightly as we know that they are not permanent either, but have this same ‘passing’ nature. With this experience, people who practice mindfulness can be grateful for the good moments and graceful during the more difficult ones.
4. Practice Compassion
Compassion can be defined as noticing suffering with an inclination to want to help in some way.
Repeated practice of intentionally paying attention to ourselves with curious and caring attention sends the implicit message to our brain that we’re worth caring about. As we start to pay attention to difficult emotions we become less afraid of them.
Instead, they become our teachers, guiding us to get increasingly better at not only understanding what our needs or those of others are but at helping ourselves or another. This act of self-compassion or compassion is the essential healing agent and facilitates connection.
5. Make Peace with Imperfection
Many of us are keenly aware of our imperfections and this erupts in a barrage of continuous self-judgment. As we start to practice being present, we can’t help but see that we are not the only ones who are imperfect. To be imperfect is to be human.
The imperfections that arise become less of a struggle and instead of a source of recognizing the common humanity of people. As Zen priest, Dogen Zenji said, “To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is to not have anxiety over our imperfections.” Easier said than done, but mindfulness helps us lean in that direction.
Part two of the series on motivation in sport moves past the preparation and dives into the challenges…
6. Embrace Vulnerability
Our brain’s default mode is to act as a guard against vulnerability with ourselves and with others. However, someone who practises mindfulness comes to understand that vulnerability is where the gold is.
From embracing vulnerability, we develop courage, trust, and connection. As we do this we begin to trust ourselves and others and in doing this we cultivate connection.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we are vulnerable everywhere and at all times. We can be discerning about this, but slowly we begin to trust ourselves.
7. Understand that All Things Come and Go
If there is one singular law in life, it is that nothing is permanent (except that law of course). When we close our eyes and listen we hear how sounds appear and disappear.
When we open our eyes we see how over time the seasons change. Food enters our mouths, the taste is there and then it’s gone. We’re born on this earth, we grow up and eventually pass away.
As we practice mindfulness, we come to understand this and in this way, life becomes increasingly precious.
We begin to put our phones down more often and open our eyes to the sacred moments all around us. As I continue to hear over and again from any parent, “It all goes by so fast.” May we learn to savour this precious life.
Many people ask the question, “How do you start?”
The 15th century poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are, that’s the entry point.” My wife had an interesting experience where she was home alone with our two boys.
She wanted to meditate, but there was no space for it. A rare occurrence of our two boys playing in their room by themselves opened her up to an idea. The entry point for her was to use sounds as her practice.
She sat on the couch, closed her eyes and opened up to the act of listening. She heard the birds chirping, the chimes ringing and the sounds of the boys playing. She had a nice 20-minute meditation.
There are so many ways to begin, begin where you are.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
This article originally appeared on elishagoldstein.com. Republished and modified with permission.