Living Mindfully: The Art of the Here and Now

By Caroline Zamora

Many of us live busy lives with many different obligations, work, family, friends, church, gym, kids, parent-teacher meetings, walking the dog, watching the new episode of that show everyone is talking about, and the list goes on. But how are we really experiencing all of these things. Our minds are usually preoccupied with memories of the past and worries about the future, and rarely are we taking time to be in the moment. How many times have you been in a meeting while thinking about the conversation you just had? Is there something that could help us leave the past in the past, worry about the future some other time and live in the moment? Well there is, it’s called Mindfulness. 

Mindfulness has been a buzzword you’ve read about in newspapers and online for years. But what is mindfulness? Well, as someone who has been practicing mindfulness for several years, I can tell you that it’s a really simple idea that can be difficult to put into practice. 

I describe mindfulness as the art of being aware; awareness of your emotions and physical being in the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is one of the godfathers of modern western meditation and mindfulness philosophy, describes mindfulness as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 2012).” Brenda Salgado, a mindfulness consultant in the San Francisco area describes mindfulness as “a state of being in which we focus our attention on the present moment, encouraging a nonjudgmental and heightened awareness of our feelings, thoughts, and sensations (Salgado, 2016).” 

Companies and organizations all over the world are seeing the benefits of mindfulness. Fortune 500 companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Aetna, and Facebook, Apple have ‘Mindful’ Departments that are dedicated to ensuring employees have the resources to practice mindfulness. This has even given these companies a much more competitive edge (Gibson, 2016).  What these large organizations have found is that when their employees practice mindfulness stress levels are decreased and productivity is increased, among many other findings. These two things alone improve the return on investment for organizations. 

How can we get a return on investment with our personal relationships? If even one person, who reads this, puts their phone down the next time they are talking to their child or loved one, then we’ve made progress. We live in a very connected world. Many of us receive countless emails, notifications from our most used apps and news outlets. But are these things connecting us or isolating us? Are we building relationships or going down the technology rabbit hole? My hope is this list gives you tools to live more presently with the people around you. 

Here are some easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life:

Just breath
We’ve been breathing our entire lives since the first cry. Even while we sleep our lungs are working. Take a moment to just take a deep breath. Researchers have found that deep breathing calms the mind (Park, 2017). Try this exercise, breath in for 5 seconds and out for 4 seconds and do this 10 times. Be sure when you inhale that your belly expands and when you exhale your belly contracts. 

Eat Mindfully 
How often do you eat your lunch in less than 5 minutes and spend the rest of your lunch hour scrolling through your social media feed? Probably more often than you’d like to admit. Instead, take time to enjoy your food. Lots of energy goes into producing your meals, from farmers and ranchers to supermarket cashiers. Stop and appreciate the tastes, spices, textures of each bite, and the liquid temperature. 

Do what you love
Is it dancing, running, yoga, singing, biking, playing cards, drawing? The activities that you love and do frequently give you an opportunity to just be in the moment. You do them so frequently you don’t have to think too hard about the next play or step, you just do it. Doing what we love takes us out of our busy mind, the mind concerned about what we already did and preoccupied about what we are about to do. 

Be connected less often
In today’s world most technology is fighting for one important resource, our time. Recent studies show the average 24-35-year-old checks their phone 150 times a day (Brandon, 2017). These are likely for different reasons such as a tweet, email, news alert, app notification. But how often are these reasons an actual person? Probably, less likely than we’d hope. So, try a few things like turn your phone to gray screen. Bright colors grab our attention so eliminate those colors all together. Turn off all notification that do not come from people. This means only receiving phone calls, text messages, or message notifications (FB Messenger, what’s app, etc.) that are from real people. Everything else can wait. 

Listen… more than that, hear what they are saying
When someone walks into your office, sit back from your computer. Make eye contact and hear what they are saying, notice their body language and acknowledge them. When you take a phone call, stop what you are doing, say hello and ask how they are, hear what they are saying. Parents, hear what your kids are saying to you. Appreciate the moments that they do want to talk to you. 

Meditate daily
Many people think of meditation as a Zen-like women sitting on top of a mountain cross legged. Meditation is focusing the mind on one thing, usually breathing. And when your mind wonders, refocusing over and over again is part of the process. You can think of the refocusing as a rep for the brain. As a practicing Catholic, my daily meditation is praying the rosary. I’ve recited the Our Father and Hail Mary since I could speak. So as I pray, and my mind wonders to the past or the future I refocus on the prayer. Throughout your day when distractions pull you from the task at hand, your brain knows what it feels like to refocus.

Show gratitude
Mindfulness, as Jack Kornfield describes it, is loving awareness for your life and life in-front of you (Gregoire, 2014). Be grateful for the life you have and the life in front of you and the generations of life that have come before you, so you can exist at this moment. And be mindful in the present moment. 

Spring 2018

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