Thursday, April 26, 2012

Live Mindfully And Prosper

     OOPS! There I go again, tumbling down those basement steps. As I lay at the bottom of the stairs looking towards the top where I had begun in an upright position, I wondered. Why do I unintentionally keep doing things that hurt so much?  After some pondering, I realized, the key word to my question was unintentional.
I fell because I wasn't focused on not falling. Neither my thought nor action was intentional. Rather than being mindful of what I was doing at that moment, I let my thoughts race toward, my shirt that needed ironing, being late for work and man's best friend who had yet to be fed. I thought about everything except those feet needing to touch those steps. Had I been mindful of all of the things racing through my head that were distracting me from the goal at hand, I surely would have arrived at my destination safe and sound. When I walk down a flight of stairs I should only be walking down that flight of stairs and nothing more. It is a simple rule with a consistent successful outcome that I often fail to adhere to throughout the race that is my life.
     While the term mindful is ever so popular in our culture today, the concept which has been a mainstay of Buddhist philosophy for hundreds of years is simplistic, but too often unpracticed. How effective and efficient would our efforts be if we made sure to be aware of every behavior, every action and every step in our journey and all that slows us down or stops up completely?  How much more rewarding and satisfying would our lives be if we focused on the purpose of our thoughts, words and deeds and the outcomes desired?
Frequently we race through life immersed in thoughts of something we need to do tomorrow, next week, next month and miss the opportunities that are present in the moment. How often do we set forth on a journey without purpose, clarity or a sense of value?

      I have learned the hard way that being mindful is not about having a full mind. That doesn't take any work or focus at all. I can have a full mind without even being awake. The art of mindfulness is the act of slowing down and becoming aware of the internal and external processes inhabiting our space and mind that impact our behavior, emotions and thoughts at any given moment in time. Mindfulness is a process of observation and heightened awareness that increases our potential for mastery over our behaviors, environment and our life outcomes. Had the chicken been more mindful, it may never have crossed the road and if it had it would surely have crossed it at night or early morning when the traffic was low and its chance for success high. 

     As you consider the concept of mindfulness it is apparent that it offers an opportunity for us to consistently walk down our life’s pathway without stumbling or falling. It renders more rewarding, effective and efficient outcomes. So why don't we utilize this concept more consistently? I believe it is because we become lost on the conveyor belt of life, which carries us so swiftly through our days that, most of the time we have little focus on what we are doing and why we are doing it. Life becomes a habit rather than a choice. The demands upon our time, attention and energy are tremendous and ever growing. The societal norm is based on more and more and faster and faster. This pace does not support an opportunity to observe and focus on what is going on inside and outside of us. It supports doing and reacting to the moment instead of being in the moment. 

     To be mindful we must slow that conveyor belt down, stop it or get off to reflect on what is happening and what we are responding to.  Step off, take a break, relax, take deep breaths, and observe all that is going on around you and within you. Set aside time each day to become aware of your actions, thoughts, distractions and feelings. Ask yourself; are they in sync with my goals, priorities and values? Mindful observation provides clarity and awareness and a greater opportunity for self-actualization, success and a life more in harmony with your personal values and beliefs.

  Practice sitting quietly in a chair for 5-10 minutes and observe all that passes through your mind. Some people find it helpful to picture each thought/feeling floating by on a cloud. Name it and let it go rather than trying to concentrate on distracting and unsettling thoughts or feelings. Observe your body and the sensations going on within it. Observe sounds and sights in the room and become aware of how you respond to them rather than being distracted by them. Remember you are not trying to create any particular sensation, action, thought or feeling. You are merely an observer sitting in a window watching you and the world you live in. Sounds and thoughts will distract you at times. This is normal. As you become aware of your distractions bring yourself back to the exercise. Becoming aware of your distractions is an example of heightened awareness, which is what you are striving for.

This exercise is simple to do and can fuel a more enriching and rewarding life. Take the time to practice your mindful focus on a daily basis. Know what is driving your train. Understand where you are going and why. Learn to identify and master your distractions. Increase your opportunity to choose behaviors that lead to successful outcomes.

Remember! If a chicken talks you into crossing the road with it, know what prompted you to say ok and always, always make sure the chicken goes first.       


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