Sometimes it’s the simplest things that seem the hardest. We’re so caught up with the big, scary urgent tasks that dominate our lives that the smaller, simpler things get lost in the chaos.
But sometimes it’s precisely those smaller things, like taking a moment to take a deep breath, that can make all the difference to the how the rest of our days, and by extension the rest of our lives, pan out.
Here, Henrik Edberg from the Positivity Blog lists 3 ways he reminds himself to stay in the moment. They’re all small, simple things, but sometimes all it takes are a few extra moments of mindfulness to change your experience for the better.
For many of us, the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty hanging in the air. And while there’s not much any of us can do about the pandemic itself, there are things we can do to improve how we deal with the impact on our lives.
Aytekin Tank at Fast Company offers a few simple mindfulness techniques that can help us to stay calm, centred and sane during these uncertain times. It might not seem like much, but it’s these small, consistent steps that often make all the difference.
Anxiety can be thought of as a misallocation of attention. Our brains have certain nine net of positive and negative thoughts bouncing around in them all the time, and anxiety ensures that our attention stays focused only on the most unpleasant and distressing ones.
It feels like your brain is still doing its job and representing reality to you accurately, but the machinery has actually gone seriously wrong.
So how do we get it back on track? Well, though our feelings might be telling us one thing, our rational minds are still working normally, and can still offer us a more balanced point of view if we can find a way to let them. That’s the topic of this piece by Sharon Salzburg about keeping anxiety in perspective:
The fact that anxiety grips the body in the same way as fear gives anxiety more credibility than it deserves. When your body reacts this way, it believes anxiety is alerting you to a genuine threat.
And when the brain is spinning out one horrifying outcome after another, it does not have enough space to clearly perceive the world around us as it is, and make careful, appropriate choices to protect ourselves and others.
So, first step: start by taking a breath or two to ground yourself so that you can determine if the threat you feel is real or a conjecture from circumstances. Is this a real threat? Or is my mind making it up, or perhaps exaggerating what’s actually there? Don’t try to forcefully calm yourself down — that’s too much. Just try to determine if this is a real fear, or an anxious conjecture.
There’s plenty of talk about meditation’s ability to ease anxiety, or bring inner peace, or even to help you sleep better, but there’s not much noise being made about it’s ability to help in the office. Yet that’s what more and more companies are discovering as they integrate mindfulness and meditation into their workplaces:
In more and more occupations, creativity is part of the job description. Whether you are trying to reconcile conflicting stakeholder priorities, finding a solution to a customer’s issue, or launching a new product line, your solution probably won’t come out of a textbook. But it’s hard to keep having great ideas day after day. What do you do when you run out of good ideas? How do you “get your mojo back”?
One increasingly popular solution is mindfulness meditation. Google, Goldman Sachs, and Medtronic are among the many leading firms that have introduced meditation and other mindfulness practices to their employees. Executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.
We only have a certain amount of mental bandwidth and for most of us, a significant amount of it is taken up with worries, fears and self-doubt. But what if we can get some of those resources back? Well, the short answer is that our brains work better. Not just on the cushion, but in life in general.
It’s an unfortunate aspect of the human mind that there’s a voice in there, constantly running, which we have no control over. For the unfortunate among us, that voice is overwhelmingly negative, and we call the experience of listening to that voice anxiety.
One way to begin to overcome the power anxiety has over you is to recognise that this voice is just a voice. Like any voice, you can ignore it, you can choose to listen to a different one, an most importantly, no matter what it says, it can’t control your actions if you don’t let it.
Of course, in practice it’s easier to say this than to do it. But as Sam Harris discusses in the video above, there are a number of skilful ways we can reframe the experience which is making us anxious in a way that weakens its power over us.
How do you know the difference between being anxious about something that’s about to happen, and being excited? For the most part, it is the thoughts you’re thinking, when you’re feeling that arousal. There’s a cognitive, conceptual overlay, on top of this raw feeling. You can consciously reframe things, or you can step out of it altogether and just feel the raw energy of this experience.
Maintaining a regular meditation practice can be challenging. This is true for beginner and experienced meditators alike. But whatever stage your meditation practice is at, there are a few well proven ways to be more consistent, more present, and to enjoy your practice more.
Buddhaimonia has put together a great list of 11 ways to build and maintain your meditation practice. So if you’ve been struggling to put in consistent time on the cushion, it could be just what you’ve been doing for.
Most of the time there’s a voice talking to us in our heads. It’s such a constant presence that we barely notice it’s there, we just responds to whatever it tells us. We feel anxious if it tells us that the interview we’re heading into will go badly, we feel confident if it tells us the date we’re about to go on will go well, and we feel every bit as embarrassed when it reminds of some long past moment as we did when it was happening the first time.
One of the reasons to meditate is to quiet that voice down, so that we can stop our attention from being drawn into the past or pulled into the future, and by doing so, we can fully experience the present.
Unfortunately, this voice doesn’t want to be silenced. In fact it will use anything it can, even the concept of meditation itself, to give us something other than the present to focus on. And as I mentioned earlier, because we’re so used to hearing this voice, we can believe we’re meditating even whilst we’re just listening to its chatter.
The problem, as Alan Watts points out in the video above, is that meditation doesn’t have a purpose and the voice in our heads struggles with the concept of purposeless things. It’s the same voice that tells us we look silly when we dance or that we’re going to make a mistake when we’re improvising during a performance. Dancing and improvisation don’t have a purpose either. We do them for the sake of doing them. Because they’re fun, because we feel inspired to. Because they make us happy.
Dancing isn’t approached with any particular reverence or carefulness, and neither should meditation be. Meditation can’t be practiced for what it will do for you in the future, only for what it is in the present.
Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment. And therefore, if you meditate for an ulterior motive; that is to say to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.
Because the future is a concept. It doesn’t exist. As the proverb says: “Tomorrow never comes.” There is no such thing as tomorrow, there never will be. because time is always now. And that’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking, we find there is only a present, only an eternal now.