Everyday Mindfulness

 

“I was smiling yesterday,I am smiling today and I will smile tomorrow.Simply because life is too short to cry for anything.” ― Santosh Kalwar, Quote Me Everyday

 

How do you practice everyday Mindfulness?

I don’t mean the formal sitting still and in silence type of practice. Where you sit in a room on your own or with others, trying to block out all the sounds of life going on around you. In fact, the type of practice that most people associate with Mindfulness. Instead, I am talking about the idea of living your life with a mindfulness approach.

What on earth is he referring to, you might ask?

We are all capable of practicing mindfulness. In fact, we all experience it on a daily basis. They may be brief moments, but they do occur. A moment where you have absolute clarity of thought. Perhaps a clear focus on something to the exclusion of everything else. You may suddenly feel calm and collected. Even a feeling of being grounded in the present moment with the chaos of life circling around you, rather than you being in the middle of the chaos.

Each and every one of those moments can be described as everyday mindfulness. How do I experience everyday Mindfulness? I’ll give you three simple examples…

  • Breath and Body: When I am driving to work, or home at the end of the day, there are moments where I feel my breathing slowing down. I feel open to the road / traffic / environment around me. A feeling of being centred.
  • Present Moment Calm: I was recently in a meeting where there were a number of contentious and pointed conversations going on. Rather than reacting immediately to the discussion, I felt myself becoming more focused on the present moment. More focused not only on the words but the tones and inflections used by the people involved. As a result, i did not react. I did not feel as if I was being put on the spot. I was calm and collected. I was able to respond in a level and measured way. The feedback from a couple of people was “… how on earth did you remain so calm?”. The fact of the matter was, I really did feel calm.
  • Compassion towards self and others: Finally, I have been working very extensively on a programme, working with a diverse team. This means long hours, many discussions and sometimes arguments. Being compassionate to others has been critical. It stops you feeling that the discussions are personal and pointed. They are not. People get stressed differently in different situations. Not taking it personally, is critical. Ad critical to this is being compassionate. A core element of Mindfulness.

How do you practice or experience everyday Mindfulness? Do you practice Mindfulness on a regular basis? Has it changed your approach to everyday situations? Do let me know.

I leave you with the following quote that really strikes home to me….. Namaste.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

 

Another year on….

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

This weekend I celebrated my birthday. Another year older, perhaps a little wiser, and definitely, my grateful. Grateful, you might ask? Yes. I have my health, I am getting my fitness back, my family and friends are all well and generally, life, though stressful, is positive.

How did I celebrate?

Not with a grand event; nor with a party; but quietly and with friends and family. This may not be to everyone’s taste, but as I have come to realise, it is not the events themselves that you remember, but the time you spend with people you care about.

We went for a walk and a picnic by the river Thames. I love spending time by water, be it the sea or a river. The sounds of the water passing by always put me in a calm and reflective frame of mind. It is good to meditate by water as you allow the sounds to wash over you. In fact, the picture accompanying this post was taken on the walk along the river. You don’t expect to see a beach on the river Thames, do you?

What about gifts you may say?

The smallest gift means the most to me, not the most expensive. It is the thought that goes into the buying of the present. That might sound tright, but it is how I feel. It is not that I have everything in the world, but my needs are simple and I have most of what I need to enjoy life. A new wallet, some tasty chocolate, and bottle of wine were the gifts to me.

Since it was a great birthday weekend, this is only a short post. I leave you with the following quote:

 

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”  ― Susan B. Anthony

Passion and first visual impressions

 

“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” ― Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

 

Please help me understand the impact of first impressions…..

I am always amazed at what life’s twists and turns bring forth. A recent meeting completely threw me. Following a number of phone conversations, I had the opportunity to meet someone from another company in a similar line of work to mine. Let’s call him Tim.

Great, I thought. The chance to share. To learn. To leverage and even possibly, work together.  We had spoken on the phone before the meeting and the conversation flowed smoothly and I felt that the tone of the discussion meant that when we met, things would progress positively.

How wrong was I?

Since it was a business meeting, I dressed accordingly. Suit and tie. It was going to be an open discussion with Tim and one of his colleagues. I travelled to their offices and was there in plenty of time. I waited in reception for the colleagues to come out and greet me. Come the time, came the people.

Dressed, not in business suit attire, but casually, chinos and open shirts. Completely different to me.

Even worse was to come.

Just before I shook their hands, Tim looked me up and down and presented me with one of the least positive handshakes I have ever experienced. Some people’s are limp. Some are wet. Some are so aggressive that they seem to be trying to crush your hand rather than shake it. Tim’s was none of these. All I can describe it as a reluctant handshake.

I shook his colleague hand as well; a normal, positive one this time and we proceeded to a meeting room. We started the discussion and I knew from the start that things were not going well. Tim’s colleague led the discussion and we talked through a number of topics:- Such as best practices. How different companies manage the use of their resources to deal with particular problems. etc. During the discussion, Tim made a comment along the lines of “Your rather passionate about this aren’t you”. To which I replied, “Yes, I was”. More strangeness was to follow.

Unfortunately, Tim’s colleague had to leave and as soon as he left, Tim turned to me and said that he wanted to terminate the meeting there and then. No reason, just that he felt “that there was no synergy to us working together”.

I reflected on the whole event as I drove back to the office. How the initial telephone discussions had gone so well versus the face to face meeting. It really was down to first impressions.

I recall reading a book about our ability as humans to make snap judgements of one another and that these “first impressions” tended to stick. The book also referenced a study carried out in the USA where students were shown silent a10-second video clips of lecturers teaching. The students were asked to score the lecturers purely on the video clip. The students then started their semester and attended classes run by the lecturers. At the end of the term, they were asked to rerate them. The results were correlated and the result was that the scores matched, hence the idea that first impressions stick. By the way, the article on the 10 second video is below.

Article on the 10 second video article: http://ambadylab.stanford.edu/pubs/1993Ambady.pdf

Has the experience changed me? It has certainly made me more aware of first impressions and the power they have over people. Will it change my approach to how I meet people for the first time?  Absolutely..

Do you have a story of a first impression that completely threw you? Have you been impacted by someone’s reaction to you on meeting them for the first time? Has your first impression of someone changed over time? The following quote says it all for me:

 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

Maya Angelou

Sounds and Thoughts

“This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.” ― Terry Pratchett

You do it. I do it. We all do it. In fact, we all do it all the time without even realising it. Deleting sounds.

Sound is one of key senses we have but we have developed the ability to ignore sounds; letting sounds dissolve into the background of our daily lives. If you don’t believe me, then you might want to reflect on the following scenario:

At this time of the year, during the summer holiday’s, it is quite likely that you are going to be going away to a different place to stay. Be it a hotel; camping; by the sea; in a city centre break; with friends or with family. At the end of the first day that you are away, you are going to  retire to the bedroom and after getting ready for bed, you are going to lie down and try to go to sleep.

That is when you are going to notice sounds. The sounds around you. In the room – perhaps the clicking of a clock. Locally – as other people move around or the sounds of the TV on in the next room. Outside, where it might be traffic moving or the sounds of people enjoying the evening.

You are certainly going to notice the different sounds. What will follow is your mind will start to race with thoughts as you wonder “what is that sound?”, “Who is doing what?”, “why are they making that racket?”, “can I stop that ticking?”.

Eventually, you might drop off to sleep. You will get up the following morning and start a new day. That evening, you might notice the same sounds, some new ones or you might not. After the third day, generally, you will not notice the sounds in the evening. They will have dissolved into the background and it will only be the exceptions that you might still “hear”.

We constantly allow sounds to dissolve into the background. There is a term that is used for it, Habituation. Habituation is a decrease in response to a stimulus after repeated presentations. For example, a novel sound in your environment, such as a new ring tone, may initially draw your attention or even become distracting. After you become accustomed to this sound, you pay less attention to the noise and your response to the sound will diminish. This diminished response is habituation.

So how do you deal with the challenge of sounds impinging on your world and the thoughts that stream into your consciousness?

Sounds are as compelling as thoughts and just as open to interpretation. For this reason, the Sounds and Thoughts Meditation is one of my personal favourite as it reveals how the mind conjures up thoughts that can so easily lead us astray.

Why meditate on Sounds and Thoughts?

We are immersed in a soundscape of enormous depth and variety. Just take a moment to listen. What can you hear? This is where the opposite of the example above comes to the fore. At first, you might sense a general pulsating, an all-encompassing hubbub of noise. You might be able to pick out individual sounds. You might recognise a voice; a TV blaring away; a door slamming, cars driving past; an aircraft overhead; tinkling music; the sounds of birds. The list is endless. Even when you’re in a quiet room, you can still pick up muffled sounds. It might be your breath as it moves through your nostrils, or the creaking of the floor or a heating system. Even silence contains sounds.

Just like your thoughts, the sounds around you are never silent. Even more importantly, the sounds around you influence the thoughts and feelings you have.

The Sounds and Thoughts meditation gradually reveals the similarities between sound and thought. Both appear as if from nowhere. Both can seem random and we have no control over their arising. Both trigger powerful emotions that can easily run away with us.

The Sounds and Thoughts meditation helps you to discover this. It also helps you to relate to unsettling thoughts in the same way that you relate to sounds. Your thoughts can be likened to a radio that’s been left on in the background. You can listen – or rather observe – but you need not elaborate on what you receive or act on what you feel. You don’t usually feel the need to think or behave in a way that a voice on a radio tells you to, so why should you blindly assume that your thoughts portray an unerringly accurate picture of the world? Your thoughts are thoughts. That is all. They are your servants. No matter how loud they shout, they are not your master, giving orders that have to be obeyed. This realisation gives you immense freedom; it takes you off a hair trigger and gives you the space to take more skilful decisions – decisions that can be made with your mind when it’s in full awareness.

I leave you with the following quote:

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ” ― Charles Bukowski, Factotum