Chances are that you have heard about the amazing benefits of mindfulness, now confirmed by neuroscience studies. Yet, you feel too busy to try it out or practice regularly. The good news is that you can get started right away. Mindfulness is more than a sitting practice that requires time. It is a mindset and can be integrated into daily activities, which doesn’t require extra time. All it requires is the intention to be mindful and remembering to integrate it into your daily activities.
You can see the figure below that depicts mindfulness as a mindset, integrated in daily activities, and as a set of practices. Of course, the three aspects of mindfulness support each other and enhance the benefits of mindfulness. But based on Langer’s work it can be argued that you can start to benefit from mindfulness even without the practice. I will add a disclaimer that there are some profound benefits to be experienced because of the practices and much of the research we read is based on people practicing the techniques learned in the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. However, it is better to start with something rather than not do anything at all.
A Mindful Mindset
Mindfulness is a way of being such that you are present to what is happening with the attitude of non-judgment, compassion (toward self and others), and curiosity so that you can see multiple perspectives and notice with fresh eyes instead of being stuck in autopilot. Interestingly, these attributes of a mindful mindset are also common to the five skills common to innovators as cited in the HBR article, The Innovator’s DNA.
Mindfulness in Daily Activities
You can create an intention and commit to incorporating mindfulness in some activities you perform regularly, like showering, driving, and walking. Here are some simple steps to follow:
- Rest your awareness in your breath, bringing curiosity to the direct sensations of breathing, where do you feel the breath in your body, is it flowing with ease.
- Checking in with your body to see if the breath is moving with ease, are there areas you are holding any tension, breathing into those areas and softening that area as much as is possible with the out breath.
- Resting your awareness on other senses. For example, if you are showering, feeling the touch of water, the fragrance of the shampoo or soap, and any other senses involved in the activity. If you are walking, feeling the warmth of the sun or the touch of the breeze, taking in the smells unique to that environment and season, listening to the sounds etc.
- Remembering as you do these activities (see the figure for more examples), you will find your mind wanders away and that is natural, as soon as you notice that, coming back to the present with kindness to yourself and a sense of wonderment, what is here?
As a practice, mindfulness teaches us to be with what is with curiosity and non judgment. There are two broad categories of practice.
- Attending to a specific object of attention like the breath, body sensations, or sounds. This helps to develop focus and the qualities of curiosity and non-reactivity. Examples of these practices are the body scan, awareness of breath, mindful yoga and mindful walking.
- Opening awareness to whatever is showing up in our consciousness without getting got up in it. This helps us become an objective witness to our present moment experience, internal and external, and see the bigger picture with clarity, which cultivates equanimity, insight, and wisdom. Examples of this practice are open awareness, loving kindness, and journaling.
It is always helpful to learn the practice of mindfulness from a qualified teacher and then enhance it with books and self-guidance. But if you are looking for guided meditations, check out the free app Insight Timer, where you can also find my guided meditations including the body scan and open awareness.
Where ever you are, it is a good place to start. Start with the mindset, daily activities or the practices. Especially if you see yourself as a leader, it behooves you to experiment for yourself, what can mindfulness do for you and what can it do for your organization.
If you have any questions or personal insights into your mindfulness practice, mindset and how you integrate it in your life, please take a moment to share.