Cracking the mindfulness code
Say what you want
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment nonjudgmentally.
15 years ago, I participated in a Mindfulness Stress-Based Management course. The course was 8 weeks long and based on the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabia-Zinn.
Mindfulness is available every waking second. I also enjoy meditation but it requires stillness of the body for a period of time. Truthfully, it would be wonderful if I could spend time doing either for any second of the day.
I have always believed that mindfulness required the full attention of my entire self. That may be true. I decided, however, that I can only be mindful with my brain and one other part of my body. When I realized this, I felt like I cracked the code for integrating mindfulness into my life.
What I learned from Moana
As I close in on the fourth decade of my life, I am tuned-in to generational differences. My 7-year uses slang I don't understand. Few of my GenY friends use SnapChat. My millennial niece has to explain words like "ships".
As a parent, I am acutely aware that I am the greatest influence on how my child choses to behave. I've heard that millennials have less capacity for resilience than generations before them. Primarily because, as they grew up, their parents protected them from disappointment. I can relate. (1) I don't want to see my child sad and hurting; and (2) I don't like conflict.
I pick up my son from after school care. It closes at 5:45 and he never wants to leave when I show up. He sees me walk in the door and it is autopilot "grumpy face and whine". He doesn't want to leave, regardless of the time.
I have explained to him that it makes me sad when he reacts to me with those emotions. His reaction also makes my stress level spike and my body goes to flight or fight mode. I get anxious writing about it.
More faces. More books.
Last weekend, I bought the movie “Moana” – a Disney movie. I watched it with my 7-year old son on a Saturday morning snuggled in our softest, warmest blankets. The movie boasted an incredible diversity of characters. The songs were amazing. Moana, to me, was a superstar.
Throughout the movie, Moana wasn’t running from something, she was running toward something. She knew enough to start on her journey, yet encountered unknowns to keep her humble. She asked for help and when that failed she persevered to stay the course. More than any of this, I loved Moana because she had been called – “see the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me” – and she answered the call.
Goals need time
On Saturday, I did a media cleanse. A media cleanse is something I made up. A “cleanse” is more commonly associated as a method of food elimination and intestinal, uh, stimulation. Merriam-Webster defines the word cleanse as “a very restrictive short-term diet primarily intended to remove toxins from the body”.
My scope of the media cleanse was the elimination of news and social media for a calendar day. I did it the weekend before the election to keep my sanity. At that time, it was mostly elimination from Facebook and Twitter, i.e. social media. Since then, I have become a subscriber to the New York Times and have easy access via my iPad. I find myself binging on news and social media when I get home after work. When it started to creep into my workday, I did a call for accountability partners to join me in a media free day.
A new superhero
I am currently lying in wait.
When I have unscheduled personal time and I feel the desire to fill it, I wait. I wait because the feeling to populate my schedule will pass after 10-15 minutes. Waiting keeps me from having a merry-go-round life; it provides time to contemplate why I want to fill my schedule. If the reasons are “because I can” or guilt, then I don’t do it. Just because I have unscheduled time doesn’t mean I need to fill it.
When the first of the year approaches and I’ve had several days off, I want to set resolutions. But I make myself wait. Returning to work is difficult after Christmas and New Year’s Day. I also focus on returning to regular meals and surviving without cookies. Returning to work and regulating my eating are enough for the first week of January. There is no need to add on meal planning, cycling class and time to meditate.
Naughty list of white lies
Imagine this. A person is in imminent danger. A superhero steps in between the person and the harm. The superhero absorbs the visual rays of harm. The person walks away unharmed. The superhero used his or her super powers and feels no better and no worse.
Edge of good enough
This is a stressful time of year. There are a lot of competing pressures and priorities. I want to encourage you to be true to yourself. Don't sacrifice happiness to bend to tradition. Don't buy gifts you can't afford. Most of all - don't lie.
When you start a new job, you strive to exceed expectations—to be close to perfection. The first year, everything is new. The second year goes smoothly because you know what you are doing. However, you remember the promises you made to yourself when you started the job: “Don’t settle for status quo”, “question unnecessary procedures”, and “don’t do ‘just enough to get by’”. By the third year, a temptation persists to do work that is “good enough”.