"Mindfulness is Awareness that arises through Paying Attention, on Purpose, in the Present Moment, Non-Judgmentally. It’s about Knowing What is on your Mind." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness for Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the 1970s. MBSR has become a popular movement today, and over the last 10+ years, with companies, athletes, professionals, kids, hospitals, prisons and anyone looking to reduce stress.
Let's break down Jon Kabat-Zinn's definition a little further.
Mindfulness may certainly reduce stress.
Mindfulness has also been known to create a calm and balanced mind, improve focus and concentration, enhance creativity and clarity, help people with decision making, improved collaboration, relationships and teamwork.
These are many of the reasons that people are drawn to practice Mindfulness.
It's important to note that the word Mindfulness originates from the translation of a Buddhist text in 1881 by a British magistrate, Thomas William Rhys Davids. He was attempting to translate into English a Sanskrit word from the Buddhist tradition 'Sati', which means to remember, attention, memory of the present or awareness in the present moment.
Mindfulness was one step on the Buddhist path towards reaching the meditation state and the state of enlightenment, realizing our true nature of inner peace, wisdom, happiness, love and compassion. This sense of remembering could be referring to remembering our true Self, and the reality of existence, that we are not the thoughts in our mind.
The purpose of Mindfulness was therefore to draw the awareness inwards, listen inwards and connect with our inner Self, not merely as a method to reduce stress or calm the mind.
Wherever you are on your journey of personal and spiritual transformation, Mindfulness is a powerful technique that can help transform your life. You may find it helpful to reduce stress, calm the mind, and improve your relationships with others, whilst remaining open to the deeper purpose of Mindfulness as a tool to connect more deeply with your inner Self.
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anywhere, except when we are asleep. I'm sharing below 23 Mindfulness practices for daily living, that you can integrate into your life, in both business and personal lives.
Be fully present with what you are doing at any one time. This opens us to the unexpected and to new possibilities. When our mind and thoughts are in the past or in the future this keeps us trying to be in control of situations that no longer exist, or that do not yet exist. Surrender to the present moment because this is the only moment that you have in your life. In this way, we can experience the fullness of each moment as it unfolds. Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered into the past or the future, gently bring it back to the present moment, the here and now.
Bring awareness to your breath and focus the mind on your inhales and exhales. Slow down your breath, and this will begin to slow down your mind, and allow you to become more aware of your thoughts and your breath. You can bring your focus to the air at the tip of your nostrils as you inhale and exhale through your nose, or feel the belly rise and fall which helps with the fullness of the breath, or feel the flow of the breath up the spinal energetic column from the root chakra in between your sitz bones, to your crown chakra at the top of your head.
Any time you notice your mind has wandered and is thinking about something, just notice it has wandered, without judgment and gently bring the mind focus back to your breath. Keep a soft focus with a balance between effort and ease. Try not to force your attention too intensely. Allow it to happen more naturally and gently.
Align your posture with a straight spine so you can breathe more deeply and fully. Keep your feet flat on the ground so you feel more grounded and connected to the earth if you are sitting in a chair. Relax your shoulders so you feel more confident and open. This practice can be done while you are doing a task or even during a meeting if you feel the need to get more grounded, centered or calm. It will help to focus your mind and stay present on the task or discussion, and prevent your mind from becoming distracted by thoughts.
It will also help you to stay balanced, centered and equanimous even if the situation or conversation around you may be upsetting or stressful in some way.
The breath is always happening right here right now, so using the breath as the object for our mindfulness meditation brings us into the present moment. We are not focusing on the breath in the past or in the future. We are aware of the breath right now in the present moment.
The breath is the connection between the mind and body. In Yoga, we use breathwork to channel and expand our life force energy. As well as increasing the oxygen in the body by breathing more fully and slowly, relaxing the nervous system and relaxing the muscles and any tension in the body, we are also increasing our energy which in turn can help you to feel more clear-headed, grounded and centered.
Enjoy our complimentary breath meditation here.
Be a watcher or witness of your thoughts, as if you are outside of your thoughts and outside of your mind. Notice your thoughts and become aware of your thoughts as if they are not your thoughts. They are not who you really are.
We all have a lot of thoughts and mental chatter! Our minds like to create stories, judgments, aversions, attachments based on these thoughts. Don’t believe or follow your thoughts as if they are true. Don’t take them so seriously! Don’t identify with your thoughts as being who you are. When you master this technique, you will notice that this witness or watcher is separate from your thoughts, and so you can conclude that you are not your thoughts.
The goal is not to release all thoughts so that we don’t have any thoughts. The goal is to not attach yourself to the thoughts, and not become filled with emotion based on the thought. Every time you notice your mind following the thoughts and creating stories, you can use the breath awareness to bring your focus and awareness back to your breath.
Identify the repetitive thoughts that occur in your mind, the stories you create, that are usually not true. It might be that you’re not good enough or that you have a fear of failure or a fear of something else. Really listen inwards and become aware. Once you begin to watch your thoughts as a witness, now visualize them drift in and out of your mind as if they are clouds in the sky, coming and going. They are not who you are.
Catch yourself when you notice your judgmental mind kicking in, based on a situation, and practice being present, calm, patient and fully accepting what is. It's not the situation that causes stress. It's your reaction and perception of the situation that causes stress.
Accept fully what is happening right now. You do not necessarily need to accept a whole situation in your life, that has a past, present and possibly future. Just accept fully the present moment, and then you will have new choices for how to act and move forward.
We spend our lives attaching ourselves to goals, jobs, people, situations and objects that we believe will make us happy, or to a situation in the past that we are trying to hold onto in order to stay happy. When we practice letting go of our attachments to things in the outside world that we believe will make us happy, we begin to realize that our happiness lies within and we are in control of creating our own happiness. We no longer need to search for it outside of us.
When we let go of the attachment or aversion to a thought or story in our mind, that may not even be true, the hold it had on us disappears and our body and mind begin to relax, and then we are more open to a new possibility.
Letting go is a gentle balance between effort and ease. It's more about patient acceptance, allowing it to be there, not resisting it, and then watching it disappear on its own when we accept it fully and no longer have a strong emotion towards it. "What you Resist Persists".
Take a few moments regularly throughout your day to pause, stop what you are doing and bring awareness to the present moment, or to your breath for a few seconds or a few minutes. This will help to calm your mind, get centered, and will help you to be more focused on the task at hand when you come back to it. You can practice taking a purposeful pause before taking action or reacting to a situation so you can act from a place of calm and clarity instead of reacting from a place of stress or anger.
Purposeful pauses can also be helpful for people who may get too focused on a task and lose sense of the bigger picture or their surroundings. It can help them to relax their focus and be more mindful of different perspectives, different opinions or merely their surroundings.
Many people spend a lot of their lives multi-tasking and trying to do too many things at one time. Eating, checking emails, on the phone with a friend, talking with a colleague, and perhaps even on a conference call at the same time! We think highly of ourselves when we are able to multitask and we feel good because we got so much done! However, what was the quality of everything we did? How well did the food nourish our bodies when our mind was distracted and our nervous system was most likely on high alert? How much of the conference call did we hear when we were checking emails and talking to our friend?
When we focus on one task at a time, we tend to be more focused, less distracted, more engaged in that task, and even calmer in the mind. We are more likely to complete the task effectively, efficiently and with more clarity.
When we are grateful for something we are being grateful right now in the present moment, and we are in full acceptance and content with what is. Feeling grateful also creates a sense of calm and happiness. Being grateful reminds us that we already have so many wonderful things in our lives and helps us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives.
Writing down what you are grateful in a journal each morning or before you go to sleep is a helpful way to express gratitude. You can also look in the mirror every morning and say aloud what you are grateful for in your life. Notice how this makes you feel throughout your day.
We are constantly "doing" things in our lives and as a result we are always busy. This busyness can create a lot of stress. Our breath often becomes more shallow when we are busy and stressed, and our flight or fight response is often active and on high alert. Slow down and spend some time Being instead of Doing all the time. After all, we are Human Beings, not Human Doings!
When we act from a place of a beginner's mind we open ourselves up to a wider perspective. Unlearning, not being attached to what we already know as the truth, what we think we know, helps us to be more open to other people’s views, and our own inner wisdom or intuition.
Begin every day by creating an intention. It could be a state of being you are going to attempt to stay in throughout the day, perhaps calm and centered, or compassionate towards others and yourself. You can write down your intention or say it aloud to yourself three times, or even share it with a friend or colleague in order to provide some accountability and make it more real. Set reminders for yourself throughout the day to remember and stay aligned with your intention.
Daily journaling can help to release the thoughts from our mind. The Morning Pages, created by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, is a method to write down all the thoughts in your mind every morning, as a way to calm the mind and release all the mind chatter that may not be serving you. This is a powerful journaling practice that can help you stay mindful and present for your day ahead.
We often feel that we are victims of time and that time is happening to us and we have no control over it, and we wish we had more time. We are actually creators of our own time. Time is not happening to us. We can choose how we spend our time, and therefore we can create time for tasks that are important to us.
If we feel we don't have time to complete a task, instead of saying "I don’t have time", which reinforces this victimhood of time, we can shift our perspective to say "I can complete that once I have finished my current task" empowering ourselves to create our own time, whilst maintaining clear boundaries within our capabilities.
Use challenges and difficult situations as opportunities to practice mindfulness. Accept challenges fully and even welcome and celebrate them. Allow them to become your teacher. You can give the challenge or pain a name or label. This labeling or naming of the situation or pain separates you from it, removing some of the strength of the emotion, and giving you some breathing space.
Turning off your phone, computer and email while you are busy on a task is a great way to stay present on the task and not get distracted. We often act as if we must respond immediately to every email, call or text that comes in. Take some time each day to detox from all technology so you can calm and focus your mind without these added distractions. Placing your phone on the table, even face down, when you are out for lunch with someone, tells the other person that you are not fully present with them because you will react if your phone notifies you of a message.
Find your inner child, be curious, observant, present, aware and playful. Children are often very present and are not concerned about the past or the future. We can learn so much from children about mindfulness! Laughter and light-heartedness go a long way when letting go of the thoughts or stories in our mind, and also when working as a team. It’s important to integrate fun and laughter at appropriate times in the workplace.
We spend so much of our lives trying hard to reach goals, to achieve, to be successful, to be happy and to solve problems. When we stop trying so hard, find a balance between effort and ease, go with the flow and allow life to happen around us, we may find we have more space and time, and we begin to notice the world around us.
We can still have goals, whilst enjoying the journey, appreciating and feeling content and fulfilled with every step along the way.
Be fully aware of every mouthful of food you eat, every bite and how you chew and swallow your food, and feel the food nourishing your body. Be grateful for having the food be prepared, transported, and grown for you to eat. When you are eating, focus on only eating. Do not be tempted to check emails, make phone calls, watch TV or “check out” in any other way. Be fully present with your food and the act of eating.
We often drive somewhere and we don't remember any of the actual journey. We were driving completely on autopilot, often thinking about where we need to get to, or thinking about a situation in our life, something that happened in the past or a situation we need to deal with in the future, perhaps when we get to our destination. Practice staying present and aware when you are driving, by noticing the road, every turn, every sign and each moment of your journey.
Listen fully to others by staying silent and hearing everything they say. Refrain from offering solutions, advice or your opinion. Do not tell your own similar story. Be fully present and listen with empathy and compassion, perhaps nodding or smiling as acknowledgment. Use body language that shows you are fully engaged and present. Learn more about Effective Listening Skills here.
Pause and think carefully before you speak. This will prevent you from reacting with emotion, or saying something that you may later regret. Talk slower and honor each word that you say. When we talk very fast it is often because our mind and thoughts are racing very quickly and we're trying to say everything that's on our mind. When we slow down, we realize that we only need to say what is absolutely necessary in that moment.
Be fully aware of every step you take. Notice the shoes on your feet, and how your feet land on the ground. Be aware of your body and how it moves or any sensations or tension in the body. Notice what surrounds you as you walk or run. Do not think about where you are going or your destination. Bring your mind focus to being fully in the practice of walking or running. Learn more about our recommended Mindful ChiRunning and ChiWalking techniques.
I invite you to consider ways that you can integrate these Mindfulness Tips into your daily life, in the workplace, at home and with your relationships. I hope you found this helpful. Have fun with it, and pick one practice at a time to focus on for a day or longer.
I am available as a Mindfulness Speaker to lead a talk, discussion and workshop about Mindfulness, including a selection of these mindfulness practices above, and also Building Mindful and Trusting Relationships, Mindful Negotiation, and Mindful Teamwork. These workshops and sessions are great for companies, groups and teams, looking to work more effectively together. Learn more about our Corporate Mindfulness workshops.
If you have any questions or feedback on this article, please leave a comment in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!
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Author: Sally Mitchell, founder of Body Flows Yoga Retreats and RYT 200 Yoga Teacher leads yoga retreats in the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica. Living in beautiful Sonoma, California, after 15 years in NYC and San Francisco, her approach as a leader and teacher is holistic, balanced and grounded. She enjoys studying and practicing Yoga and Buddhism, hiking and trail running in nature, traveling, writing and inspiring others to live a more spiritual and meaningful life.