Mindfulness, a core career and life strength, is the practice of becoming more fully aware of and attentive to, without judgement, what’s taking place within and around you. It’s focus and concentration on steroids, with a big dosage of stress reduction.
Mindfulness is not only the seventh path of Buddhism’s Noble Eight-fold Path, but it’s the primary energy that puts the Buddha’s teaching into action. Here’s some of my favorite mindfulness practices:
- Focusing on my breathing, noticing the in-breaths and out-breaths
- Taking a walk (without technology!), paying close attention to what I’m seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, and smelling
- Eating mindfully, by taking my time with each bite and not multi-tasking
- Sitting comfortably or lying my back on the carpet, and directing my attention to each part of my body in order to notice where it might be tense—and then focusing on my breathing while I tenderly observe this tension
- Silently reciting what’s called the loving-kindness mantra: “May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.”
Meditation teacher Tara Brach has popularized the acronym RAIN as a helpful approach to becoming mindful in moments when you find yourself stressed out or carried away by incessant thinking or anxiety (does that ever happen to you?) You can read about RAIN here, but this is the practice in a nutshell:
- Recognize what is happening
- Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
- Investigate with interest and care
- Nurture with self-compassion
For some more examples of mindfulness in action, explore this recent series of posts I’m writing on mindfulness and healing shame, as well as this series from 2016. In addition, check out this more comprehensive summary of various mindfulness meditation practices.
Why Mindfulness Matters
There’s more research (such as this Forbes article) on the benefits of mindfulness than you or I can ever hope to read, but here’s the highlights of why mindfulness is worth doing:
- Reduced stress
- Increased focus and concentration
- Increased productivity
- Healthier relationships
- Increased happiness and inner peace
But mindfulness habits don’t develop overnight. Pick one or two of the activities I’ve mentioned above and practice them–without judging how consistent or effective you’re performing them. Just keep practicing; that’s the key to developing a mindful way of living.