My practice of mindfulness and meditation continues to evolve; and throughout the last two years of dedicating time to meditation, 4 key pillars of my mindfulness practice have evolved and come to light. These pillars include:
- Cultivating Presence
- Attention & Intention
- Reacting vs. Responding
- Reducing the need for instant gratification.
Many people equate meditation with mindfulness as one in the same. I think there is a ton of crossover between meditation and mindfulness, and the foundation of both is in being fully and completely present and clear. The practice of meditation is simply a wrangling of the thoughts in the mind. The thoughts don’t stop, but perhaps they slow. With continued practice and commitment, you’ll find that the chatter becomes more quiet, and that you are able to consistently focus. You can identify the thoughts that come from your Ego, and the thoughts that come from your heart. Meditation certainly leads to mindfulness as it provides you with the opportunity to be present, completely and fully. In both exercises, quieting or wrangling the thoughts in the mind can cultivate to a more clear space — opening up the door to creativity, better listening, compassion, kindness and less hostility or living in constant “fight or flight”.
Attention + Intention
Establishing a daily intention can be quite difficult. Perhaps its even setting the tone for the day by being more compassionate during your drive into work. Intention is the act of how we intend to show up. How we intend to be our best selves, and how we intend to behave. Often, we don’t see our intentions because we are not on the receiving end of them. Perhaps our witty quip came off passive aggressive or hostile, was that really our intention when we said it? Cultivating a space of living with intention gives us the power to fully establish our attention. We can begin to see ourselves by cultivating presence in the moment and understand that our actions, intents, and attention are all powerfully woven together like a ball full of yarn. Where your intention goes, your attention flows.
Reacting vs. Responding
In my past lives working in technology required the instantaneous reaction. The fast paced environment made you quick on your toes, but also prone to react to swift changes. These reactions were unhealthy and triggered a lot of stress in my body, through the form of migraines and heart palpitations. Through mindfulness and meditation, I’ve been able to identify the differences between reacting to a situation and responding to one. When we are surprised, we are often forced to react. We are thrown off our our course, away from how we expected things to go, and are immediately in our fight or flight mode, looking for ways to survive. Survival tactics in the mode of reaction are not always healthy, they may not even align with our true goals or self. They are simply survival methods meant to get us through that instant moment.
When we take time to digest information received, or scenarios we face, we are able to respond in a way that may help us survive in ways that will be better long term. We can surrender to the present moment, and recognize that the scenario or environment we are in before we respond. When we take a moment and hold space for ourselves, we are able to better respond to a situation. We can overcome our fear, and confidently move forward.
Reduce Instant Gratification
With information at our finger tips, its hard to not be instantly gratified on a daily basis. We have access to so much information. Many modern conveniences and technologies that are designed to make us more efficient, but in actuality are causing more harm than good. Take for example, the ability to order a coffee in the morning from your phone. Having this at your fingertips is convenient, but do you really need that coffee? I believe in treating yourself every once in a while, but sometimes the quick access to information makes us think that the things we have access too will make us happy or spark joy, but they don’t do anything us for the long term.
Meditation and mindfulness has also provided a space for me to get in touch with my heart and soul. By establishing this practice, I am able to identify some of the things I would normally turn to to satisfy me, were not really satisfying me in the first place. They were only temporarily satisfying me. Minutes later after consuming the latte, I was looking for the next fill of gratification. This is not mindfulness at all.
By reducing the need to instantly satisfy, I have become more in tune with the needs of my body. Instead of online shopping, perhaps I need to get outside with the dog, and take in nature. Instead of grabbing a coffee, perhaps I give that $5 to a charity where they will help feed the homeless. There are other ways to satisfy and gratify us. When we take a more mindful based approach we become more grateful for the people, experiences, and blessings in our life.
I’d like to invite you to partake in a mindfulness challenge. Over the course of the next week, I encourage you to take 5 minutes to yourself. Away from your phone or any distractions. Use this 5 minutes to silently get centered. Sit in a chair or on the ground, and focus on your breaths. If it helps you to look at something pretty, perhaps look at a plant or flower that will make you smile. Spend those 5 minutes focusing on your inhales and exhales, and acknowledging each thought as just a thought. Don’t agree with it, don’t identify it, just accept it as a thought. By doing so you are being mindful of the situation, and are on your way to calming and wrangling the thoughts in your mind.
Originally published at medium.com