Before you try Mindfulness, do this.
I bristle at the word ‘mindfulness’. In itself it suggests a focus purely on the mind, thinking or mental activity, it can be hyped as a ‘cure-all’ tool for managing stress or even just another performance management technique, and it can be interpreted in many different ways according to the way it’s being used.
Here’s what it means for me -
1. Learning to observe the fluctuations and movements of your mind
2. Being present with how you feel in your body
3. Bringing awareness and an understanding of your inner world (thoughts, feelings, emotions, stories, fears, desires) and how it/they impact your outer world (behaviours, relationships, decisions, reactions)
Despite my bristling, I do celebrate the fact that more and more people are beginning practices to bring more compassion, calm, kindness, understanding, awareness and presence into their lives and work.
Whether the mindfulness you’ve read about or tried has been a breathing practice, an embodiment practice or a meditation practice (or something else), the key word is practice.
Mindfulness requires continuous practice.
Practice requires commitment, and commitment requires purpose.
And this is why many people try, and then lose their rhythm or motivation with the practice.
We don’t commit to something unless we’ve got a meaningful reason for doing it.
Purpose is what drives us, it’s what gives us meaning.
For me, managing stress isn’t a purpose. It’s important, but it’s a means to an end, not an end itself.
If stress is what’s bringing you to mindfulness (and most people are encouraged or recommended to try it by a partner, friend or colleague as a solution to their stress), start by reflecting on these questions first:
At what times do you feel most stressed?
What does your stress feel like?
Who is impacted by your stress, and how?
What else is impacted by your stress?
What are the symptoms of your stress? (physical, mental, emotional)
The answers that surface will give you information about your why, your purpose.
For you it might be to improve the connection and intimacy with your partner, to help you tap into your Emotional Intelligence and compassion, so you can lead your team through challenging times, to experience more joy and presence with your kids or connect more with your inner knowing so you can build your confidence and set better boundaries.
The important thing to know is that these practices are subtle in impact and compound gently over time.
Notice that the meanings of mindfulness to me above all start with verbs – continual actions that bring changes and growth over time.
Hard to quantify in conventional ways and often difficult to describe.
Maybe the initial outcome for you is that you find it really f-ing hard! That your struggle and discomfort with not feeling any immediate impact IS your practice to begin with.
This is where having a meaningful purpose is crucial!
That connection and commitment to a deeper purpose, is what keeps you going.