Tag Archives | fulfillment

The Heart of Mindfulness is All in Your Approach

Photo courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis

The goal of this week’s Mindful Monday post is simple: we’re going back to the basics.

Many, many times, even the most dedicated person can lose sight of his or her goal(s) of living mindfully, making it easy to slip back into a harried, stress-filled way of living. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to us by taking the time now to review some basic mindfulness concepts.

While mindfulness is at the heart of Buddhist meditation, it has nothing to do with Buddhism and everything to do with paying attention. The words for mind and heart are essentially the same in many Asian languages.

Mindfulness = Heartfulness

Heartfulness is the act of showing your mind and body affection by paying attention to the moments of your life on purpose, in the now, and without judgment.

Some people get mindfulness and awareness confused.

For example – being aware that you are eating is not the same as eating mindfully. Many people eat while talking, texting, watching television, reading, or a myriad of other distracting actions.  On some level, you are ‘aware’ that food is going into your mouth, but you will never fully connect with the experience unless you are mindfully paying attention to all of the sensations involved in eating and your reactions to them.

That concept carries through to everything you do in your life: shopping, sight-seeing, interacting with your children, having conversations, seeing a play, taking a drive, even sitting still in the silence of your living room!

It’s the attitude you have when approaching activities that will make all the difference in how deeply you connect with them. Through practicing regular mindfulness, you’ll be able to live a much more fulfilling, happy life. Let’s review the key attitudes of mindfulness:

Kindness toward yourself as you become more aware of your thoughts and reactions
Acceptance of how you feel, right now
Curiosity about your feelings toward everything that you experience
Patience for expert mindfulness to develop
Go with the flow of your reactions to everything you are experiencing. Don’t force anything.
Trust your mind and your inner strength to guide you toward a more enlightened life.
Non-judging attitude toward good or bad experiences – simply observe.
Non-striving approach to every moment -rather than look forward to a future moment, stay in this moment and allow it to completely unfold for what it is.
Open-mindedness - Everything that you encounter has so many possibilities as long as you are open to them.

If it seems like too much to tackle all at once, try to adopt one of the above attitudes into your life at a time until you feel you have mastered it.  Then you can progressively practice all of the mindful attitudes, one by one.  Believe me, you WILL feel your reactions to life begin to shift in a very positive direction.

Next week’s Mindful Monday will be dedicated to reviewing the steps to successful Mindful Meditation.



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How to Turn off Auto-Pilot and Live Your Life to the Fullest

Photo courtesy of Bing Ramos

On the journey toward living with mindfulness and balance, it’s important not to slip into auto-pilot too often.  Much like arriving at a familiar destination in your car and having no idea how you got there, living life on auto-pilot steals moments right out from under you. It’s so easy to zone out, and it’s ok to let it happen once in awhile, but for the most part, living mindfully means paying attention to every moment we are lucky enough to experience.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time creating effectual habits in order to become more productive, and that type of automated thinking, in the appropriate settings, is actually good for my brain and allows me to function better professionally. Habitual thinking occurs when the brain becomes so accustomed to certain tasks that performing them becomes automatic, leaving us able to concentrate on more important things. Examples of beneficial habits include exercising, flossing your teeth, and taking your vitamins every day.

A problem arisis when the brain slips into automatic mode too often, leading to lost life experiences. In order to use your inner capacities for awareness and insight, it’s important to focus on “being” rather than “doing.” Living mindfully means letting your mind rest in each moment as it comes, watching your thoughts and reactions to all that life has to offer.

If you’re finding it difficult to shut off auto-pilot and be more present in your life, here are ten simple things you can do to get started:

1. Appreciate the things others do for you. Start taking notice of the small favors people do for you. By telling my husband how much I appreciate what he does, I’m more in tune with how happy he makes me feel.

2. Start listening. Admit it: when your kids (or sometimes your friends) launch into a long story, it’s easy to stop paying attention. Instead of formulating your response, sit back, watch the person’s body language, and listen.

3. Sit with your body; quiet your mind. You can do this at any point during the day. Take a break from what you’re doing, feel the space your body is taking up, and think only of your breathing.

4. Be more aware of your posture. Becoming more attuned to where your body is in space can turn a slouch into a ramrod straight spine. I have personally grown a full inch since posture became a priority.

5. Think of those who are less fortunate. When you’re facing a hurdle, take a moment to imagine how it would feel to be homeless or seriously disabled. Then turn your focus back to your life, and grasp the full greatness of what you do have.

6. Practice progressive relaxation. You can combine this with #3 when you have time. Lie down in a comfortable position. Tighten and then systematically relax each muscle group.

7. Eat slowly. Allow your food to sit on your tongue longer; put your fork down in between bites. Enjoy the way your food tastes, feels, and smells.

8. Drive under the speed limit. By making a concious effort to move more slowly, you’ll realize that life doesn’t have to be so fast paced, leaving you more capable of enjoying the scenery.

9. Recognize that answering your cell phone is a choice. So many people answer calls, text, or read facebook updates while engaging in face-to-face interactions with other people! Put your phone down, turn it off, and focus on the real people around you.

10. Do things that make you feel good. You have the power to say yes and no. Utilize that power according to your happiness requirements. Simply: participate in activities that you enjoy, and avoid situations and people that cause your happiness level to suffer.

Simply because Ford predicts that cars will soon be equipped with nearly complete auto-pilot capabilities doesn’t mean that humans should follow their lead. On the road of life, you’re the one navigating. Choose your destination, feel the wind in your hair, and stop often along the way.

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How Do You Tell a Renaissance Man from a Bum These Days?

Feeling locked into a career choice?
Photo courtesy of Jhayne Holmes

I’m not a great fan of chit-chat at the best of times, but one of the questions I really hate answering is “so, what do you do?” Most people think it’s a simple question, but for me the answer is pretty complicated. I do a range of things, and the range varies from year to year, or sometimes even month to month. A lot of people find this difficult to understand, and often assume that “I dabble in various pursuits” is a euphemism either for mafia involvement or chronic unemployment.

When I came up through the education system, a jack-of-all-trades was definitely seen as a master of none.  The only accepted “right” way to go about choosing a career was to pick something and stick with it, to go as far as you could in one field while ignoring everything else.  If you had several interests you wanted to pursue and weren’t willing to give up any of them, you weren’t seen as ambitious – you were seen as flaky, wishy-washy, and unable to commit. The question of “what do you do?” was supposed to have a one-word answer, end of story.

Fast-forward to the present day: this attitude is slowly changing. It’s becoming more common for people to cast nets in several directions, and then use the knowledge they gain through experience to move on and explore other avenues of interest. Even ten years ago, confusion was pretty much the universal response when I said, “I’m working on several things right now.” These days, I’m encountering more and more people nodding and saying, “yeah, me too.”

What’s more, companies are starting to perceive the Renaissance employee as being flexible and diverse rather than wishy-washy, and there’s much less stigma surrounding a desire to do many things. That desire, after all, does not necessarily indicate a tendency toward laziness; many energetic and accomplished people find it difficult to settle on one particular area of work.

Does that mean that by doing lots of things, you’ll never be a real expert in anything? Not necessarily. If we use Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s “10,000-hour rule” as a general guideline, given a 40-hour week, it takes approximately five years of study and applied effort to become an expert in any particular field. Obviously this measurement can vary depending on your natural proclivities, but even if we use a conservative estimate of being able to master three professions in a twenty-year period, that’s still two more than most people take on in a lifetime.

If you’re less concerned with being at the absolute top of your field in everything you do, and more concerned with simply enjoying a wide range of experiences, you can do even more. You don’t have to be the number one world leader at something to make decent money or be respected for your ability level.

If you only have one passion in life, great, go for it.  If you have several, that’s also great – there’s no reason you can’t go for all of them, and it may even help you out in the job market when a potential employer sees that you are bringing more than one set of skills to the table.

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