What if I said, “you’ve been looking through the bars of a prison cell for most of your life”? You’d probably say I’m crazy right?
That was my initial response too. But over time I’ve started to see the merit in that assertion.
OK, let’s back up a bit.
The “bars” I’m referring to are the prejudices and biases that we are socialized with during our developing years – a perfectly normal part of human development.
Over time these biases influence our thoughts and perceptions. They ‘color’ our perception of events and people.
Let’s take a simple example. Growing up with Santa Claus as an iconic figure creates the perception that white-bearded men are friendly.
The next time we see a man with a white beard walking down the street the mind is likely to perceive a friendly face. This re-enforces the bias.
Eventually, this becomes a thought pattern and which lead to mental habits or mental tendencies, which affect our daily life without us realizing it. This means we see things “as we are” rather than “as they are”.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
It helps you to see things “as they are” not “as you are”.
Ok so what’s mindfulness anyway?
The Online Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one‘s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
You’re sitting at the beach watching the waves (your thoughts) on the ocean (your mind). You anchor your awareness to your breath and (with a soft focus) you watch the waves as they rise and fall in the expansive ocean.
Sooner or later your attention gets caught up in one of the waves and your focus narrows. You ‘lose sight’ of the expansive ocean and you’re focused on the one wave (thought). When you become aware of this fact, you gently bring your attention back to your breath, and resume watching the ocean (including the waves as they rise and fall).
Doing this consistently is a mindfulness practice. It’s ‘meditation in action’. It makes you aware of your mental patterns so you can free yourself from them. This is what leads to lasting change.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness practice there are some excellent talks at www.zencast.org. Over 400 of them! I strongly recommend you check them out.
Mindfulness practice can be truly transformative over time if it’s cultivated over time in a consistent manner.
You can use mindfulness to bring simplicity to your workflow and dramatically increase your productivity. Using this 8 step approach to productivity can help you focus less on being ‘busy’ and more on actually getting things done!
It’s now 2019, and we find ourselves drowning in information. Screens bombard us from every direction. Several of us have a screen in our pocket (smartphone), one on our wrist (smartwatch) and possibly one in our bag (iPad or tablet of some sort). Then there are screens at work. Then there’s the TV. On and on it goes.
So how do you actually get stuff done when you’re busy processing tons of data and trying to decide which piece of information you need to focus on right now?
Enter mindful productivity.
I recently created a course within my membership program which integrates the following devices:
The course busts open common productivity myths. It explains that “time-management” may have been relevant several years ago during the industrial revolution when we were measuring inputs and outputs of production on a factory floor.
But in today’s information age, what matters is better task selection. It’s important to focus on things that are important but not necessarily urgent — quadrant 2 activities in the Eisenhower matrix.
A good example of a quadrant 2 activity is building systems that enable you to reliably produce a specific outcome without your personal involvement.
Why is the act of building systems a quadrant 2 activity? Because it’s something that’s usually not urgent but is very important to your long term goals. Good quality systems (which could include a well-trained team) helps you leverage your time more effectively as a business owner. It enables you to create a predictable process which reliably delivers a specific result. And this enables you to focus on other strategically significant projects which enable you to increase your profit per hour.
So what do systems, and quadrant 2 activities have to do with mindfulness?
Well, mindfulness enables you to move from a reactive mental state to a more proactive mental state. This means you’re able to make better decisions around task selection. You’re more likely to choose the important activities over the urgent but not important activities like constantly checking your phone every time it pings.
This creates a certain spaciousness in your mental world. It gives you a chance to be more relaxed and make better choices.
In a sense, you could say that mindfulness enables you to slow down your thinking so you can speed up your results (by focusing on the things that matter over the long-term)
This not an exhaustive list but I think it’s a good start.
So there you have it. There are clearly many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Sadly I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed all the benefits listed above – my practice has a long way to go.
But I can say that my mind is calmer than it once was and I’m a happier person overall.
To me, mindfulness really is a no brainer (pun intended).
What are your experiences of mindfulness? What benefits have you experienced? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.