“I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already. This year has really flown by!” Like clockwork, we say this every year searching for traces of where the time has gone.
You can’t scroll your favorite social media site these days without seeing references to presence and mindfulness. I became curious about this topic several years ago while studying the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zin who defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
I started reading books and listening to talks. I watched Super Soul Sunday weekly to learn from those who were disciplined in their practice of presence and was deeply inspired by how it enhanced their lives. The more insight I gained on mindfulness, the clearer it became to me that I really sucked at it.
I tend to work better solving life’s challenges through reverse engineering. Starting with the effect, then working backward to isolate the cause. What I've proven is that when I fail to be present, stress and distraction take over my mind.
Stress. That intrusive anxiety that we can’t shake. The emotional strain that takes over our thoughts as we try to be everything to everybody. The silent killer that has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and RBF.
Ok, so maybe just heart disease and high blood pressure, but aren’t those two enough? The reality is there will always be a source of stress lurking, waiting to change the course of your day. Mindfulness will never squash these sources, but it will give you the clarity to keep them in perspective.
Unfortunately, there is no mindfulness switch. It takes practice. I’ve found that starting my day with meditation or a long walk/run leads to the best results. Initially I was intimidated by meditation, thinking it was some out of body experience I wasn’t capable of achieving. However, I’ve learned there are numerous methods (I prefer zen) and it’s as simple as being still and clearing your thoughts.
Stress factors will still come in and out of your consciousness, but you will begin to assess them with clarity and proceed forward with purpose vs. an emotional reaction. If you think you don’t have time to meditate, think about the time lost spinning your wheels or apologizing for a blow up - not to mention the impact on your health and relationships. I’m no expert, but I can say with near certainty that stress will rarely lead to a more favorable outcome.
Distraction. This is a tough one for me. How often are you thinking about a future commitment while working on a current one? You’re responding to an important email but replaying a conversation with your spouse in your head. You’re making dinner while rehearsing your opening argument for tomorrow’s case. Ahhh, some good ole multitasking. We regard it as a professional skill or even claim it as our super-hero power, showcasing all of our impressive simultaneous accomplishments.
Here’s the truth. You’re doing too much. You'll never do your best work on any of your multiple tasks juggling them all at once. Instead prioritize, pay attention and be fully present in the work you’re doing now.
In a culture where success is defined by accomplishment, an overflowing plate has become a badge of honor. If we don’t appear to be busy we obviously don’t have enough to do, so we take on more and more to distinguish ourselves. We’re recognized for investing the long hours and going beyond the call of duty and before we know it, we look at our calendars and say…
“I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already. This year has really flown by!”
Slow down and take a deep breath. Show up for the current moment, because the current moment is all we every really have. Until we meet again, be the change.