Today in my work mindfulness group, we discussed situations where we wish we were more mindful.
Colorful examples included:
- When responding to an email that made you feel devalued
- When dealing with disappointment in personal relationships
- When you’ve moving into a new apartment
- When you’re waiting on someone for something important
- When looking at your 401k
The conclusion was that it’s easier to practice being mindful when things are going well – or even just average. But in the critical moments? We overreact, jump to conclusions, snap, lash out, and a host of other behaviors that we know better than to do.
So our practice became:
What is the moment calling for?
We tried open awareness meditation (a recorded version is available on the Practice page). Allowing thoughts to enter, pass through, and fade. Like clouds in the sky.
And for the thorny thoughts that stuck around, we tried to detangle the observation from the emotion. For example:
- Observation: My 401k dropped dramatically overnight.
- Emotional reaction: I feel anxious about what it means for my family. Nervous that I’m not doing the right thing.
After the exercise, one participant commented,
It’s really hard to sit with the uncomfortable emotions. Once I recognized how anxious I was, I immediately wanted to push it away.
And that’s when I knew we were doing it right. It’s great if you can meditate when things are rosy. But life isn’t always rosy. Real growth comes when you stop running away from your own emotional junk. When you can be mindful when it matters.
When we finally realize that most of life is entirely out of our control, we’re left with the one thing we can change – our perspective. This clip from Headspace is the perfect visualization of what stepping back from your own thought looks and feels like.
A mentor, friend, and role model of mine wrote the article below for Acumen. I met Caroline through the Search Inside Yourself teacher training program. She’s a badass executive, a mom, and somehow finds the mental space to dive into issues like being human in the age of bots. So yes, anything she writes makes it to the top of my weekly reading list.
Reflecting on the shooting in Parkland leaves me cycling through sadness, outrage, and exhaustion. After enough cycles, I start to disengage – trying not to think about what’s happening around me and distract myself with positive experiences. You don’t have to say it – I know that’s not helpful. I also think I’m not the only one who experiences this.
Dr. Tania Singer and Matthieu Ricard would call this empathetic distress. When you’re feeling exactly what someone else is feeling, you get all heaviness and exhaustion that comes with carrying that burden.
As Caroline points out, “Mindfulness teaches us that these are unhelpful states of mind. Positive transformation rarely happens from a place of constriction, defensiveness, or rage.” So, what’s the other option?
“While we may be enraged, disheartened, or disillusioned by the current events, these times call for us to generate the power of belief. To tune inwards and reconnect the meaning of our work, with the dent we intend to make in the universe. To do the profound work of visioning. To rekindle the feelings of possibility and to paint a vibrant picture of our potential future. Not to numb, complain, argue, debate, divide or deny. But to lean into our challenges, offer leadership, real hope, real problem identification and solutions.”
To rekindle the feelings of possibility.
So that’s my practice for the week. Each day, I will make an attempt to reconnect with things that give me a sense of possibility. Here’s a short list of my ideas:
- Reflect on leaps of progress in human history. Right now, I’m especially inspired by medical advancements in the last 10 years.
- Call a family member or friend and listen (read: not talk). Everyone has a story of turning challenge into possibility, big or small.
- Journal on the opportunities I see in my life. Envision the most ideal, far-out, successful outcome of my goals. Ask if there’s a real first step I can take to get back on the path.
- Reread Hatching Our Phoenix for the 6th time. Take comfort in the fact that these conversations are happening and this work is being done by people like Caroline.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between mindfulness and meditation, watch the video below:
Stop. Breathe. Notice your surroundings. Do you have more than 7 internet tabs open? Be honest.
Notice what led you to visit our page. What are you looking for? What was your intention? What do you really need? Should you get up, walk around, use the restroom? Don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back.
Back? Welcome to the home of A Mindful Organization. We believe in working with a purpose. Here’s ours:
- Inspire a culture of thoughtfulness, co-creation, and meaningful living
- Create long-lasting mindfulness and meditation programs for corporations, education, and non-profit organizations
- Increase our capacity to learn through techniques supported by recent neuroscience research
- Demonstrate the joy is a realistic and attainable way of living in a world that also contains immense suffering