3 simple things we can do to move forward in times when mindfulness is difficult.
If you’re anything like me: full time employee, mom of children in school, daughter of mother with alzheimer’s, spouse to now anxious husband…your mindful journey may be disrupted too. How do we get back on track. How do we keep our friends and family on track around us?
For some, their kids are out of school, others may have been home teleworking, and some have been sick. I’m praying, that anyone that gets this virus we recover quickly. And praying the financial stability of our world will return quickly.
Praying, (if you do this) is a way of releasing control…giving it to someone or something else. This is a great way to allow yourself to let go of things that may be too big to conquer alone. Ask yourself what it would feel like to give it to someone else to worry about while you plan for what’s to come.
Letting go, to me, is simply accepting what is…to be prepared for what’s next.
I’m not suggesting we stick our head in the sand. We can definitely take a moment to think of what we do have control over. For me, I have control over how I react to the craziness around me. I have control over not spreading panic or negativity. I even have some control over my health and wellbeing. I have some limited influence over reminding family and friends to be mindful in times like these. In turn, it is also a reminder to my own journey.
Bring it on.
So, what are some simple things we can do to proceed in times of mindfulness is difficult. It entails some planning for the days ahead to prevent heightened anxieties…I’m going to do the following for my family.
Plan for items that promotes good sleep. Such as journaling, reading, or relaxing music before bed. Journaling can consist of just writing down things/feelings on your mind or even a simple todo list. Remind family and friends of these techniques.
Plan for 15 minutes a day for something mindful with someone. Such as coloring, walking meditation, or observing nature (like photography). I’ve been finding these to be helpful and alternating between them..even before the stress of a virus.
Let go of what is not in my control. This is where praying comes in to play for me. It could be other things for you. Such as, having gratitude for the universe and people we hold dear.
There are several more things we can do to promote mindfulness. But these are the ones I have in my toolbox at this time. They seem reasonable to me and I am a woman of moderation at heart.
This is a follow up to an older post Free Your Mind, with the idea that focus and intention may free your mind to true happiness. In my quest to train my mind to be more focused and in the moment, I came across articles mentioning this concept of “Flow”. I decided to listen to the book “Finding Flow: The Psychology of engagement with everyday life.” by Csikszentmihalyi.
I figured it was worth digging a little deeper to get a better idea of the concept of Flow. I listened to the audio book on Audible during my commutes back and forth to work. I was surprised what a quick listen it was, it maybe took about 4 one way trips varying from 20-30 minutes. I listen to my books at 1.25x speed. I will provide an overview, but it may not do it justice in one post.
So, what is Flow?
In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.
So this state closely aligns with the ideas of intentional, mindful mental state that can create a more calm and collected feeling, thus giving us more enjoyment, more connection, and happiness. This state of mind is also a place that reduced distraction and chaotic thoughts.
I enjoyed the listen, but I will sum up the book here. There is a zone in which we can obtain Flow when we are intrinsically motivated and skill and challenge are balanced.
Skiing is a good example of Flow, if you’re not a skier I’m sure you could imagine another activity that this may relate. Let’s say you enjoy skiing, so this an intrinsically motivated activity. You’re on your way down the slope, going quickly with full attention to your skis, your movement, complete concentration on the task at hand. You’re thinking of nothing else and your body is using muscle memory skill to navigate down the mountain. To a competent skier, they are “in the zone”.
Csikszentmihalyi walks us through many research results (using Experience Sampling Method, or ESM) on groups of people logging their activities and the level of happiness. Although, the author seemed to feel, the happiness results were suspect because the participant was not doing something meaningful (which I felt was a bit subjective). I think the author wanted the results to align with the model of optimal experience, not only for the individual, but the community as well. TV watching was low skill and low challenge, but a participant would mark it as a happy experience.
The author divides our time into three main categories:
Maintenance – scheduling,bills, house cleaning, tending to family
Leisure – hobbies, media, social
Work – employment, volunteering
I believe Csikszentmihalyi might be a little behind the times on gender stereotyping in this book. But, I will give him a break, due to his age and the timing of the research. He does go into detail about the differences of male and female experiences with Flow and when each experience better flow. Although, he does integrate the idea of a working mother and indicates that women tend to have the majority of the maintenance tasks that may not have a high intrinsic motivation.
The book points out several ways to change your mindset to experience Flow more often, even with the maintenance activities. It goes on with an example of thinking through a maintenance activity, such as doing the dishes. Instead of thinking “I have to” do the dishes, to think “I get to” do the dishes (Yay, <insert sarcasm here>). But, in all seriousness, I think the idea works in the mindset of what our ‘why’ is. Instead of thinking of it as a drudgery, to think of it as achieving the goal of keeping a tidy house free of bugs. In this way the goal provides the path for the intrinsic motivation to do the task.
He elaborates on this with an example of setting performance goals associated with these maintenance activities such as doing the dishes faster than the last time, or more efficient than the previous time. Make a game of it, to increase skill and complexity…therefore increasing Flow opportunity. Here is a post that might help…
Keep the goals closely aligned with skill as to create a challenge that is not too overwhelming. Small increments to challenge to build the skills.
As I got to the end of this book, I thought the exploration of social and religious comparisons of creating positive Flow activities were interesting, but I think they drifted a little further than my intention for the topic and what I was looking for.
I couldn’t help thinking, while listening, how do we reduce the chaotic consciousness from interfering with flow. Things like text messages, kids emergencies, parent illnesses, scheduling conflicts, etc. The the narrator got right to it. You have to prioritize and proactive with your time and be intentional about doing or not doing activities as to reduce the chaotic thoughts.
My next thought, was what if my list outways my time. The very next section indicated to draw a line under the planned tasks for the day and not let anymore be added to that day. < insert small chuckle and shrug >
So, I’m going to refresh my daily task organizer and prioritize. I will start up my 7 habits program again. Which seems to be very much in alignment with the philosophy. I would say this book was motivating and revisited a lot of things I’ve already learned, but I may have lost that intrinsic motivation on.
“Be here now” is a phrase that was used as a culture shift at an employer I worked for in the early 2000’s. With the introduction of blackberrys, telecommuting, and multi tasking, this phrase resonated and made a huge impact on me. I still hear myself using it with my kids and my inner voice when I’m trying to concentrate or regain focus. I had to use this phrase in my mind today and thought it would be a good reflection to share.
I remember when we had our cultural training and “Be here now” was introduced. We would primarily use it when a colleague was trying to multitask in a working meeting that needed undivided attention to carry out decisions. You would catch colleagues trying to catch up on their emails and text messages…a quick “call out” to make sure we all practicing “be here now” would quickly redirect attentions back to the meeting at hand (most of the time). This little phrase has had such an impact on my life.
Today, while visiting my mother at her residential memory care at lunch, this phrase came to mind. She is in the later stages of dementia of Alzheimer’s type. She is wheelchair bound and has difficulty finding the words to express herself. She was trying very hard today to speak, but I could not make out more than the first one or two words of it. It’s getting harder and harder to interact with her verbally or doing activities with her.
In the earlier stages we connecting while reading books, coloring, playing bingo, singing at church. But today I found myself lacking the attention to our connection…talking to the staff, surfing my phone, texting and making dental appointments for my kids. As I looked at her, this little phrase came over me, “be here now”. I took a deep breath and realized I was somewhere else in my mind. I refocused in the present and held hands with my mother, it brought both of us to calm and present place together. I was so grateful for this little phrase. A tool that had been given to me. How many times have we missed the connection with a loved one in the midst of distraction of the past or future.
Heading home from my visit, I thought, where did the company get this phrase…I don’t think I ever thought about where it came from. Wikipedia notes that it comes from the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, from a book he published called “Remember, Be Here Now” in 1971 on spirituality, yoga, and meditation.
Now, though I am a beginner on the path, I have returned to the West for a time to work out karma or unfulfilled commitment. Part of this commitment is to share what I have learned with those of you who are on a similar journey. One can share a message through telling “our-story” as I have just done, or through the teaching methods of yoga, or singing, or making love. Each of us finds his unique vehicle for sharing with others his bit of wisdom. For me, this story is but a vehicle for sharing with you the true message … the living faith in what is possible. –OM–
I will definitely be adding this book to my reading list and I will bring more learnings to these reflections. I’m no yogi, but I think this blog is going to be my unique vehicle for sharing and getting feedback from readers on similar journeys.
Be Here Now. Please comment what tools or phrases you use to re-focus to the present moment.
Yesterday was a torrential downpour of rain in the morning. I had just dropped off my daughter at ballet and was sneaking in a well deserved cup of coffee before headed in to my exercise class. As I pulled up to the cafe, the downpour started. It doesn’t rain much where I am, so the rain was a huge event. I stayed in the car a little nervous to get out, until a little letup emerged and went in for my coffee.
I took a seat next to the window and watched the rain for a bit. Now that I’m inside and warm, thinking to myself, is this mindfulness? Watching the drips of rain coming down the windows, observing it hit the tree leaves and run off onto the tables outside. Watching the grey clouds drift by. It felt very comforting and took me away from the day to day grind and the disruption of the rain itself. I couldn’t help myself to do a quick google search on rain and mindfulness.
I got a ton of hits. But not what I was expecting. It surprised me to find there is an acronym RAIN and a practice that is used to be more mindful. The following are a few links that came up that were very helpful in understanding this practice in way more detail than I can discuss intelligently.
But the jist of what I turned up, while sitting in the cafe, will be very helpful in our mindful journey. So, as I read these posts while sipping my coffee and listening to the rain outside I decided to try it with this new tool. Here is how I thought through the RAIN method with my adventure in the rain. It has four steps…
STEP 1 – Recognize
This is the recognition of what is happening around you. For me it was raining, and raining pretty hard. I had no umbrella or jacket with me. At first I thought of it as a total disruption. I was recognizing that I was stressed about getting soaked right before my workout, the fact I don’t carry an umbrella in my car, and being delayed for my nice warm coffee adventure.
STEP 2 – Allow
Allowing the acceptance and acknowledgement of the situation. I cannot control when the rain will come and now it’s here. I may not like the timing, but none the less it is here. The ability not to resist the reality of the rain presenting itself. The water from rain will dry or maybe the rain will pass quickly.
STEP 3 – Investigate
As some of the articles say, this step may not be needed in all cases. Just allowing the situation to exist may be enough for some. But this step can be used for the why did my emotions rise, creating a resistance to the reality of the rain. I thought this through with my situation. At first I was almost going to scrap my coffee outing and sit in my car and sulk about the rain, but I persisted to work around it. This may not come naturally to some, so I’m thinking this would be very helpful to ask the “why”. I think the why for me is the rain seemed to come out of nowhere and derailed my plans.
STEP 4 – Non-Identification
This last step is the recognition that you are not your thoughts and that you can observe your thoughts. I love the analogy of thoughts are like clouds and they are always passing by. Sometimes they are white and fluffy and sometimes they are grey and dark. Yet, they are always passing through. This step can allow us to just go inside for a cup of coffee when the clouds are raining on us.
Thank you for joining me on this journey, we learned a lot today and found some good resources on the RAIN practice. My example was probably a little light, but I would imagine this practice is especially helpful in very strong emotional responses too.