Mindfulness seems to have appeared out of nowhere as the salvation to all our problems.
But what is mindfulness, and do we really need it?
Thanks to a multi-million dollar industry that has grown around being ‘mindful’, like most people I was completely sold on the concept that to be mindful I had to be able to sit still for at least ten minutes whilst making my mind go blank.
Actually, there are so many different ways we can be mindful – and at its crux, mindfulness is about being connected with what we’re doing, and making conscious decisions about why we’re doing it.
I was the perfect example of why mindfulness is needed in our lives.
I spent twelve years existing on two hours a night of very restless sleep. I completely bought into the long-held belief that without stress and exhaustion you cannot be successful. My life was out of control. I was constantly draining energy from an already empty tank and finding ways to ignore every signal my mind and body were sending me that it was time to slow down and take some time for me.
I was extremely busy – doing everything for everyone else – so I relied on excuses to support my case for why I couldn’t make changes in my life. If I stopped doing what I was doing, everyone around me would suffer. I would be fine, as soon as I got to the end of the project I was working on. It was okay for me to be tired and exhausted because it meant that I was on the right path to be successful.
In reality, these excuses were simple distractions that kept me from looking behind the veil and seeing that what I really needed was to be more connected to the decisions that I was making.
When I was stuck in a pattern of high stress, low sleep and extreme exhaustion, I was also stuck in a pattern of worrying about things that had happened in the past or things that might happen in the future. I spent almost no time actually living my life in the present moment.
It was like my life was lived on repeat – crisis, solution, crisis, solution … and so on. Deep down I knew that I desperately wanted to get off the rollercoaster I was on, but it all seemed too hard. So I even found a way to deny that the thought had even existed.
Our lives are now overstimulated and packed to the brim with ‘stuff’ that we have to do.
I was busy, busy, busy – and none of what I was doing was connected to my well-being or looking after my health. I was running on fumes, trying to fit too much into every day, over-delivering on already over-promised promises and desperately trying to keep my head above water. It’s exhausting just trying to describe what it was like – and I was living it!
Every decision was made on auto-pilot and I was completely disconnected from my life, and from what was happening in the present moment. What I now know about this situation is that instead of taking a step back and employing some simple mindfulness tips and tricks, I reacted to the situation by creating more things for me to do, adding responsibilities to my already over-burdened list and pushing myself to the brink of collapse.
Mindfulness could have saved me from a breakdown.
Almost every time I speak on mindfulness, someone tells me that they simply cannot sit still for long enough to make their mind go blank.
My answer to them is always this: ‘I get it – I used to feel exactly the same way!’
If you believe that mindfulness is being able to sit still and make your mind go blank, then most of us will find it very difficult to do. We’re stressed, exhausted, overstimulated, connected 24/7 and almost all of us are way too busy doing things that don’t actually benefit us, or support us in any way. To be able to make your mind go blank when you live like this is almost impossible!
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring mindfulness into your life – mindfulness can help you to cut stress and exhaustion considerably. What I’m suggesting is that the best way to create a more supportive lifestyle for yourself is to find the process that allows you to easily be more mindful. We’re unique individuals, so there isn’t one way that works for all of us.
I was someone who couldn’t sit still, so the thought of meditating was almost impossible for me to consider … until I discovered that there are all sorts of different types of meditation. I tried some of them and found that I love guided meditations that include your mind in the process. My favourite form of meditation is Mahat Meditation, where your mind is involved in running sequences and colours through the chakral system of your body.
Finding these types of meditation meant that I could transition from not being able to meditate at all to a situation where I can now meditate at least 5 days a week for somewhere between 25 and 90 minutes a day.
Another trick is to learn to ask yourself a question before you provide an answer to anything. When you can learn to ask a question, you immediately create a space between whatever is coming to you and your response. The second you create this space you are creating a conscious connection – which is what being mindful is all about. The question I use the most is ‘what if this isn’t right for me?’… but it doesn’t really matter what the question is as long as it works for you.
Learning to be mindful is a journey. We’ve spent decades teaching ourselves to live the way we do, so we need to remember that it will take us a little bit of time to learn to live in a different way.
If you want to halve the time it takes you to become more mindful, then you need to find the process that works for you. Work out what helps you – the things that make it easier for you to be more connected to the decisions you are making. Once you know what works, it’s as simple as finding the best way to get more of that into your life!
Want more info on ways that you can introduce mindfulness into your life? There are loads of tips and tricks on living and thinking differently in my book ‘Keep It Super Simple’ – you can buy a copy from www.sheiqlife.com/shop.
Want to chat? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!
Bronwen Sciortino is a Simplicity Expert, Professional Speaker and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.