If you're even casually interested in increasing your productivity and happiness, you've likely heard of Mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness has been a response to the hyper-stimulated condition that is living in the modern age of smartphones and social networking.
If you feel you might be the kind of person who needs to 'work out' that ability to focus and stay on task, Mindfulness meditation is a great tool to try.
Benefits of being Mindful
It's kind of like having a clean install of you mental computer's operating system.
The concept is that we've all become a bunch of absent-minded ninnies, endlessly distracted and unable to reclaim our focus. The meditation is to strengthen the 'muscle' that is our ability to focus. This is the primary benefit, and what most people these days have come running to mindfulness for.
Beyond that, you can also decrease stress, anxiety, and depression via having a better connection with your own thoughts, and you can decrease blood pressure via those same mechanisms.
What Mindfulness Really Is
Spoiler alert, it's not all about emptying your mind.
Mindfulness is not about becoming a zen master. You're not suddenly going to be able to endure hot coals on the bottoms of your feet, you're not going to levitate off of the ground, and you're not going to find yourself in some sort of trance-induced vision quest.
Mindfulness is instead simply a philosophical perspective on the world in which you take each moment for what it is, and nothing more. You don't focus on outcomes, you don't stress about variables, you simply recognize each moment and event at face value.
It's about training for the now. Remembering to let go of the past, and not worry about the future.
Starting Your Practice
World blowing up around you? Sitting alone in a room doing nothing could be the answer!
The first step is to set aside 20-30 minutes for your practice. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to use it all yet, but if you've blocked out more time than you're going to be using, you will be less likely to be stressing out over how much time you've spent staying still.
The next step is to find a distraction free environment. If your office stresses you out, get out of your office. If the sun brings you peace, go outside. This is going to be unique to you, so you need to choose your location based on where you feel you can most comfortably relax.
Feel free to use headphones or earplugs to block out noise, and if you're going to be outside, consider some sunglasses so you're not fiercely squinting the whole time.
Now find yourself a comfy position, with your body held straight (don't unnaturally straighten your spine, be aware of its natural curves and let them be). You might want some form of padding or cushion for this. I have a great memory foam cushion that takes pressure off of my spine that set me back maybe $30 on Amazon.
Eventually, you can consider attempting to adopt a position that looks zen-like, but for now, if you can just sit up straight and breathe comfortably and fully, then your next step is setting a timer.
You've got a smartphone, set that timer. Now that you've gotten your phone out, either a) smash it to pieces with a suitably large rock, solving your attention problem for good but leaving you without a timer, or b) silence the damned thing.
One text message can ruin this experience for you. Just trust me.
With 10-15 minutes on the clock, close your eyes and start breathing. Think about your body, and your breathing. You're going to last roughly 30 seconds doing this before you get bored. That's ok. You haven't failed.
When your mind wanders, remind yourself to focus again on your breathing. Repeat this over and over, as your mind continues to try desperately to escape this stimulation-free practice. This is why we're doing this.
If you don't want to think about your breath, that's ok. Pick something specific that you want to think of, and think of it for this time. What matters is that eventually, you will be able to think about this one thing (and most things in your life) without your brain running to escape.
When the alarm goes off, you're done. If you didn't open your eyes before this, nice work. If not, try again tomorrow.
Attempt this practice five days a week for a few weeks, and then increase your time according to your own convenience and demands.
Mindfulness is flexible, so remember that if this style doesn't work for you, you could jump on a treadmill for this time, or soak in an isolation tank. The point is the mental training, so as long as you can focus doing what you choose to do, the practice will help.
Thanks for reading folks. I'll be back later this week with my own spin on Mindfulness and how it relates to my workflow. Try one-time coupon code IAMMINDFUL when ordering NeuroGum to see if you're the first to read the article for a chance at 25% off your order.