Mindfulness: Pay Attention as if Your Life Really Matters

Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention, on purpose, in a non-judgmental and open way, as Kabat-Zinn (2005) states, “as if your life really mattered.” Mindfulness is about making contact with yourself and the world around you, including the people in it. Mindfulness is not just about going inside to notice what is there, but also about connecting with where you are and who you are with-right now in the present moment. Mckee, Boyatzis and Johnston have described in their book, “Becoming a Resonant Leader,” how mindfulness can be an antidote to stress-mindfulness, along with hope and compassion are sources of renewal which can shift you from stress to relaxation-from dissonance to resonance.

You don’t need a formal meditation practice to practice mindfulness. In fact, research by Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at UMASS Medical Center found that “moments of mindfulness” were highly effective at creating the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and relaxation. Across your work day you can invoke moments of mindfulness by trying these seemingly simple practices:┬átake a moment and take an easy breath in, and an easy breath out-just noticing without judgment your sensations, feelings and thoughts.

  • When you first put your feet on the floor in the morning. Feel the sensations in the bottoms of your feet.
  • When you get in your car, before starting the engine. Be aware of your body in your seat, be mindful of fastening your seatbelts and making any adjustments. Take a deep breathe in and a deep breathe out, and let your shoulders settle down. Now start your car.
  • Take a moment when you get to work before you get out of your car. Breathe deeply. Notice what feels tight or loose as you breathe. Notice the weather, the people walking from their cars, and what thoughts are crossing your mind.
  • Use your walk from your car to your office to do mindful greetings. Be mindful of your hello and smile, and be mindful of the ones you get in return. Take a moment to take in the hellos and smiles you get.
  • Take “mindful” breaks. Get up and walk the length of a hallway, or simple stretch in your office for one minute. Breathe. Ask yourself what you need most to be more effective.
  • Everytime you hear a cell-phone or a pager (even your own!) use the sound a reminder to pay attention to your breathing and come back into awareness. Use this mini-wake-up calls as practice.
  • Take a moment before you leave to write down your concerns for the next day. Leave the list on your desk (or desktop) so that you can use your commute home to transition to your home life.
  • Notice your feelings as you commute home. Where in your body do you feel them, and what would help you feel taken care of at the end of this day.
  • Be mindful of entering your home at the end of the workday. Feel your hand on the doorknob or handle, notice what you see and hear and smell as you enter.
  • Take a moment for mindful conversation with your spouse and/children at some point in the evening. Share some of what you noticed about your day. Ask them about their day. This mindful conversation is just about sharing information and is not about problem-solving.
  • Notice what it feels like to lay back down in bed. Scan your body for areas of tension and relaxation. Breathe deeply and easily and bring your breathing to the areas that need some tension relief.
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3 Responses to Mindfulness: Pay Attention as if Your Life Really Matters

  1. MARY KIM SCHRECK says:

    This is a topic that really resonates with me…with my work as a presenter/consultant and especially as a writer. As the writing of my book unfolded on helping teachers understand creativity and become more comfortable with expressing it in the classroom, I found it vital to discuss the need for mindfulness as the best gateway to accessing their own creative power. Then I moved to writing about the necessary soft skills teachers need to exercise in order to engage their students in learning. Again, mindfulness is the clear fluid that flows through all the soft skills teachers who are most effective with their students seem to possess. Now while preparing to write on literacy in the classroom, I have been reading much on how the current technology we are all using so frequently is having the effect of rewiring our brains–especially the brains of the young people we teach. The main change is in the realm of distraction–effects of the bombardment of continual distractions, and our hunger for the constant bursts of gratification we receive from them. One resulting change in our brains seems to be an inability to really concentrate for long periods of time on deeper reading or thinking. There is or soon will be a definite call to address the need for mindfulness as a conscious act and effort to turn off the distractions and choose to focus on a single thing at one time… not an easy accomplishment when our iphones and computers are dinging with new emails or texts that grab our curiosity and move our minds. (one ding just went off now as I type…I feel the pull to check it…) We will have to build a pretty strong argument for our young to convince them of the need to strengthen their ability to turn off distractions from outside themselves as well as inside themselves so as to be able to become more fully human and alive.

  2. sherri whitman says:

    I truly enjoyed reading the articles and believe full heartedly that children need time to tap into their creative and insightful sides. That we as nuturing adults need to take the time to hear the ideas and help them create a new sense of belonging to this world.

    I also loved the fact that we need to stop and truly feel the moments we are in.

    Sherri

  3. Bill Palmer says:

    Nice work, Gretchen. Made me think of this quote from Albert Einstein: “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”

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