Our minds are naturally built to seek stimulation, and our predisposition has been harnessed to everything we do on a daily basis. It’s only ramping up with new technology. Do you (like me) check your phone too frequently? Who emailed? Who just texted? What’s this work meeting coming up? It’s hard not to get carried away by the sheer amount of information that flashes across our awareness constantly. We often react reflexively to these ubiquitous stimuli, for example, shooting off that next email now so we don’t have to do it later. The whole day can go by pretty quickly in this see-this-do-that automatic state. While there are many ways to stop the runaway train, I’ve found a certain practice very helpful on a daily basis.
Try it: take 5 minutes each day - preferably when you’re in the thick of things - to just pause. The purpose of the pause is to check in with yourself – to really ask yourself how you are doing, as a form of mindfulness. Think about the customary greeting: “how are you?” and the automatic answer we all fire off: “I’m good” or “I’m fine”, regardless of how we actually feel. During your pause, direct this question to yourself, and really answer it truthfully.
1. Being by taking a few deep breaths, with a quick inhale and a long exhale, noticing the natural pause between the two. This type of breathing activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) part of your nervous system. This is crucial, since it’s impossible for your mind to be in a calm state if your body isn't!
2. Then ask yourself: how are you doing emotionally? Are you feeling stressed? Tired? Excited? Energetic? Anxious? Angry?
3. How are your emotions manifesting in your body physically? How are you sitting in your chair? Are your muscles tense? Is your jaw tight? Does your neck feel strained? If you do notice points of tension, you can take some slow deep breaths to try to relieve it.
This practice is so helpful because it stops the automatic chain of events and forces one to stop and process what’s really going on, allowing more insight into your true inner state of being.
Sometimes I’ll sit back for just a few minutes and notice that all of the thoughts jostling in our minds are like people in a crowded vestibule, talking loudly over one another. With that visualization, you can picture yourself walking past them, closing the door behind you, and being enveloped by quiet, free to just exist without any expectations.
Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful week.