Outside of the Mat

I’ve been on a quest for simplicity as of late.  Specifically, mindfulness.  Now, the Wikipedia definition describes mindfulness as the following:

Mindfulness is a mental state, characterized by concentrated awareness of one’s thoughts, actions or motivations.

As I’ve become more and more a fan of Yoga it has really increased my desire to become more mindful outside of my practice with my beloved teal mat. In our practice, I find myself focusing on my breathing, if I’ve got all my weight poured into my big toe and heel (opposite feet, of course) and if I am focusing enough on the current situation/pose to not topple over.

In this quest to take this practice outside of the mat, I’ve found myself doing less.  Not that I’ve become a slacker, but become more intentional at NOT multi-tasking, which I’ve come to believe is the downfall of our current society.  We are never fully present.  Part of it is a desire to be truly more connected with other people.  Part of it is the pressure to always be “on” and accessible.

In reading through Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, she hits the nail on the head about how we once believed our advances in technology would lead us to working 4-day work weeks and spending more time with our families.  Unfortunately, technology has lead us to being constantly connected via our Blackberry or iPhone and we cannot truly be present with someone.  Barton speaks of this sadness that is present when one is looking forward to time with a dear friend, only to have that time divided among the attention spent responding to emails, texts and tweets.

Now, I’m preaching to the choir here folks–this is a current lesson I am learning and I’m finding it to be incredibly difficult.  I don’t know if this will ever be fulfilled 100%.  I’m trying.  I’m still tempted to check my phone constantly (our generation has stopped wearing watches and turned to our phones to check the “time”…that’s another post for another day…).  I’m tempted to not be fully present when working on a project–going back and forth to check email taking me twice as long to really finish it.

Again, this isn’t a practice I’ve conquered, but here are some things I’m trying to do to be more mindful.

  • Be in the moment. If I’m working on a project–stop doing other things.  If I’m writing a blog–write the blog, don’t switch between a million different tabs up on my browser.  If I’m trying to go to sleep at night–focus on my breathing.  It’s hard to not let my mind flutter around in a million different directions here, but it IS possible with intention.
  • Slow down. How often have I eaten my lunch in 15 minutes of the hour I carve out for it?  Think about what you are doing.  If you’re eating–where did the food come from?  How does it taste?  Is there a new flavor that has appeared I’ve been in too much of a hurry to notice?  Walking down the hall at the office?  Think about the strength of your body to get you there–the muscles and bones involved.
  • Be present with people. This is a HUGE one for me.  If I’m meeting with a student, don’t’ check email or tweet –move the keyboard if I have to.  If I’m having coffee or a meal with friends–don’t cave in to tweeting about the experience or texting.  If I just can’t resist–excuse myself to the restroom–don’t waste your friend’s time by focusing more on my phone than on them.

One of the biggest impressions ever left regarding mindfulness and being present was on my first date with the Beau.  He left his phone in the Jeep.  Actions spoke much louder than anything said that Sunday afternoon.

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

Mindfulness Resources:

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