“I don’t have time for that mindfulness stuff” said a friend not too long ago.
I sighed. I get this a lot, so I thought I’d share my answer here.
“OK, but how do you have time to NOT be mindful?
Remember the last time you tripped on the sidewalk as you were walking along. Did you look back to see what had tripped you up? Was it a sharp rise in the sidewalk or some other obstacle? Why didn’t you see it?
What about that time you blurted out what was in your mind before the other person finished their thought, only to find that you were wrong and regretting it?
How about the email you sent off in a hurry, full off typos and perhaps a thoughtless comment? All of those are examples of being mindless. How’s that working for you?”
“Oh, I have a monkey mind, it’s just too busy to be mindful!”
Yeah, I get that a lot too. In fact, I said it myself for years.
I had tried and tried to force my mind to be totally quiet and failed, so I decided that this meditation stuff was too hard. My mind was too flawed. I was too weak. All kinds of crazy things
The truth is, everyone’s minds are busy, even acclaimed meditators have to learn to manage the thoughts racing through their minds. It’s not just you!
The job of the mind is to problem solve. To think thoughts, and that’s OK. But sometimes it keeps us from being our best.
What meditation allows us to do is not get hung up on those thoughts, or let the thoughts take over.
To give ourselves the space to focus on what really matters, at that moment.
I walk a lot, and as I go through the neighborhood I take notice of what is around me. It’s become a habit to allow my mind to do whatever it does without letting it take the focus away from all the tiny treasures that bring me joy.
I see the flowers in the yards, peruse the titles of books in the tiny libraries, see the mom and her new baby out for a stroll. Watch the kids playing basketball or with their dogs at the park.
On these mindful walks, I keep my phone in my pocket and pay attention to what is around me. It brings me peace. It brings me joy, and sometimes it reminds me that I am working too hard without a break.
When people ask me to teach them mindfulness I don’t make them sit in meditation for 20 minutes, read the great works of knowledge on the subject, or lecture on the evils of mindlessness. That’s not helpful or fair.
Instead, I teach them how a microdose of mindfulness, helps build a habit of being less distracted and more focused. Taken in small doses, mindfulness is quite doable; it makes sense. Once that tiny dose works it’s magic, and we want more.
[bctt tweet=”What is microdosed mindfulness? It’s a way to stop the busy, overwhelmed mind and find calm, even in the middle of a storm.” username=”jfouts”]
Here are a few super-simple practices to try on and see what works for you:
Starting a meeting
Before you start, let everyone get settled in with one minute in silence–without devices, interruption or discussion for each person to settle in their place and be fully present for the meeting. At first it feels odd, but as people get used to taking this opportunity to get fully present before the meeting, you’ll find they look forward to it and conversations are calmer and better focused.
Reflect on your day yesterday and notice 1 thing each that you:
- Are grateful for
- Were delighted by
Think of someone you interact with regularly. What have they done for you or someone else that you appreciated? Tell them. Email, phone, face to face, it doesn’t matter. Keep it simple:
“David, I really appreciated how kind you were when George made a mistake in his presentation, you didn’t make a big deal of it and embarrass him, you just helped him through it.”
When someone cuts in front of you in line, in a conversation, or on the freeway? Take a breath and silently wish that they may be well. We cannot know what burdens they carry. We all need a break once in a while, and when you offer kindness to another person it feels good. Don’t believe me? Try it.
When you’re busy and the phone rings or someone asks a question, give yourself the length of one breath before you respond. You’ll be surprised what a difference that tiny pause makes in your ability to be present and responsive.
Want to learn Microdosed Mindfulness®?
The most recent virtual retreat is over, but do reach out to me with questions!