According to a study done by Asurion, a global tech company, the typical American checks their phone on average once every 12 minutes. The study revealed that of the 2,000 people surveyed, one in 10 actually check their phones on average once every four minutes which is quite an alarming statistic. The New York Times published an article in 2017 that summarized the results of this study to illustrate the point that we are an addicted society when it comes to dependency on our devices. Although this study was done in the United States, I am sure the statistics would be similar in other developed nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom or other European countries.
Setting an intention to put aside our devices or resist the urge to habitually pull them out of our pockets, handbags, or backpacks can be a challenging task for all of us, but an interesting one to try out, especially when trying to improve on our ability to be more ‘present’ in our every day life. Being more present and observant of our surroundings and being more present when engaged in discussions with others is a very mindful act that requires us to focus our energy and pay attention with a specific purpose. Again, not an easy thing to do for anyone!
When trying to genuinely practice being present, a very mindful act indeed, our devices can often times get in the way of being able to do this. Being aware of this can help us to make a conscious effort to set intentions to be more present in our every day life. You just never know what you will notice and observe around you when you strive to be more present.
A few weeks ago, my wife, Neila Steele, set an intention to practice mindfulness throughout the day. As part of this intention, she also chose to keep her device in her handbag during her morning and afternoon breaks, as well as during her hour off at lunch.
She was attending a 2-day workshop that we being held for teachers and administrators at the school that we work at. During her lunch break, she went to the very busy cafeteria at the university where the training was being held. As she waited in a long line up to order her sandwich, she found herself getting a wee bit impatient. However, in holding true to the intention that she set for herself at the start of the day, she was aware that she did not want to mindlessly pull out her phone to check it.
It was one of those moments when habit can kick in and it can be so easy to grab our device to help ease the boredom, frustration, or to help pass the time. As she waited in line she began to become more aware of her breath and reminded herself to be present, to observe her surroundings and take in all of the sounds and sights of the lunch time rush.
It was right at about this moment when she noticed that she was now second in line to be served. It was also about the same time when she tuned into the harsh words that the customer ahead of her was slinging at the sandwich maker behind the counter. Apparently, the man in front of her had ordered a sandwich that was supposed to have beef in it. As the man checked his sandwich, there was no beef in it and had clearly agitated him.
He aggressively asked the sandwich maker, ‘Where’s the beef in my sandwich?”. The sandwich maker obviously didn’t speak English very well and didn’t understand what the man was asking. This angered the man even more and he then barked out, “The beef! The Beef! Where’s the fucking beef?”.
It was at this point that Neila stepped in and calmly tried to diffuse the situation by saying, ‘Hey, hey, no need to speak to the man behind the counter this way. It’s clear that he doesn’t understand you. It’s OK to be angry, but not OK to take it out on the sandwich maker who clearly doesn’t speak English well.”
Neila then noticed how stressed the customer looked. She could instantly tell that this perhaps wasn’t about the sandwich at all and that something else was going on. She calmly asked him if everything was OK. He admitted to her that he was very stressed and had received news that his student visa might not be renewed which meant he would have to leave the country the next day.
Neila acknowledged how stressful this situation must be and again asked if he was OK. She also asked what he needed to resolve the sandwich issue. In that moment, he clearly calmed down, thanked her, and said that he didn’t need anything. He then grabbed his beef-less sandwich and quietly left. Neila did not see him again.
When she got home, she told me about what had happened at lunch and how setting the intention at the start of the day to not mindlessly grab her phone allowed her to be fully present with her surroundings in the lunch time line up and to ultimately be able to calmly diffuse the very stressful situation that took place between the customer and the sandwich maker.
Practicing mindfulness while in line helped her to be able to do this. Not mindlessly checking her device allowed her to be able to this. Setting the specific intention to not touch her phone allowed her to do this.
Who knows what we will notice or observe around us when we stay in the present moment. Who knows what sounds and sights we will take in? Who knows who we might be able to connect with or to help when we stay off our devices and strive to be more present in ordinary or mundane settings in our daily lives.
How many times a day might you mindlessly or unnecessarily grab your device? Do you do this more in social situations or when you are in line ups? The next time you are in a social situation or a long line up, try leaving your device in your pocket or handbag? Are you able to do this?
Want to hear the latest episode of our '4 X Mindfulness' podcast? In this episode Neila shares the lunch time line up story and what it taught her. You can access the link to the podcast below. Hope you check it out:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I dropped my son, Eli, off at a weeklong, residential golf program yesterday afternoon in Musselburgh, Scotland. It is the first time for him to experience a summer camp and the first time for him to be away from the family during summer vacation. He was obviously very excited about the opportunity to meet other kids his age from around the world and to be able to play golf all week in such a beautiful country.
However, as we were getting ready to drop him off, he admitted to me that he was feeling nervous and afraid. I commended him for being so open with me about it and, in that moment, decided to try out a mindfulness technique that allows us to flip our anxiety or nervousness into wonderings.
So, I asked Eli to flip his anxiety into statements that begin with 'I wonder.........'.
Eli immediately came up with a number of 'I wonder' statements and this allowed him to reframe the anxiety and nervousness into a normal part of the process of moving into a new experience that is unknown to us. The 'I wonder' statements that Eli came up with were:
I wonder how many other kids there will be at camp.
I wonder if they are going to be nice.
I wonder what my golf coaches will be like.
I wonder who I will become friends with.
I wonder how much free time I will have.
I wonder what it will be like playing new golf courses.
Eli and I were able to have a genuine conversation about the fact that many people experience anxiety and nervousness heading into new situations and new environments and that it is very normal to experience these emotions. In reframing his anxiety and nervousness, I felt that it put him into a much more open and accepting state that ultimately allowed him to better embrace the unknown environment he was about to head into. It is a very mindful act of internal self-awareness to be able to flip our anxiety and nervousness into 'I wonder' statements and it requires curiosity and openness.
It allows us to have honest conversations with ourselves and to give ourselves a break when feelings of anxiety and nervousness pop up in our lives as we head into situations unknown. I'm glad Eli and I could experience this moment together yesterday before we dropped him off.
Think about an upcoming event or situation that you will face in your life that may be causing you anxiety or stress. How might you reframe this experience by creating your own 'I wonder' statements to better prepare you mentally for the experience itself? As Ralph Waldo Emerson states in the quote above, "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better". Experimenting with different mindfulness techniques to help us better understand ourselves not only leads to deeper learning, but also allows us to find methods and strategies that help to provide us with a greater sense of well-being, so experiment away as much as possible as you continue on your own paths of self-learning.
Thanks for reading.
“Don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul.”
Finding a bit of inspiration each day can work magic by helping to stimulate and release neurochemicals in our brains responsible for helping us to feel good. We can literally change the states of our brain and there’s no better time to do this than first thing in the morning.
Whether it be listening to our favorite song or watching a quick video on YouTube, the act of inspiring ourselves can work wonders for us as we begin our day.
Even if we find ourselves listening to the same three favorite songs each morning or repeatedly watching an inspiring YouTube video over a succession of days, what is most important to remember is that we are making an active effort to gear ourselves up and feel inspired before stepping out of our house to face the day. It’s much better to proactively go out into the world each day ready to perform our best than to be miserable, complacent, bored or feeling a sense of dread.
The science is clear on this. When we can increase the level of our feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters in our brain, we are more confident, happier, and more willing to engage in the world proactively rather than reactively.
Here’s one of my favorite videos to listen to. Wise words from actor Matthew McConaughey that emphasize the need to take ownership and control of our lives and to choose goodness over anything else that may jeopardize our chances of being happy. This video is about living a purposeful and authentic life.
This is just one of thousands of videos that can be found on YouTube. It doesn’t matter what the video is, as long as it plants the seeds of inspiration within.
All it takes is just 5 minutes a day to kick start our brain into a different gear and in doing so tap into a greater sense of well-being.
Follow Andy Vasily on Twitter at @andyvasily
Wherever You Go, There You Are is the title of one of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books. The book is about meditation and mindfulness. The title sounds quite apparent. Of course wherever you go, there you are, however the reality is that we are so often lost in the constant trance of thoughts in our heads that we can no longer enjoy what is right in front of us.
The other evening, I went for a lovely walk with my husband. Usually, walking for me is the act of moving with purpose rather quickly from point A to arrive at point B. However, this walk was more intended to help us connect after a long week.
The walk was pleasant for a while, but I found myself getting irritated. Now, whenever I am walking with my husband, he often tells me to slow down, only he doesn’t say slow down he says, “You’re speeding up again.” (which can be quite irritating to me).
I found myself annoyed at having to alter my speed. After a few minutes of dwelling in irritation, I started to simply take a few spacious breaths and drop into the body more.
I noticed my feet touching the ground, along with the sound of each step and feeling the temperature of the breeze on my exposed skin. I began to move with more natural awareness. I began to think about why was I rushing? I didn’t have to hurry anywhere in that moment. We weren't under any time constraints, so why was I pushing so hard and fast to get to my destination. After all, our evening walk together was genuinely about connecting and talking after a long week.
When I began to ease into the stroll at a more leisurely pace, I was also able to zoom in on, being more of an attentive listener to my husband. I suddenly stopped trying so hard to get somewhere and to recognize this mindful moment of being present with where I was. It made me think back to one of Jon Kabit Zinn's book titles Wherever You Go, There You Are. This book title is such a great phrase to repeat to yourself as a reminder to not only arrive in the current moment but to try to stay in it over and over again.
After few more blocks, the pace felt good, I allowed the tension in my shoulders to drop and I even noticed my mind relaxed into the ease of just walking and enjoying my partner's company.
My husband stretched out to hold my hand as we walked. I softened some more and noticed again what was most important at this moment. This moment was allowing me to connect with a loved one and be here in my body and mind in this ever-present moment.
In reflecting on this moment, I can look back and understand that I had underlying stress and anxiety lurking below the surface which was manifesting itself during our walk. It wasn’t the actual pace of the walk that was my actual cause of irritation. However, when the feeling of irritation arose, I was able to put specific mindfulness practice into place that allowed me to better understand myself in that moment and to fall into the state of being more present and connected during the walk. And with this came a sense of gratitude and appreciation for not letting this wonderful moment be lost.
Even on difficult days, mindfulness can help us to find that sense of peace and calm if we are willing to put it into practice.
Follow Neila on Twitter at: @neilasteele
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
~John F. Kennedy
The act of gratitude is an act of self-love. On the surface it may appear as an act of love towards something or someone else but in reality the benefit is ours. Being grateful is the quickest way to pull ourselves out of a negative mindset, a poor attitude, a feeling of hopelessness or a general outlook of despair. A changed outlook can happen instantaneously through the practice of gratitude. The light bulb of gratitude brings with it an instant awareness of what is good in our life. Hopelessness, negativity, and despair cannot exist in one's thoughts at the same moment of gratefulness.
In this regard, mindfulness and gratefulness are very similar. In most cases one cannot be mindful and stressed at the same time unless you perceive the moment you are being pulled into as stressful. Most stress happens because of our perception of an event that has already occurred or one that might occur. Being present in the moment eliminates both possibilities. A grateful mind cannot exist in peace with a desperate one and a negative outlook cannot share space with a grateful one.
But this takes practice and momentum. It takes practice to become grateful when your mind is telling you how many things are going wrong. It takes practice to be grateful when you find yourself in conditions which your mind would perceive as harsh, negative or stressful. That is why you might consider making gratefulness a habit. There are always things to be grateful for. Did you know that 3 in 10 people on this earth lack access to safe drinking water at home? Or that 6 in 10 lack safely managed sanitation (World Health Organization)? If you are reading this, my guess is that you have access to both. But when is the last time you thought about how clean water is available to us and who is responsible for it? That is something to be very thankful for every day. You only need to look at all that surrounds you to find things to be grateful for and being in a grateful state brings peace and a much less stressed existence.
Gratitude does take daily practice. It takes no time at all to be grateful for the shower, razor, shaving cream, soap, deodorant, clothing, car, roads, train, bus, plane and all the systems that go with it to make your daily routine possible to create your professional life.
"Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some."
Making gratitude upon rising your priority can create a dynamic day and a different way of living. Choosing just 5 things to be grateful for everyday and listing the reasons why - this is where the emotion comes in - has the power to transform your life. Creating the habit of being grateful in the morning will lead you to be grateful for more and more throughout the day and you will notice a difference in how you feel. For now, the next time you feel out of sorts and stressed, find something of which you feel grateful for. You will be grateful you did.
Follow Mike on Twitter at: @kinestheticlass
Consider two people who may be be experiencing the same predicament. Let’s call them Person A and Person B. Both are at work needing to get stuff done. Both need to print off a bunch of copies of a document for an important meeting they need to be at. Both go into the copy room and even though there are multiple photocopiers in the room, all of them are not working properly, so no copying can be done.
Person A responds by letting out a noticeably loud sigh of frustration and anger making it obvious how incredibly inconvenient and untimely this situation is for them. They go on to mumble profanities under their breath and even try pounding down on the buttons of the photocopier thinking that this will magically solve this problem.
When this doesn’t work, Person A storms out of the room and angrily heads back to their office or wherever it was they came from. On the way, they can’t help but think about other injustices that they have experienced that week. Their mind floods with recent memories of people who have annoyed and irritated them or treated them disrespectfully. With every one of these negative thoughts, their level of frustration and anxiety deepens which unknowingly begins to increase their heart rate and spike levels of cortisol in their bodies, triggering a cascade of neurological responses that only complicate and cloud their ability to think rationally in that moment. For the rest of the day, no matter what happens to them, everything that Person A experiences will just confirm the negative emotions they are experiencing. As much as they want to stop feeling this way, no relief is in sight for them as they are hooked into a negative loop of emotional response.
Now, consider Person B. Upon finding out that the photocopier is broken, they immediately feel a surge in frustration levels and can’t help but think how bad this timing is. They recognize that it’s the last thing that they need in this moment. Their day has not gone particularly well, so this certainly doesn’t help.
Instead of beginning to rage and go into emotional overdrive, Person B understands that doing so will serve no purpose. Over the past year, they have made a strong commitment to themselves to live more mindfully and to learn and practice specific mindfulness techniques with more consistently in their day-to-day life. One of the things that they’ve really worked on is breath control, particularly in difficult and stressful moments. Recognizing that the broken photocopiers have caused them to feel quite stressed and anxious, there’s no better time than now to tap into the breath.
Person B makes a conscious decision to just stand there and be present in this moment. They choose a specific technique called the 7-11 breath. They commit themselves to practicing this breath, in silence, for the next 2 minutes accepting all of the sensations that they are experiencing.
They inhale for a slow count of 7 full seconds and exhale for an even slower count of 11 seconds. They repeat this cycle of breath for the entire two minutes without trying to solve their problem or think about what they need to do next. After a few inhalations and exhalations, they begin to feel a slightly calmer state starting to reveal itself. What’s actually happening below the surface is that their focused breath work is having a direct impact on reducing levels of cortisol in their body. Cortisol is a hormone in our body that is activated when we are stressed. It serves an important purpose to us, but when too much cortisol is released, it can impact our ability to think and respond rationally to stressful situations that arise.
After the 2 minutes of focused breath work, the reality is that the photocopier issue has not been resolved. Person B still needs to figure out what to do next, however, they are in a much calmer and more rationale state in order to problem solve and identify actionable next steps.
Mindfulness and breath work are not about solving difficult problems that we experience or making stress and anxiety suddenly go away. Mindfulness and breath work can be used as our anchor points to better deal with difficult emotions when confronted with challenging experiences in our lives. Mindfulness and breath work can be practiced and over time we can improve on our ability to apply these skills and techniques in our personal and professional lives.
Are you the first person described in this story or the second person? If you are the first person, rest assured in knowing that we’ve all been there, felt that way, and responded to difficult situations in the same way. However, practicing mindfulness with regularity is a great way to learn to respond differently. The 7-11 breath described in this blog post is just one of many breath techniques that can be applied in our life.
The point is that nobody consciously chooses to be the first person described in this story. Nobody consciously sets out to have a terrible day and to seek out stressful situations. However, every one of us does have the ability to prepare ourselves for days and situations such as this. We can choose to be more mindful and to practice specific techniques and skills that can be improved on in order to allow us to respond more rationally to these experiences.
Living more mindfully can change our for the better if we are willing to take the plunge and try it out.
You can follow Andy on Twitter @andyvasily
An anonymous source once said, “If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.” I could not agree more, but continuously watch people put their own health near the bottom of their personal to-do list. This not only impacts the quality of their life but the quality of what they can provide others.
Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” If you’ve not quite made it to the bottom of your to-do list, what is gaining is not pretty. With one simple decision, today, you can change all that.
"It’s an act of love to take care of your body."
Simply stated, the greatest gift is one of loving yourself. Whether you realize it or not, this gift impacts everything you do, every action you take, every conversation you have, and every person you meet. People often put everything else ahead of their health and well-being only to be not as effective at life. We take care of our children, spouses, employment, pets, finances, friendships, homes, cars, and lawns but often pay little mind to our bodies and health. If you want to be more effective, loving, productive and useful, you must begin today by putting yourself at the top of the list.
The case for wellness in a purposeful life cannot be overstated. Realizing that everything flows back to how we feel can change your life in an instant. There is no denying that maintaining health and wellness can seem overwhelming and that it is a daily practice, but once we raise our level of living, living raises us. Think of it as “getting on the front end of things” because usually we work from the back end, where everything is a bit more difficult; frankly, a lot more difficult.
Once you get on the front end of things, life flows. What once seemed like a chore is accomplished with vigor. The end of the day no longer brings exhaustion but a rested, peaceful feeling of accomplishment and balance. More gets done and less energy is expended. What used to be tiring is now energizing. What a relief. You can be on that track. It is a choice. Change your mind, change your life. The greatest gift is one of health, wellness, energy, and vitality that you give yourself. Move yourself to top of the list right now and everyone around you will say, “thank you.”
The greatest personal gift is also a consideration, examination and implementation of the benefits of a well lifestyle. In doing so you have the potential to:
At the end of your life, all you will have is the person you’ve become. That individual will not be realized to your fullest potential if the needs of your mind and body are ignored. You are inherently well-equipped for every wellness challenge that lies ahead. With a clear destination, a lighted path and the proper tools for the trip, you will match your journey with eagerness and a new outlook which will empower your way. Here's to changing your life forever.
Follow Mike on Twitter at: @kinestheticlass
Inspiration today comes from the English poet David Whyte.
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
Do you ever ask yourself when is it enough?
Why is that I’ve finished everything on my plate and I’m still looking for something more to eat?
Isn’t it enough that I have a full belly?
Why is it that I’ve been at work all day and I’m still on the computer answering and sending emails in the evening?
Can’t it wait till tomorrow when I am back at work?
Isn’t it enough that I’ve put in an 8-hour day?
Why is that when I find myself arguing with my loved ones, why do I still feel the need to get the last word in?
Isn’t it enough that I have communicated my perspective?
Isn’t that enough?
Will I ever be satisfied with enough?
This poem is a great reminder to all of us to reflect on what we have ‘enough’ of in our life and to seek comfort in knowing that we are enough, as ourselves, in any given moment. If we are to live authentically, what we bring to the world is enough. Be aware of what our ‘enough’ is and stand by it. Understand and accept when we’ve done enough, said enough, listened enough, loved enough, eaten enough, and have been kind enough to others.
If our reflections help us to understand that we genuinely haven’t loved enough, been kind enough, listened enough, worked hard enough, paid attention enough, etc., then we must change our ways. At least reflect on our 'enoughs' and be satisfied when we've done enough to make a difference to ourselves and to others.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, and 23,040 breaths a day.
Thousands of opportunities per day to focus on our breathing, if even for just a few minutes, but how often do we actually spend any time at all paying attention to the breath?
There are countless breath techniques out there that can be put into practice in our lives. We will be sharing a number of these techniques and strategies on this blog over the next few weeks. However, as a basic starting point, a great breath awareness practice that you can put into action right away is this:
The act of creating a longer exhale than inhale allows us to tap into a more relaxed state. It won’t necessarily take away anxiety or stress, but it can help to lessen the intensity of an anxious and stressed state in that moment. The purpose isn’t to completely eliminate anxiety and stress or emotions that may be negatively impacting us, but drawing more attention to the breath and consciously investing even 1-2 minutes into some type of breath work is a healthy practice for all of us.
At minimum, try this out at least once a day for the next week and note whether or not it has any impact at all on how you feel and/or think. Just 1-2 minutes! That’s all it takes.
A thing intended; an aim or plan.
The act or power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something.
Drawing more awareness to our habitual thought patterns allows us to become more familiar with how we operate in different environments throughout the day. Instead of randomly letting our day-to-day actions (and interactions) pass blindly before us or not being fully present in these moments, we can choose to act and think differently.
Gary Nicol and Karl Morris, authors of the book, The Lost Art of Putting, share a simple, yet profoundly important piece of advice when working with their clients and it has to do with intention and attention.
Although this is a golf book and most of the work that Gary and Karl do falls within the capacity of coaching golfers, there is much greater meaning attached to the advice that they offer that is applicable across a wide range of contexts, not just in golf, but in life.
Asking ourselves two simple, but important questions can create a new kind of momentum for us that can shift our thinking. The two questions are:
What is my intention?
Where will I place my attention?
Having a specific intention allows us to focus on what we want to happen. For example, my intention is to genuinely connect with my children today or my intention is to be more patient with my students. Whatever your intention is doesn’t matter, the most important thing is being specific with what this intention actually is.
The second question, “Where will I place my attention.”, is an important reminder to be present with our intention and wholeheartedly place our attention on what it is we set out to do. Being present requires us to tune into the sensations, feelings, thoughts, and words we use in the moment. If we set specific intentions and then let our minds wander and lose attention, our focus is shot and chances are very high that we will not succeed in meeting the intention we had set forth.
As Gary and Karl state on pg. 37 in their book:
“You will either have your attention on something useful to you, or you will allow your attention to drift off in the direction of something useless. Attention on something useful to the task you want to perform or useless to that task.”
Gary and Karl emphasize the need to become aware of where our attention is.
Whether you play golf or not, paying very close attention to where our actual attention is requires a great degree of presence and self-awareness. Two essential skills that can be developed with daily practice.
However, we must first begin by setting meaningful intentions in order to practice the art of paying attention more closely.
Mother, wife, educator,mindfulness promoter and yoga enthusiast. Believes in the power of visualization.