It’s not easy to stay mindful during the day, even if you set an intention to do so. You might feel relaxed and happy but then find yourself surrounded by stressed-out people! How do you stay mindful and light, independent of what happens throughout the day? It’s a practice. You get better over time, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see how your life changes if you choose to make the effort, even a little bit each day, to live mindfully. Here are some tips:
- Bring yourself into your body. If your mind starts wandering during a conversation, try wiggling your toes. My friend Olivia Fox Cabana writes about this in The Charisma Myth, and it works! This simple action instantly brings your attention back to your body and to the present moment. We live so much in our minds, ruminating about things, considering options, and planning for the future, and all this takes us away from enjoying the present moment. The moment you notice your attention wandering, try bringing yourself back with this tip or by focusing your attention, even for a few seconds, on the sensation of the breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils. This will ground you in the present so you can enjoy conversations and give people your full attention!
- Note your emotions. We all get triggered. Your boss, team member, a friend or a loved one says something that you really don’t like. Practice labeling, and then naming, how this makes you feel. Is it anger? Frustration? Sadness? Give yourself the freedom to feel into this emotion. One of the core principles of Buddhism is that everything is impermanent. This is definitely true of emotions! Also, when you name them you put distance between yourself and how you’re feeling. So you recognize that you are not the embodiment of anger, you simply FEEL angry in this moment. Now you have the distance to know this emotion will pass. It doesn’t define you. Smile in realizing that this is part of being human, and it’s really healthy to have and feel emotions.
- Live in the pause. If you’re feeling a strong emotion, and it’s negative, pause. Don’t react. Whether you’re with the person who’s triggering you, or on email or text or Facebook chat, take a moment. Walk around the block, pull out something to read or do anything but respond. Your trigger is really about you and has much less to do with the other person. Maybe they’re teaching you something about yourself, and this moment is actually a gift! If you take a few moments or hours to think about how you want to respond, you’ll have more peaceful days and relationships. And you’ll be exercising mindfulness, which becomes easier the more you practice it.
- Take nothing personally. This is one of the great rules in The Four Agreements, one of the best books I’ve ever read. This is a very hard discipline, but if you work on it, it will change your life. Almost everything people say to you is about them. It’s much less about you. If you practice self compassion, and bolstering your own confidence, you don’t need approval from anyone else, and it becomes much harder for anyone to set you off your path. The moment someone insults you, and you smile at them and say, “Thank you for your feedback,” then gracefully go about your day —that’s freedom.
- Meditate. One of the great benefits of meditation is that it gives you a pause between something that happens to you and how you respond to it. It gives you the power and tools to choose your responses to (almost!) everything, all day. The great Vedic Meditation teacher Thom Knoles says, “Challenges are inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Choose, he says, to live happily and peacefully. Meditation makes it so much easier to do this! And if you’re in New York, I’d love for you to sign up for our invite list at www.thepath.com, and come meditate with us! We’re a community of meditators and people interested in living mindfully, and we’d love to have you join us!
Dina Kaplan is founder and President of The Path, which teaches ancient meditation techniques in a modern way. The Path has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Sunday Time, InStyle and the New Yorker. Previously, she was co-founder and COO of Blip, a platform for Web series, and a reporter for local NBC stations. She’s written articles for Marie Claire, Town & Country,today.com and on Medium.