Mindfulness does not have to be a big deal- actually it shouldn't be a big deal- it is simply the practice of paying attention and intentionally taking time, or even just moments, to do so. Although in the beginning stages of exploring mindfulness practices it may be easier to have processes and rituals woven into the day, ultimately it is the mindset, not the practice, that we are seeking to master. What is the mindset? The mindfulness mindset is one that is continuously aware, less reactive and responds to life with care and control. It is the practices that support the mindset, the practices are only relevant if they support the mindset.
Possibly the simplest, easiest and maybe even best way to integrate a mindfulness mindset is through the check in and reflection process. If mindfulness is all about bringing non-judgmental awareness and authentic responses to life, then the best place to start is by tuning in to what life is throwing at you. Again, checking in does not need to be a drawn out process, actually it should not be long and drawn out because if it is then there will be more resistance to doing it. However, just like any practice, it comes slowly. It takes time to connect with and learn the language of your body and mind, to understand not just the basics of what you are feeling but the underpinnings as well. What does success feel like in your body? What does frustration feel like? And where in your body do you feel it? How does your body let you know what you are feeling and thinking and vice versa? The thing is, you are usually somewhat aware of how you are doing and how you feel about certain situations, people, etc. but the act of acknowledging brings thoughts and emotions to the forefront which thus allows you to properly make adjustments based on your experience and “check them off the list”. Stress is the perspective of a potential threat, thus if you become aware of and acknowledge the potential threat, you have the ability to recognize that it isn’t actually a threat or that it is a threat and begin to respond to it.
The check in is incomplete without reflection. It’s not just what you are feeling, but why. “Why” is one of the most powerful questions you can ever ask yourself. It is through the continuous questioning of why that you can begin to understand the underpinnings of your successes and failures and bring a greater level of control and power to your responses. Just like the check in, upon reflecting you are bringing cognitive recognition and acknowledgment of the experience and/or your response to an experience. It seems silly but as soon as you acknowledge what you have experienced as a result of a situation it is no longer just a sensation randomly floating around in your body/mind but you actually consciously take note of it, which means that subconsciously you will be more likely to make adjustments to your life because of it. Reflection supports independent and critical thinking, the process is entirely driven by you in relation to the world around you. You’re going deeper than just seeing how you are interacting with others, but exploring what is going on within you as a result of your interactions with others.
The processes of checking in and reflecting hold you accountable. If you know that something makes you feel a certain way, or that in general you are feeling a certain way, then you are both empowered and required to make certain adjustments and if you don’t then you are that much more accountable for why things aren’t getting better (my guess is that this is why people don’t do a check in). Habitual change, profound change, only comes from bringing awareness to what is and what is no longer working. You cannot become better, happier, healthier if you do not recognize that there is something going on that does not serve your best self. The check in sheds light on what is working and what is not, eventually you will check in enough and get the same old unsatisfying responses enough that you may decide to do that thing that you have needed to do for a long time to grow and evolve.
Does this all sound a little redundant? You’ve been told to check in and reflect since you were in school? Yes, yes you have, because although this is a deeply mindful practice, it is also one that is critical in any success equation. Mindfulness is an every day matter and its origination is rooted in the human condition: the desire to become more. So yea, you can create all sorts of practices and rituals (I have my own), but you can not as well and get very similar results. It’s not a matter of what you do, but how it is done that makes it mindful.
It is NEVER too late to start a good habit! When is the best time to begin? Now. How long? As long as it feels approachable to. Where? Wherever you are comfortable. When? Whenever you remember. The more you check in and reflect, the quicker of a process it becomes, the more you weave success practices into the day.
Leave a post-it note on your desk, in your car, on your refrigerator that asks “how are you doing right now” so that at some point doing the day you are reminded to check in. Stop what you’re doing, plant your feet on the ground, relax your shoulders (and jaw and hands!!), close your eyes or soften you gaze, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you’re feeling right now. Is it pleasant or unpleasant? What thoughts or emotions are coming up? How does your body feel? What do you feel and where? Don't try to make it better or worse, just pay attention. I know, "What's the point of paying attention if you're not going to do something about it?" Well, you have to master step A if you intend to master step B... i.e. you have to fully and comprehensively understand how you are feeling if you want to truly do something about it. Even if you don’t go into sun salutations and calm breath after this (because you have the time, right?), just bringing attention to the moment is powerful. Maybe even notice if any subtle changes come about as a result of the simplicity of checking in… do you actually do something about it? Or do you just become more careful with yourself for a little while?
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.