I was teaching an on-line class for a corporate client last week and one of the questions during our Q&A was about mindfulness. The subject of mindfulness has come up a lot with my 1:1 clients this year, as well. It makes sense that there is interest and questions around mindfulness during this very topsy-turvy year (understatement alert!), and so I’m sharing some thoughts with you today, as well.
First, however—speaking of corporate clients—I’ve just launched a new and exciting health education opportunity! To be clear, it’s a corporate program designed to support both corporate health (ie: the bottom line) and employee health. I’m writing about it here, because maybe you work for a company that needs take advantage of this opportunity 😉
Healthy: Employees and Company
Wellness support—physical, emotional, mental, relational—for employees has never been more important than it is right now. Smart companies know this. Yet company budgets are tight during COVID and many company decision-makers find themselves in the catch-22 of knowing that health and wellness support is imperative for employees, but struggling to create the human resources and budget to make it happen.
After hearing this from several company leaders, I went into problem-solving mode (one of my faves!). And, ta-daaaa!
I created a virtual health fair, called The COVID Well-Being Event, that explores the current top-of-mind employee health issues: food and health, immunity, stress resilience, mental health and self-care. And, since it’s an event set up to be attended by many different companies, I effectively become a shared resource which allows a much lower price point, per company. A win/win/win!
Dates are Nov 17 – Dec 17, 2020. You can find a PDF to pass on to your company’s management HERE. This will be a rich and rewarding experience of education, inspiration and empowerment around human health. And, bringing us full circle, one of the topics we’ll be touching on in The COVID Well-Being Event is MINDFULNESS.
Mental Health 2020, 2021 and Beyond
Holy, moly, what a year. I don’t need to list all the many things our mind is repetitively focused on and worried about right now, because we’re all living it. And it seems that, with the U.S. election a week away and COVID cases on the steep rise, a break from this Wild World experience isn’t coming our way anytime soon. Rates of anxiety, depression and burnout have risen this year as we all grapple with so much upheaval and unknown.
However, a lifeline is just a thought away.
If you are new to my work, it is based on three foundational tenets:
- The body is a self-organizing organism that is hard-wired for healing.
- Our mind can be used as either a bridge or a barrier in our quest for well-being.
- What matters most is WHO we are as we move through this world.
You may have noticed that tenet #2 is in bold. Mindfulness practice turns our mind into a bridge—to physical health, emotional equanimity, stress resilience, mental health, peace and joy—instead of our mind acting as a barrier to all of those same positive states. Frequent breaks in our incessant thinking and worry has deep and wide positive effects over time. Mindfulness is powerful and has been gaining more mainstream attention in recent years. As 2020 gives way to 2021, with many of the same issues on our plate, mindfulness can be a real friend.
Mindfulness practice. What on earth is it? Who cares? Is this a woo-woo thing or science? Let’s explore.
The Power of Mindfulness
What is mindfulness? From my book Wild World, Joyful Heart:
“Mindfulness is attention to the present moment in its fullness, without judgement. This sounds fairly ordinary, but it’s in direct opposition to the manner in which many of us navigate our days….With mindfulness we’re more likely to view a challenging moment as simply that—a challenging moment—instead of an experience that’s ruined our whole day/week/year/life. We’re more likely to see people’s flaws as simple flaws rather than traits that paint them entirely in one color. Mindfulness supports us in purposefully taking a mental step back in order to notice what’s happening, and helps us to avoid immediately engaging with intense emotions and reactions.”
Mindfulness is being fully awake in the moment. Why do we care about mindfulness? Mindfulness helps us chill out, lower our stress levels, improve immunity, sleep better, digest better, be more in tune with our body’s signals, connect to our fellow humans with m0re tolerance and grace, and to improve our energy, creativity, attention and over-all awesomeness. Yup, aaaalll of that.
Personally, mindfulness has increasingly been part of my everyday life for over a decade. Indeed, mindfulness is the first of The Ten Healing Practices presented in Wild World, Joyful Heart. More recently, I finally made good on my desire to participate in the 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) training to continue to expand and deepen both how I use mindfulness in my work, and how I teach it to students and clients. MBSR is an evidence- and science-based program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in collaboration with UMass Medical Center. Such interesting stuff!
The great news? Mindfulness is a natural human state. So this isn’t something NEW, but is instead something ORIGINAL in us that we have lost touch with due to our increasing distraction, polarization and adherence to The Culture of Crazy-Busy. Our BodyMindSpirit selves are craving to return home to a more healthy and joyful life experience.
This doesn’t mean that with mindfulness we’ll never feel bad or will never experience hardship. It simply means that instead of those things being tidal waves on our mental ocean, they will be more like ripples. Further, mindfulness is also proven to help folks manage pain and illness better. Because our BodyMindSpirit is an undeniably self-organizing and self-healing organism—at every single level of the human experience—balance in one facet (mind) also lends to balance in another area (body). Yahoo!
Mindfulness bonus? Mindfulness helps us rediscover that life is fascinating and mysterious and beautiful. When the veil of our routine thoughts lift—even for a moment—we re-see life as the beautiful gift that it is.
When a toddler (mindfulness expert!) picks up something new, she is full of wonder and curiosity and awareness. This domain of pure being, of wakefulness, is always accessible to us; we just forget. Every single thing that we do can be done mindfully (or mindlessly). We can use the mindful approach in everyday activities like brushing our teeth, eating, getting dressed, showering, driving, reading email, walking, weight lifting, getting the mail, washing dishes, shaving…literally any and all things. Notice that mindfulness doesn’t take more time, necessarily. It’s not something new to take up space on your calendar. It’s doing the same things differently.
A simple way to get started is to choose one or two things a day and do them in a state of mindfulness. It can be fun to switch it up each day. Today, I wash the dishes mindfully. Tomorrow, I make my breakfast mindfully. The next day, it’s something else.
As I wash the dishes, my attention is only on dish-washing, and I pay special attention to sensory input. I notice how the warm water feels on my hands, how satisfying it is when the dish makes a squeaky clean sound, and what the scent of the dish liquid smells like. I feel the rough texture of the sponge on my palm and fingers. When my mind wanders (and it will!) to my to-do list, or that annoying conversation I had with my brother, or a work issue, I simply bring my mind back to dish-washing, once I notice that it’s wandered. Again and again.
This incredibly simple and innocuous-seeming practice builds on itself over time. It doesn’t change the world around you; it changes the way you relate to that very world, exactly how it exists in the moment. Eventually, mindfulness isn’t something you do or a practice; it becomes a way of Being.
Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit®
In empowered well-being,