By Day Sanchez
If you are reading this, chances are you are doing something amazing with your time and energy. You have an important message to share with the world. You have a clear vision, and you are taking all the necessary steps to make it a reality. I know your kind. You are destined for greatness. You are on a roll and you are unstoppable!
It’s exhilarating to feel the fire burning inside you when you do what you love. It’s exciting to follow your passion and know with certainty that you are doing what you were put on this world to do, or at least, actively working to get there. It’s all great when you are pumped and feeling inspired, but it’s not always easy. It can also feel overwhelming, scary, and frustrating at times.
In today’s fast-paced, ever-demanding world it can be challenging to maintain your motivation and stay in alignment with your highest purpose. It can sometimes be difficult to hold steady and continue going on full-power mode. All the noise around us can drain us, distract us from our intentions, and throw us off balance.
How do you take care of yourself in the midst of it all? How can you keep up with the ceaseless demands of life in addition to figuring out just how to be a good human? How do you stay true to your soul’s mission? What practices do you have in place to help you stay centered and grounded?
I’d like to share some daily mindfulness practices that help me stay grounded in the midst of anything. I believe in these practices so much that I’m certain they would make anyone’s life easier. Whether you are a modern woman actively working towards your life’s purpose with full force or slowly dipping your feet in the waters of self-exploration, incorporating these simple mindfulness practices will help you manage stress, maintain your balance, and navigate the daily challenges and difficulties of modern life with more ease and clarity.
While the word mindfulness may make you think of long hours of painful cross-legged sitting, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator to reap its benefits. Mindfulness is a portable practice. It is something you can practice any time of the day and even on the go.
I like this definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn because the guy is a scientist who has been doing research on the benefits of mindfulness for decades. Simply put,
“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
So, the trick here lies in purposely paying attention to whatever is happening around you, in your body, or in your mind. You choose what to pay attention to. As long as you are consciously bringing awareness to whatever is happening in the present moment, you are practicing mindfulness.
By creating mindful routines within your regular routines, you exercise your attention muscle and cultivate more awareness in your life. This opens up space within you that allows you to move away from reactivity, be more present, and tune into your inner wisdom.
Try incorporating these practices one by one or all at once. Your choice. Make it fun and stay with it. If you forget to do it one day, just pick up where you left off and move forward. Mindfulness is also about being kind to ourselves, so make it an experiment and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Explore, see what feels right, and get ready to enjoy the benefits!
Create a Daily Ritual
I started experimenting with a morning ritual inconsistently for a few days and began to notice its benefits almost immediately. Since I started doing it every day, this has been a game changer. This practice is one of the things that have made the most impact on my daily attitude and mood.
So, what happens during a daily ritual? It is up to you. The idea is to intentionally set aside a few minutes during the day, every day, to become present and connect with yourself. First, make a conscious choice about what you want to create as part of your ritual. You can use it for some self-reflection, intention/goal setting, or to enrich your day with some inspiration to influence your state of mind positively.
You could write down some questions to ask yourself and post them in a place where you are likely to see them every day, ideally, at the same time. These could be questions that would help you tune into what’s going on in your mind, your body, or within your emotional landscape. Although it is not necessary, writing some questions or affirmations ahead of time will help you with your intention to engage in your ritual every day.
A daily ritual doesn’t have to be in the morning. You can have one at night, before going to bed, or during the middle of the day. Just choose a time when you are more likely to stick with it.
There are a couple of advantages of having a ritual in the morning. Have you ever tried laying in bed for a few minutes before the pressures of daily life come rushing in? That feeling of newness and excitement about what the day will bring is something we can only get in the morning.
The first thing you do as soon as you wake up will set the tone for the rest of your day. I have been guilty of the horrible habit of grabbing my phone and checking my emails first thing in the morning, but we don’t know how bad something is for us until we stop doing it and replace it with better habits.
If it is possible for you, take some time every morning to slowly transition to your physical world. Take advantage of those powerful first few minutes of a brand new day when your brain is still producing alpha waves. Stimulation of these waves has been linked to boosting creativity and reducing depression. This state of transition can be a great opportunity to tap into your intuition and is a perfect time for a daily ritual.
Life has periods of doing and periods of non-doing. It cannot be all about doing, doing, and doing some more. Living this way is not sustainable because we eventually crash and end up losing a lot more time recovering.
Taking care of yourself and your emotional well-being is like maintaining a car. If you are using your car recklessly, not paying attention to what it needs, and constantly draining the gas tank, your car is going to end up in the shop sooner or later, which can be pricey and dangerous.
The same goes for the way you treat your mind and body. Making time for rest is a necessity. Often, in our action-oriented culture that values multitasking and over-achieving, rest seems like something we should be ashamed of. It’s almost as if we have to hide to take a break. But rest is not only our right; it is our responsibility. Take time to replenish and make it a regular practice.
To practice not doing anything you have to set time aside for it. You only need two to five uninterrupted minutes during your day. Schedule it on your calendar and make those around you aware of this. If just the thought of this is too overwhelming for you, try to start with a few days a week. Treat this time as something sacred and whatever you do, do not feel guilty! This takes practice.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
~ Blaise Pascal
And what are you supposed to do when doing nothing? If you have never practiced doing nothing, this may seem strange at first. The Taoists call this ancient art of doing nothing, Wu Wei, which means “the action of no action.”
You can start by going in your room and taking a moment to sit still for a few minutes. Relax your shoulders and start to slow your breath down. Begin to notice where there is tension or tightness in your body and do some light stretching if it feels right for you. Continue bringing more attention to your body and physical sensations. Let the breath be your compass. If you find your mind drifting away to thoughts of obligations, commitments, or other things, just gently guide your attention back to your breath. Notice the pauses between your exhalations and inhalations. Focus on the ebb and flow of your breath. Simply observe.
You can set a timer and just notice what happens during this time. The art of doing nothing should be effortless, so the only effort required is in finding the time to do nothing.
Have a Daily Check-In
Another short and simple practice to incorporate into your daily routine is taking a moment to check in with yourself. At any time of the day, we can pause and intentionally bring our awareness to our body, surroundings, feelings, emotions, or breath. You can practice this anytime, anywhere; while waiting in line at the grocery store, at work, during dinner, etc.
Simply stop for a moment and observe. What is happening in your mind at this time? Are you going over that ever-increasing to-do list or are you present with whatever is happening around you?
You can set a reminder or an intention to remember to do this every day. I have a daily reminder on my phone where I ask myself, “Am I present?” Most of the time, I am not. Having the reminder serves as a tap on the shoulder to become present, even if it’s only for a moment. With practice, our periods of being present become longer and longer.
You don’t have to be perfect at this. In fact, no one is. I believe being present is the ultimate challenge for us human beings. So, when you do find yourself being present, pat yourself on the back because you are doing some profound work. This is the kind of inner work that can help you find more clarity and harmony in your life, which will be reflected in your daily interactions with your environment and with those around you.
Mindfulness invites us to observe things as they are without any judgments of how things should be. It is a powerful tool that can reveal to us our behavioral, emotional, and thinking patterns. It can provide a great deal of information about the kinds of inner dialogues that tend to inhabit our minds, allowing us to see how our mindsets and attitudes impact our daily actions and progress.
While these revelations may not be entirely fun or pleasant at the beginning, the good news is that it gets easier the more we do it. Mindfulness can help us tune into our inner guidance, step into the creative flow of life, and stay true to our highest calling in these hectic, modern times. The more mindful we become, the easier life becomes.
Day Sanchez is a school psychologist, education specialist, and the founder of 2e Minds. She collaborates with parents to support the optimal creative, intellectual, and social-emotional development of gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) children so they can explore their talents and reach their full potential. Check out her blog, 2eminds.com, for articles on education, social-emotional learning, neuroscience, and positive psychology.