How much of your day to you spend in a distracted state of mind? For many of us, the answer is much of the time. In our fast paced world our attention is often drawn from task to task, event to event, conversation to conversation, stopping only for brief periods of rest…and even those times of respite are becoming briefer and briefer for many of us.
Try this out for a quick moment… Set a timer for 3 minutes. Close your eyes and allow yourself to focus on your breath. Just simply observe and be aware of the natural steady rhythm of your breath for 3 minutes. If your mind wanders, just gently note that, and then bring it back to the breath. Got your timer set? Go…
How’d it go? How often did your mind wander from your breath? How quickly were you able to note it and bring it back? Were you able to catch your mind wandering or did the timer go off with you being lost in thought? Everyone will have their mind wander at some or many points during the exercise. For many of us, our minds will wander away from the breath quickly, often, and sometimes completely.
Now I have a challenge for you…in the popular time of challenges…I challenge you to take time to be still once a day. Just once a day, is all I am asking you to commit. Schedule purposeful time in your day to stop, be quiet, clear your mind and just breathe. You can take as short as five minutes or as long as an hour to be still in whatever way works for you…sit outside and look at the clouds and the trees, sit in your favorite chair and focus to your breath, lounge on your couch and listen to a quiet piece of music, turn your desk chair away from your computer and listen to a meditation app, go for a walk and feel a part of nature…however you want to do it is just fine…just do it. Take time out of your day for whatever amount of time works for you to purposefully pull yourself out of the distracting constant flow of information and be still. Are you willing to give it a try… if only for 5 minutes a day to start?
If your mind wanders at first, that’s fine. No need to be discouraged by that. That’s the normal process of training you mind to be quiet and still. It’s so used to being distracted. When you catch your mind wandering, instead of judging and scolding yourself for it, perhaps try smiling at yourself for being aware of your wandering mind and then gently bring it back to your breath. Paying attention to all of your senses is another nice trick to help keep you off of your thoughts and in the present moment. Sense your body on the chair, feel the air on your skin, hear the noises around you, notice the feeling of the breath coming in through your nose and out of your mouth, feel your clothes on your skin. Let your thoughts simply come and go. Observe them passing through your mind, without following them. Put them on a cloud or a leaf and let them float away. If they return, let them float away again. Most importantly do it all without judgment of yourself. Give yourself credit for taking the time to practice…and practice is just what this is. Every new skill takes time and practice to develop mastery. This is no different. Make sure that you are patient and kind with yourself as you learn this new skill. Maybe even allow yourself to be pleased that you are purposely taking the time to do this for you.
Observe what happens after a day, a week, a month, three months of practice. Observe the changes in your level of peace of mind, your ability to be less reactive, your ability to put your mind where you want it to go. If you commit to this daily change, you will be pleasantly surprised. Your mind will change. Your sense of inner peace will increase. Your ability to focus your attention will improve. You will feel more creative. Your health will benefit…all because you took time out each day to quiet your mind and be still.
There’s only one way to find out if what I am saying is true. Will you take the Stillness Challenge?
Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D.
The Magic of Mindfulness, Thursday, September 18th at 6:30-8pm, Intuitive Psychology, PLC, Scottsdale, AZ: