Mindfulness: What it is, Why it Matters, What You Can Do

Mindfulness: What it is, Why it Matters, What You Can Do

Mindfulness, a core career and life skill, is the practice of becoming more fully aware of what’s taking place within and around you, and responding with one or more aspects of loving-kindness, compassion, gratitude, emotional balance, and wisdom. 

This practice is not only the seventh path of Buddhism’s Noble Eight-fold Path, but it’s the primary energy that puts the Buddha’s teaching into action. It involves deliberate efforts to become more fully present to what’s happening right now, primarily through developing two key habits:

  • Pausing (before we have a negative reaction to what’s going on around us or within us)
  • Reflecting (on what’s happening within our bodies, emotions, and perceptions/assumptions)

Let’s take a deeper dive…

Pausing – calming practices for whenever we feel “triggered,” or during our “down time”:

  • Focusing on our breathing, by silently reciting “in, out,” or silently counting each in-breath and out-breath
  • Taking a walk (without technology!), paying close attention to what we’re seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, and smelling
  • Eating mindfully, by taking our time with each bite and not multi-tasking
  • Sitting comfortably or lying on our back on the carpet, and directing our attention to each part of our body in order to notice where it might be tense—and then focusing on our breathing while we tenderly observe this tension
  • Silently reciting what’s called the loving-kindness mantra: “May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.”

Reflecting – investing time, at our earliest opportunity, to more deeply consider the habitual thinking and beliefs that might be the sources of our:

  • Bodily sensations (tension, stomach ache, headache, back ache, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, dry throat, perspiration, etc.)
  • Emotional distress (anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, shame, grief, disappointment, etc.)
  • Negative perceptions or assumptions (“no one likes me, no one appreciates me, I’m going to get fired,” etc.)

Why Mindfulness Matters

There’s more research on the benefits of mindfulness than you or I can ever hope to read, but here’s the highlights of why mindfulness is worth doing:

  • Reduced stress
  • Increased focus
  • Increased productivity
  • Healthier relationships
  • Increased happiness and inner peace

Mindfulness meditation practice is both the time we set aside to practice and how we try to practice moment by moment. It’s both a practice and a way of living.

Here below, I’ve curated a long list of mindfulness habits. Don’t try to master all of these habits at once. Do pick a couple to focus on for a while and get better at.  

Mindfulness Habits:
Accept the reality of impermanence
Accept the reality of interbeing or non-self
Appreciate mysticism over dogma
Avoid toxic people as much as possible
Be faithful
Be grateful
Be in your body, not just your head
Believe in others’ positive intentions
Be kind
Be present
Be realistic
Breathe – and notice that you’re breathing
Brush and floss your teeth
Burn incense
Change your car’s oil, air filter, and rotate the tires (and keep them properly inflated)
Check out the Enneagram
Do body scans
Do yoga
Don’t assume
Don’t avoid problems
Don’t buy stuff on impulse
Don’t cling to outcomes
Don’t compare yourself to others; instead, learn from them and be inspired by them
Don’t hoard
Don’t insist on your truth being the only truth
Don’t judge yourself or anyone else
Don’t take things personally
Don’t take yourself too seriously 
Don’t text while driving
Don’t waste food
Downsize and give stuff away
Drink less alcohol
Drink more water
Drive less  – carpool or take public transportation if it’s available
Eat fewer simple carbs
Eat fiber
Eat fruits and vegetables
Eat less meat
Eat less overall
Eat less sodium
Eat less junk food
Eat locally produced food
Eat out less
Eat protein
Eat slower
Eliminate road rage
Embrace silence
Embrace solitude
Exercise – cardio, core, strength-training, and stretching
Forget that you have a credit card
Forgive people
Get still
Intend goodness
Journal each day
Know thyself
Know your intentions before you speak and act
Light candles
Live within your means
Make good lists before grocery shopping
Manage your expectations and others’ expectations
Multi-task less
Minimize and buy less in general
Notice what you’re doing
Pack healthy food and water for road trips
Pause before you react
Pay attention to what data you’re sharing about yourself and why
Plant trees
Play music
Practice compassion
Practice equanimity
Practice joy
Practice loving-kindness
Practice the Four Nutriments
Prioritize your values
Recite helpful mantras
Reduce your garbage by buying fewer pre-packaged foods
Remember that feelings don’t necessarily equal reality
Replace unhealthy habits
Respect other people’s needs
Respect your own needs
Save money
Set and keep healthy boundaries
Slow down
Spend less time on social media
Spend less time on your phone
Stay on top of preventative care
Stop shaming yourself
Throw stuff out
Turn off lights and electronic devices
Use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances
Use less water
Wash clothes in cold water
Watch less television
Wear sunscreen
Weatherstrip your house for energy efficiency
In my work, I write, strategize, and coach about how to develop three core skills in particular–mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling, and their corresponding habits. These are the skills that will help us thrive amid disruptive possibilities such as AI, Big Data Algorithms, and Biotechnology, and make wise, courageous choices in the face of Climate Change, Industrial Complexes, and the National Debt.
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