Mindfulness

This week’s post is about mindfulness.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t resonate with “how to” articles or books. Even when it comes to cooking, I usually just look at the recipe to get a general idea and then do my own thing. Keeping that in mind, I will explain how I think of mindfulness, give you an example and then leave it for you to adapt to something that makes sense.

Those who have never practiced mindfulness might be wondering what it is. The best way I can explain that is through analogy.

Let’s contrast an actor in a movie with the director. An actor plays a role. To do this, she must study the character, memorize lines, practice the look, get the costuming right and in short, become that character. The director’s job, on the other hand, is to stand back and witness the flow of the movie; the set, the lighting, costumes, camera angles, dialogue, everything. The director notices relationships that sum to a great movie!

Like a director, when practicing mindfulness, we stand back from the role we play (namely “Self”) and simply witnesses the flow of life. We notice things around us, even our own emotional state. We become aware of life, moment by moment. Maybe we see a sunset or the look on another person’s face or perhaps we notice that tension is building in our chest from something that is irritating. Mindful witnessing allows us to take a vacation from “Self” and the compulsive thoughts that rule our life. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, here’s an example I call “Learning to see”:

I love taking pictures. I also love taking walks in rural NW Wisconsin where our cabin is located. So, I combine the two. Each week I take my camera or iPhone and try to notice a change in nature that I can photograph. Sometimes the change is subtle, but there is always something new to experience. Overtime, as I continued this practice, it became apparent that absolutely everything in nature is intimately connected. I had missed that. As I reflected on that, it occurred to me that I too must be part of that connectivity. I started to see the world differently. A door opened to a new level of compassion for things going on around me.

The world is relationship. Meaning is revealed as we witness relationships and how we fit in. Mindfulness practices don’t need to be time consuming. Anything that brings us to the moment, even if for only a minute or two, is beneficial. Here’s an idea if you are interested. Take a screenshot of the word “Witness” and post it to wallpaper on the lock screen of your phone. Then whenever you pick up your phone and see the word, like a movie director, witness your life.

Key Principle: Practicing awareness on a routine basis
Key Question: What are you witnessing now?

7 Replies to “Mindfulness”

  1. Thanks, Tim. Best analogy of mindfulness that I have heard. I love that witness idea. Thank you for the reminders of the simplicity and the power of mindfulness.

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  2. Good intentions and being intentional are different things.

    It is well said that “Mindfulness practices don’t need to be time-consuming”. However, as you pointed out, they do require you to be intentional.

    One way to put your good intentions into practice is to focus on a trigger event rather than the actual goal. A good trigger event is a simple action that you can take that will lead to a desirable outcome.

    Tim provided two excellent examples of trigger events. The first was focusing on taking nature pictures once a week. To take good nature pictures, you must focus on what you are seeing, which naturally leads to being more mindful.

    The second trigger event Tim suggested was putting the word “Observe” on your phone screen saver. Seeing “Observe” on your phone systematically increases the odds that you will look up from your screen and mindfully observe what is happening around you.

    Having a trigger event can convert the elusive goal of mindfulness, into a concrete practice. Tim did not say he was going to be more mindful today. Rather, he decided to take pictures and change his screen saver. Two things he knew he could do.

    Trigger events are personal because they need to fit into seamlessly fit into your life.

    Please add simple activities we could all add to our routines to increase mindfulness in our lives in the comments section.

    Thanks, Tim

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  3. Another week and another great post. I love that connection point to nature. Truly observing nature has a way of slowing our frenetic lives down and making us more mindfulness. Joan and I especially find this true here in the Minnesota spring when we walk through the woods on an every morning basis and watch and listen to the changes that take place daily as the ground, earth, trees, grass, leaves, plants, birds and animals emerge from their winter’s sleep and start living their lives again. Some of the ferns this spring grew 6 to 8 inches in a single day !! Stop and think about that and you will immediately be immersed in something not only outside yourself but greater than yourself and that brings on humility and then that leads to mindfulness.

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    1. What a great observation! Ferns really are crazy this time of year. I am beginning to think anything that broadens our awareness beyond “self” points us in the right direction.

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