Focus by being mindful – Positive Vibes Series

“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”Jon Kabat-Zinn

How can you focus on being mindful of the external activities around you while the busy buddies in your head are jumping on different time machines traveling from the past to the future and mostly making long stops at unpleasant stations along the way? At times, your head’s turmoil becomes worrisome that you need to ship magic bullets in the form of sugar cravings or any other substance abuse to quiet them. It is a challenge to be present and mindful, but it will be amazingly rewarding if meshed into our daily life. Remember when you were a child, delighted to look at an object with your eyes wide open without expecting anything from it. You were absorbed in the experience without any preconceived idea. Just a “beginner’s mind,” no clutter, no concept, no meaning, no assumptions, no color, or shape. You were just fascinated. As Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion said, “being mindful is like taking photos; we learn to see without memory or desire.”

Stephane Barbery Photography

Precisely, a photograph captures a moment in time, and you will see things as they are, and mostly you see something that you usually ignore. This is to be mindful. You are being immersed in the experience without any distortion by your perceptions. By being mindful, you become receptive and see endless possibilities that exist within the world. As Monet said, “to see, we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.”

Stephane Barbery Photography

Focusing to be mindful is to learn how not to rush and wait, which involves letting go. “Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy.” Chuang-Tzu

Stephane Barbery Photography

So how to focus on being mindful? Imagine you are a photographer exploring and embracing every opportunity. You want to seize the moment and see things around you. Don’t bother about the techniques, the light, or the subject; you adopt a “yes” attitude pushing away the blocking emotions. You just let go! You let go of expectations, perfectionism, comparing yourself to others, and be open! By letting go, you don’t rush into judgment. As in photography, you accept the scenery without labeling or categorizing.
With practice and dedication, you will find harmony between your concentration and being mindful. A process that allows you to be highly sensitive to your surroundings, interested, approachable, and open. Your field of view is expanded, and you become aware of something new. Something that you can zoom in, investigate, record it, and zoom out.

Featured image by STÉPHANE BARBERY

Non-Striving – Foundation of Mindfulness # 5

One of the pillars of mindfulness meditation is based on non-striving. An attitude that helps us disconnect our energy & emotions to the outcome of a task at hand or a pursuit. What it means is that the only thing worth striving for is to be in the moment. Like in a meditative state, you seek to stay calm and reach the highest point of being; the non-striving approach shifts your focus from the result to the action.

The idea is not to abandon your desires and goals in life. On the contrary, it is about you pushing that boulder up the hill and not looking at the peak of the mountain but have your eyes on the rock while using your energy to push it forward. Recognizing that you and your diligent efforts are good enough, no matter the outcome.

 

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 12.05.01 PM
Igor Morski Art

Nike’s slogan “Just do it!” is the perfect example of a mental state that has set a goal, is fully immersed in the performance, and is not controlled by the result. To give you a clear image of how to practice a non-striving attitude is to partner your goals to your intentions. Let’s say you have set a goal to complete a project at work by a particular time. Now, if you integrate your goal to expand your knowledge and nurture your team, then the stress will be reduced, challenges will be seen as opportunities, and the exchange of ideas and support will be welcomed. The reason is that intentions within you set the tone to move towards your goals and life in general. Once you are clear about your intentions, the focus on the course of action will drive you to do your best without anxiety or stressing over the unknown future.

Non-striving takes patience and a non-judging mindset. Every day choose an activity to loosen the grip to an outcome. For example, you go for a walk every day to lose 10 pounds. The goal is clear; now add the intention to enjoy the scenery and greet everyone you meet along the way. Pay close attention to your body and emotions when tension arises every time you think about your goal, and when you let go of the outcome. The exercise will cultivate the strength to detach and learn the non-doing attitude.

On the final note, the ability to stay focused is the driver to reach your goals. Never allow the feeling of worry or the uncertainty of an outcome derails you from materializing your dreams.

For more information on mindfulness meditation, read “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. 

Letting Go – Foundation of Mindfulness #7

Changing the habit of non-acceptance

  • Let the sensations come and go
  • Do not take things personally
  • Acceptance is not choosing over your preference
  • Let go of control; not everything is what we imagine nor what we believe
  • Do not react to the unwanted situation
  • Take your focus away from what you agree or disagree
  • Recognize that flaws do exist in life, in people, and your doings and point of views
  • Detach yourself from distressing thought by not giving too much weight to it
  • Create a supportive slogan for yourself to accept things as they are in challenging moments

Ultimately, by allowing things to be as they are and staying neutral, you will learn to cultivate an acceptance attitude to reduce your anger, remain calm, and eventually find solutions. Remind yourself that the sensations that you feel are magnified. Just like in a horror movie, the knife is on the kitchen counter, but it does not mean that you will be stabbed with it. Being mindful is to know that you don’t have to solve everything nor to change it at once.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 1.09.32 PM.png
Art by Alex Gross

How to let go

The body

  • Observe your hurtful and discouraging thoughts
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and imagine that the frustrating emotion flows away with your exhalation

Emotions and feelings

  • Instead of ruminating on the story and inflating the situation with fear and panic, take it at face value
  • Sometimes it is best to engage with the negative thoughts and to confront them with counter argument
  • Know that if something doesn’t go your way is not the end of the world, not necessarily other bad things will continue to happen
  • Set an intention to realize the root cause of the negative thoughts, tension and frustrations
  • Journalling your feelings is helpful and sometimes physical venting like yelling off into a pillow works
  • Recognize that you have a choice to bid farewell to the hurt
  • Create peaceful images to call to mind as a support system
  • Realize that you are not in the centre of the universe
  • In frustration ask yourself is this who you really are? Then align yourself with your peaceful and intelligent self

When you cultivate peace in your attitude towards life, you are diffusing fear. Instead of kicking yourself and others over mistakes, past hurts or old injustices, learn to detach and let go of the anxiety that is brewing from the fear, criticism or offence.  It is satisfying to expose with rage the wrongdoers, vicious people or storm over unfairness but letting go with compassion and forgiveness makes you stronger. The idea is not to ignore nor to tolerate or to yield to unjust but to see things as they are! Your strength to analyze the situation with its risks and being able to shut off the anxieties which cripple and bring you to a depressive mood gives you the control over your emotions and allows you to accumulate the best possible outcome.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 12.57.25 PM
Art by Merelle Fabien

For further information refer to “The Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Feature image by Michael Bergt