Vacations can be transformative. They take you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to new sights, tastes and adventures.
Seven years ago, after my mother passed away, I traveled to Miraval resort in Tucson, Arizona to renew my spirit and heal. Upon arrival, I was embraced by a feeling of Zen—the colors, sounds and scents were of calm, peace and serenity. Their whole focus is on mindfulness, being in the moment. All of the exercise classes and services support the ambiance of healing and tranquility. It is a place to be nurtured, comforted and held. I purchased a small grey stone with the words "Be Present" chiseled on it as a daily reminder of this lesson.
We spend so much of our life doing, but are never really taught how to be. Having had a 32-year career in training and development in Chicago, I understand that the workplace—whether in an office or at home—is a place for accomplishments, multitasking, meetings, to-do lists and deadlines. There is a lot to do! Come with me for a moment on this journey of being. If we can simply be just a bit more, our doing (especially in the workplace) will become much more productive.
In the book Mindful Living, Miraval defines mindfulness as a "conscious approach to being in the present moment—an elevated awareness of one's surroundings and also of oneself." Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. It is observing your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. It is pausing before you react to choose your response. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you'll understand how your thoughts and feelings influence your attitude and the way you respond to the world. It's about finding balance.
We are all good at keeping busy and doing, but this is about the opposite. We need both to operate well to balance the mind, body and spirit.
Practicing mindfulness provides the following advantages:
- Lowers stress and improves concentration.
- Reduces anxiety and depression.
- Slows the aging process.
- Reduces physical pain.
- Improves sleep.
From my experience in corporate training, coaching, parenting and teaching, I have witnessed that if you can implement some changes to your daily routine, you can increase your work performance and your health. Sounds too good to be true, right?
One way to get to the present moment is through your breath. I begin teaching each yoga practice with breathwork. Three long slow inhales in and three long slow exhales out. Immediately, your shoulders drop, your mind quiets and your heart rate settles. Breathing deeply, while engaging the belly, activates your parasympathetic (rest/digest) nervous system. Breathing comes naturally, but to remind us to breathe properly and fully, you can use "mindfulness bells."
To do this, choose something that happens during your day—stopping at a red light, hearing a train or a siren, doing a mundane task, or receiving a text from a particular person—as a signal to pause and take a few deep breaths. My favorite yoga teacher once told me that no matter what you are faced with, if you can breathe in, you can breathe out. Sometimes, it's all we need to do to bring us to this moment. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, "One conscious breath in and out is meditation."
Another mindfulness practice is to be in nature. Take a walk at lunch! Walking allows us to be present and increases productivity. We can notice the length of inhales and exhales, the flowers and the trees. Engage the senses noticing the sound of birds, the feel of the wind and the color of the sky. With so many beautiful trails around us, nurture yourself with nature. By walking and breathing mindfully, we gain a sense of calm and tranquility because we are in the now.
Studies show that simply looking out your window at trees can produce the same calming result. If time does not allow you to take a brief walk outdoors, you can bring nature in by adding green plants and flowers in your workspace.
"When you are being aware of the life within you and around you, you are being mindful of this present moment, and it will always calm you down. You cannot do nature, you can just be there. Being is calming. There is calm in nature." – Dr. Bjarte Stubhaug
Finally, practice gratitude. As Plato says, "A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things."
Being grateful changes the neurochemistry in your brain toward positive emotions. Consider this: Thoughts create your feelings, which create your behaviors which create your outcomes. If you are looking to change an aspect of your life, start out by changing your thoughts. This practice can be applied to people, projects or circumstances. The simple words "thank you" can change everything, turning scarcity into abundance. A tool to help you do this is a gratitude journal. If you start out your day pausing to think about what you have rather than what you are lacking, your days, weeks and months can turn out very differently.
I'll leave you with a 30-day challenge: Choose one of the mindful practices that resonate with you, commit to it and see how you feel after your trial period. You will have a new healthy habit to keep you more calm, present and productive. So, mark your calendars, set your alarms and reminders to trigger a new practice that brings your mind, body and spirit back to balance and experience BE-ing in all your doing.
"Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it." – Sharon Saltzberg
Angela Cominos Koehler had a 32-year career in corporate career development and training in Chicago prior to founding Pathfinder Coaching in 2019. Today, she leads corporate workshops on mindfulness and gratitude, teaches yoga at Satya Yoga in Saugatuck (RYT 200 & Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist), and is writing a book called A Year in Balance: A Spiritual Guide to Your Next Right Step, which is set to be published by the end of 2021. Angela is married with two sons and two "bonus" daughters and lives in Saugatuck, Michigan. For your coaching or workshop needs, contact Angela via email at [email protected] or on Instagram @angie.pc4u.