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Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

    We as knowledge workers, creatives, and entrepreneurs have a lot on on our plates like numerous projects, meetings, ideas, phone calls to make, and decisions to come to. Not only that, but there is an entire other side of our life; the personal one. In our personal lives we have a family to take care of, difficult decisions that have to be made about friends and family, as well as making sure that our family is set up for the future.

    If you have been reading Lifehack for any length of time then you probably already have some kind of productivity system in place and have taken advantage of our tips on how to get more and better work done. But even after getting things done, sometimes things don’t feel right. We feel like we are robots. We feel that our lives our unbalanced, that we spend too much time at work and not enough with the ones that we love. We feel that the work we are doing isn’t what we want to be doing. We end up with a feeling of dread and dissatisfaction in our lives.

    This is where the practice of being mindful comes in. Rather than running the rat-race of getting things done in your life; you have to stop and understand what your life really is by becoming and staying mindful.

    What mindfulness is and what it isn’t

    Being mindful means “inclined to be aware” and mindfulness is the act of that. Some would say that practicing mindfulness and using forms of meditation to become more mindful is a Buddhist “thing”. While that is somewhat true, you don’t have to practice Buddhism to practice mindfulness meditation. In fact, there are many members of other religions that practice forms of meditation that moves them towards mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means that you have to have an open mind and have to be open to a new experience as well as a different way of thinking about things.

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    Becoming mindful does not mean that you go into a trance, become god-like, learn to levitate, or some other crazy thing you may have heard of. Becoming mindful allows you to see yourself and the world around you just as it is without any preconceived notions of what it “should be”.

    It’s hard to talk about becoming mindful without speaking about some form of meditation. What we will discuss here is a sitting meditation that is concentrated on the breath. We won’t delve into the ins and outs of meditation but there are some good resources for that:

    The Benefits

    There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness through your day. Some of these benefits have to deal with overcoming stress and overwhelm, but there are even links from mindfulness meditation to lowering one’s blood pressure, improving memory, and ridding yourself of depression and anxiety.

    These aren’t all of the benefits that we as knowledge workers are looking for (although they are a great to have). What mindfulness meditation gives us is a place we can go to re-frame our world; to accept our current situations and therefore understand ourselves and our surroundings. This is the first step we need to make the right changes in our lives. We see the reality in front of us and based on that new found reality we can make the decisions of where we should be spending our time and attention.

    Not only that, but mindfulness meditation will lower our stress as we try to get things done throughout our day which makes work feel much more natural and less threatening.

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    Get started

    Getting started with mindfulness meditation is easy. Find about 15 minutes of spare time, a quiet room or place you can go to with the least amount of distractions, a pillow for sitting on the ground (or a chair if that isn’t possible), a timer of some sort (there are a lot of good ones for your smartphone), and no expectations of what will or won’t happen. We need to approach meditation and the practice of mindfulness with as little preconceived notions as possible. The less we expect from practicing and being mindful, the better it will “work”.

    Sit down in your quite room in a comfortable position, set your timer, and close your eyes. All you need to do now is be aware of the breath that is coming in and out of your nose. Breath in slow through your nose and concentrate on how the air feels hitting your nostrils. While breathing in, breath deep through your stomach, not your chest. As the breath in starts to slow down concentrate on the split second between the end of your breath in and the beginning of your breath out. Then feel the breath going out of your nostril. Once again, concentrate on the split second that your breath changes from going out to coming back in.

    The reason that you concentrate on your breath is because it is something real; it is reality. You will notice as you sit there for an extended period of time thoughts will enter your brain like crazy. The idea is not to “block” or “stop” your thoughts from happening. That will lead to frustration. Instead, concentrate on the reality of your situation and allow your thoughts to enter and exit your mind as your breath enters and exits your nostrils.

    Sit and meditate and breath for the set amount of time. When your bell or alarm goes off, slowly open your eyes and go about your day.

    This is the practice of mindfulness meditation in a nutshell.

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    Some issues

    The above sounds easy, right? Just sit and concentrate on your breath. Not so much.

    Many people that try to start a mindfulness practice find themselves abandoning it after one or even a few days of practice. Mostly because meditation and being mindful is hard as many different issues can come up:

    Being uncomfortable

    Sometimes people tend to get uncomfortable with the thoughts that come up or even physically uncomfortable while they are seated.

    When it comes to the thoughts that come up a good rule of thumb is first to move your attention back to your breath and to let the thought go through it’s natural progression through your mind while you aren’t attached to it. The thought can keep coming up, especially to someone that isn’t “trained” in mindfulness yet. If it is completely uncomfortable then you may need to stop your practice for the day and come back at a later time to try again.

    When it comes to physical uncomfortableness you may need to move your body a little bit or find another position that is more comfortable for you. Something to remember though is to feel some of the minor pain or restlessness or your body as you sit there as it is reality. You of course don’t want to cause yourself injury, but there will always be small issues that come up with our bodies as we sit. Try to sit through them.

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    Expectations

    Going into a meditation and mindfulness practice you want to have the least amount of expectations as possible, but after some weeks or even months of practice you may find yourself expecting some sort of revelation and peace in your everyday life. When this doesn’t happen you will probably give up on the practice all together because it “doesn’t work”.

    While meditation and mindfulness will end up bringing you peace, understanding, and lower overall stress levels, it doesn’t mean that you will experience it immediately. Remember we are shooting for feeling reality for the way that it is. Keep moving forward and shift your expectations.

    Where we are going

    Okay. So you sit and meditate every day. You concentrate on your breath and live in the moment. But why?

    Well, as we continue our mindfulness practice some peculiar things will start to happen. As you live your life and do your work throughout the day you may find yourself slowing down and concentrating on your breath as you become stressed or overwhelmed. This will ground you and help you realize what the current reality is. Rather than reading an email and then instantly fantasizing about what it “could” mean, you can step back and read it for what it is and not get excited or upset.

    The projects that you have been working on (or haven’t been working on) start to look a little different. You may be able to slow down and ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” If the answer isn’t apparent you may just want to cut the project entirely. In the past, cutting or declining projects may have been perceived as a weakness. After seeing things for the way they are you can simply see that these project may not interest your or may not help you further your career in any real way. You start to see the reality of all situations in work and life.

    Practicing mindfulness start a chain reaction in your life. The simplest of tasks (sit and concentrate on your breath) can turn your life around because you bring that simplicity into everything you do. That’s why we as entrepreneurs, creatives, and knowledge workers need to practice mindfulness.

    (Photo credit: Face huge stress, meditation via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

    13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

    Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

    Why is this so critically important to you?

    The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

    Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

    1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

    Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

    When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

    • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
    • The man facing the judge.
    • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
    • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
    • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
    • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

    These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

    Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

    Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

    2. Accept Your Fear

    Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

    We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

    And here’s what can be done.

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    3. Get Some Perspective

    I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

    And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

    That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

    We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

    So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

    • Are you really at risk?
    • Will this kill you?
    • Which leads us on to..
    • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

    4. Hold a Hand

    As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

    Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

    We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

    Ask yourself:

    • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
    • Could that really happen?
    • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
    • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

    By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

    5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

    This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

    Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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    The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

    It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

    For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

    Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

    6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

    I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

    Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

    Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

    Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

    Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

    Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

    7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

    Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

    I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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    It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

    One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

    Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

    It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

    8. Assume the Worse

    If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

    Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

    • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
    • Think about how they feel about champagne?
    • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

    And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

    When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

    Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

    9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

    If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

    Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

    Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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    10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

    One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

    11. Go with Fear

    When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

    I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

    Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

    One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

    However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

    We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

    12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

    And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

    The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

    What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

    13. Own Your Fear

    Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

    We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

    You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

    More Resources About Fighting Fear

    Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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