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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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