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Where You’re Going Wrong With Mindfulness

Ruthie: Welcome back! We’re getting ready to dive into some trends that have been going on in the mindfulness industry, and Shelly’s going to let us know exactly where people are going wrong. So, Shelley, what do you think is this seed that’s taken root in the industry that needs to be eradicated? 

Shelley: Oftentimes before my workshops, I’ll ask people, “Do you practice mindfulness?” And almost every time somebody will say, “Oh yeah, I use the X app and it helps me fall asleep!” That’s not mindfulness! I’m glad that it helps you fall asleep, but mindfulness is about cultivating present moment awareness. It’s really not about falling asleep. 

One of the most challenging things for organizations is to have a mindfulness trainer come in and in the first five minutes tell everybody, “Close your eyes and put your hands together.” That can totally alienate a whole bunch of people that think it’s weird. I would think it’s weird! 

That’s where I think people go wrong. I believe that mindfulness is an invitation to everybody, and that it should be inclusive and accessible to everyone. It shouldn’t be weird. If you don’t like the word “meditation”, call it mental muscle training, bicep curls for the brain, or whatever you want. You’re practicing the “noticing” muscle. You notice where your mind is going, so that your mind doesn’t get to drive you. 

It’s like a horse. When you ride a horse, you want to be the rider. You don’t want the horse to take you wherever it wants to go. But yet, we let our minds take us wherever they want. 

Ruthie: You just gave me this image of me on a horse that’s just bucking around everywhere, and I’m clinging onto it for dear life. We’re going through life with our brain being the horse in a rodeo. That’s exhausting. 

How Can We Center Ourselves?

Ruthie: I’ve got some friends in the mindfulness community, so I know it’s not just about meditation. I know it’s also about staying present and not letting stress impact you in the moment. So when you’re working with people in their organizations, what’s a tip you could give us in terms of being able to find that center? 

I feel like I’m all over the place. Some days I wake up and I don’t know which day it is. I don’t know which way is up. What do we do in terms of trying to find that center and to be more mindful, even at work? Especially if it’s not closing your eyes. 

Shelley: Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is what happens the rest of the time. So when we talk about it as a practice, you don’t get a certificate that says, “Oh, I’m mindful now.” We practice meditation so that we can be mindful the rest of the time that we’re not in meditation. 

Practicing mindfulness is not just about getting out of stressful thoughts. We’re all distracted at a minimum. Even if you’re not stressed, a lot of us are distracted. We’re on autopilot. We’re thinking about the past – not necessarily with regret or remorse – and fantasizing about something that was awesome. Or our minds are in the future, so we’re planning and worrying about something. 

Even when we’re right here, we’re arguing with reality. Or we make our happiness contingent on something that hasn’t happened yet. So those are all the myriad of things that cause us to suffer and not be present. Another stressful thought pattern makes up the “shoulds”. I shouldn’t have said that. I should go work out. I shouldn’t have said that to my kid. I should be doing this now.

How do we practice when we’re not sitting in a chair meditating? Well, there’s lots of things that we can do throughout the day. And those are some of the practices that I invite individuals to do now during this quarantine. So our phone can be one of the biggest mindfulness tools, believe it or not. 

The 45-15 Model

I’m not talking about listening to an app. I’m talking about turning off your notifications, so that when you’re working on your computer, you’re not trying to do two things at once. When you’re working from home, you can do a 45-15; that’s 45 minutes of work and a 15-minute break. You can schedule that on your phone. 

Be Intentional About Your Breaks

It’s helpful to be very intentional about what those breaks include, so that you don’t get distracted by the thing that’s trying to pull you away. Go for a walk, put your laundry in, listen to music, go upstairs and see your kids, etc. 

Get Rid of That Congested Energy

Another thing is using your phone to set an alarm to remind you to stand up, take a few deep breaths, feel your feet on the ground and get all that congested energy to dissipate. I also tell people to shake their legs and heads. It literally brings you back down. 

Be Compassionate to Yourself

Some people may need to take a compassion break. That’s saying, “I’m feeling really worried. I’m feeling really scared” And doing something self-soothing, whether it’s putting a hand on the heart or putting your arms around yourself. This is a moment of suffering and that suffering is part of the human experience. I feel sad. I’m not sad; I’m Shelley. I feel sad. 

I’m holding a space for the sadness. What does that sadness need? Do I need to go upstairs and hug my kids? Do I need to make a phone call and call a friend? Do I need to write and journal about it ? What does that emotion need, so that I can actually move on? It’s not saying, “This isn’t happening.” I’m acknowledging it. I have space for it. What can I do now

So there’s lots of different micro mindfulness practices that you can implement throughout the day. Mindful eating is a huge one. How often do you eat without being on your phone or having the TV on? 

Ruthie: For me, that’s actually pretty often because I’m trying not to set a bad example for my kids. However, before my husband and I had children, we would often go and sit and eat and watch TV. So I definitely get that point for sure. 

Shelley: Yup. And when you’re feeling overworked or you’re sensing stress, you’re entitled to take a break. It’s good to have a mindful meal, being mindful and experiencing the food through your senses, the touch, the smell, the feel, and then actually slowing down to enjoy it. Not only can you enjoy your food more, but it can also help with overeating and settling the mind. 

Holding Space for Our Emotions

Ruthie: The part where you were talking about having space for our emotions made me think of the movie Inside Out. They personify the emotions of a 12-year old girl. There’s Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. The girl goes through a really big change and the Sadness emotion starts going a bit haywire, but they keep trying to tell Sadness not to touch anything. 

On the outside,the girl starts acting out and decides to run away. She wasn’t leaving space for her sadness. She was just trying to stay happy. Whenever I watch that movie with my kids, I always point it out. You don’t feel good when you feel sad, but it is one of our feelings. 

Shelley: That’s so important. When we think about awareness, we can hold all sorts of things. We can hold sadness at the same time as joy. We have plenty of space. Our awareness is unlimited. We can, we can hold space for something, without it being the be-all and end-all of everything. The point is to acknowledge it and recognize that it’s there, but not be completely consumed by it. So that’s what I mean by holding space for it without it overtaking us. 

Where to Find Shelley 

Ruthie: I feel like I almost should pay you! You’ve given such good information. This was wonderful. Is there anywhere else where you would prefer people reach out to you?

Shelley: If any organization or company wants to talk with me about doing a webinar about introducing mindfulness into your workplace, then I will curate the content based on whatever your goals for that webinar are. 

Ruthie: Where can people reach you online? 

Shelley: I’m very active on LinkedIn and I’m a little bit on Instagram, but mostly LinkedIn, email and my website. 

Ruthie: All right. Well, I’ll be sure to include links to all of that in the show notes. And of course, once I share everything on social media, I’ll be tagging you. Thank you so much for being on the show. it was fantastic. I couldn’t have hoped for better. 

Shelley: Thank you. It was an honor. I really enjoyed it.