21 Jul The Power of Staying Mindful
Have you ever driven in a car and realised at some point along the way – or even at the end of your journey – that you’re somewhere totally different from where you intended? Maybe you’ve ended up at work and realised you’ve still got your children in the back of the car….. or got home and realised that you haven’t?!
We’ve all had those momentary lapses in attention; we get distracted and our brain switches to autopilot. Sometimes we catch ourselves about to do something silly (putting the freshly-made tea in the fridge rather than the milk) or we find ourselves in another room without any idea as to why we went there in the first place. We finish chapters of books and realise that we haven’t taken in a single word, or have that awkward moment in a conversation where it’s clear we are supposed to say something and we have no idea what an acceptable response might be!
Sometimes these lapses in concentration have more serious or unfortunate consequences – it’s often when we’re not paying attention that we make mistakes or hurt ourselves, or someone else. As adults, we kid ourselves that we can multi-task, but we are constantly telling our children to watch what they are doing, or to be careful – urging them to concentrate, to be present, to pay attention.
There are many things we want to get back to – we want children to return to school, our businesses to return to prosperity and we want to be able to enjoy all those things we do as social activities, be that sport, eating out or going to the theatre. These things were our “normal”, but in reality, the old “normal” was also somewhat unconscious; we took much of it for granted. It happened, but we weren’t really present in it – we weren’t really paying attention.
The pandemic has woken us up to many things, from the inequalities in our society to the effects that a global lockdown can have on our environment. It is also a wake-up call to be more present – to become more conscious and more mindful. In doing so, we become more aware of what’s going on for us and also what’s going on around us. We reconnect with all the things that are important to us personally and collectively and become more purposeful about how we look after them.
Being mindful enables us to make conscious choices about our behaviour, day by day and moment by moment. It keeps us aware of the places we’re in, the people we’re with and the context of the wider situation. Mindfulness helps us to remember that this currently isn’t a normal situation and we need to make different and deliberate choices such as wearing face masks or social distancing. Staying conscious ensures that we don’t become blasé about our new routines and lose sight of why we are doing them in the first place; it also enables us to be flexible as circumstances change.
Mindfulness is a powerful antidote to anxiety; it allows us to consider the potential challenges of the future whilst grounded in the reality of the present. Through it we can honour our feelings and separate them from the facts; we can acknowledge that these are unprecedented times without becoming engulfed by them.
Over the coming months, there will be times when what we should and shouldn’t do will be very black and white. There will, however, be far more times when it is all just shades of grey. Mindfulness can help us to move forwards step by step, making decisions based on the information that we have available, the values that we hold and the outcomes that we want.
We cannot control the actions of others and on occasion, people will behave in ways that go against both our beliefs and our logic. This will challenge us, particularly if they are people close to us and those who normally share our values and our views. By being present in the moment, we can be open and curious; we can have better conversations and respond to others (and indeed to ourselves) with compassion rather than with judgement. Through mindfulness, we can be assertive and true to our values whilst respecting those of others, and we can recognise that we always have a choice in how we respond.
What would being more mindful look and feel like for you over the coming months? What benefits would it have both personally and professionally? Where do you need to start?
As we move forwards, let us do so with intention – let us be present, be purposeful and above all be kind.
Credit to Annie Spratt on Unsplash for the image