My number one priority every morning is to carve out time for mindful meditation and reflection before moving into the scheduled appointments of my day.
Life, however, can have a different plan, and even I, a mindfulness coach, can be guilty of trying to cram too many things onto my to-do list, which almost always results in not being present.
One particular Thursday morning I decided to sacrifice a portion of my meditation time for a business call about the promotion of my new book. I finished up my meditation time early to get to the phone, but the person I was calling didn’t answer. I left a message and decided to wait a few minutes for a callback.
As I waited, I felt myself overthinking in my head about all the things I could be doing. “Bonus time,” I thought. I had a small pocket of space between waiting for the phone call and leaving for a yoga class I was scheduled to instruct. I decided to answer a few emails, drink my morning smoothie, clean my office desk, and pack my bag for the yoga class.
About half an hour later, the call came in, but at this point, I realized that I’d have to leave for the yoga class within the next few minutes. I decided to carry on the conversation while in transit (big mistake).
As we continued our phone conversation, I madly piled my yoga mat and bags into my car and opened the garage door, all while struggling to get my bluetooth headpiece to work. Finally, I sped off down the street toward the yoga studio.
About half a block away, I realized I had forgotten to put on my yoga clothes—I was still in jeans! While trying my best to be present with the conversation on the phone, I returned back to my house, deactivated the alarm code, ran inside, changed into my yoga gear, and frantically rushed back to my car to hopefully make it in the nick of time to my yoga class—all the while carrying on what was supposed to be a focused conversation.
To say my guilt level was through the roof would be an understatement. I apologized for being so distracted on the call.
In that moment, it dawned on me that I was doing the exact opposite of what I encourage all of my students to do in times like this—take a breath and return to one task at a time. I was not practicing what I preach!
The question is, how do we return back to the present moment when our mind is suggesting otherwise? How do we practice one moment at a time when there can be so many things to focus on at once?
Although our mind is convinced that doing many things on our to-do list all at the same time is going to create more efficiency in our lives, the studies prove otherwise. Research out of Stanford University suggests that multitasking is less productive than doing one single thing at a time. So what can we do to stay present in the face of distractions?
Here are my three tips for returning to a mindful state:
1. Silence technology
We are living in a time of technology addiction, and it can creep up on us slowly. The average person checks their cell phone 110 times per day! As a leader in the mindfulness field, I am not exempt. My title does not give me a freedom pass from this crazy “busyness.” In moments of overwhelm, one of the best ways to return back to inner peace is to switch our phone into airplane mode and give ourselves time to refocus.
2. One step at a time
It is much too easy to brush our teeth while checking our email and end up wandering around the house without an exact destination in mind. Put a reminder somewhere in your space that you will see regularly: “One step at a time.”
3. Pause and breathe
When you become aware that you are rushing through the motions of your life, trying to do too many things at once, pause! Take a few deep breaths. Give yourself a few moments to feel a bit of space in your mind and body. It is in this space that we are given clarity and deeper awareness on how to best move forward.
As I reflect on what happened that Thursday morning, I must confess, I was completely thrown off balance. I say this not to pile guilt onto myself, but to name a truth and return back to a practice that I know is going to bring me inner peace.
We are all human, and life can get overwhelming at times.
It is through these struggles, though, that we most need to return back to awareness and balance. It is moments like these when we have the opportunity to grow and master our ability to stay present by getting quiet, slowing down, and returning to a state of balance.
Luckily, every day is a new day.