Mindfulness is not meditation, but it’s a good start.
Imagine you are at dinner with friends and everyone is laughing, having a good conversation, and the food is delicious. You haven’t been out in a while like this—because you’re a mom and an entrepreneur—so the thought of going out seems like a luxury.
All of a sudden from across the restaurant, you see a person you used to know and they wave at you and start walking over. You are excited, curious, and looking forward to connecting with them again.
Your friend tugs at your sleeve and whispers in your ear, “You have mashed potatoes all over your face.“ Uh-oh. At this moment, you quickly grab your napkin, wipe your face, and give a quick glance of gratitude before shouting hello and opening your arms welcoming to this old friend.
Your friend is a metaphorical definition of mindfulness.
Mindfulness doesn’t make us perfect people, but it certainly allows us to recover more quickly and get active and aware—right now. It shifts and aligns us to our best potential. It’s paying attention, on purpose, so we feel good about our present moment.
My definition of mindfulness is the bridge between the extreme loop we swing through as creative leaders.
One extreme is our wild expressive side—like having mashed potatoes all over our face or keeping the camera off in a Zoom call because we haven’t showered yet.
On the other extreme is our peaceful, restorative side: showing up with joy, meditating after a long day, or taking some long, deep breaths. Mindfulness is a centered approach to our creativity and our healing. It is a way of being that keeps us from wildly swinging from one side to the other without burning out.
It is a common myth that mindfulness and meditation are the same things. We aren’t meditating in the middle of a restaurant or when we are in a meeting that will push our business forward, and we are certainly not meditating when we take a pause before replying to someone in the middle of a conversation.
Meditation is a tool that allows us to practice our awareness, but mindfulness is the practice of integrating that awareness into our world.
I integrate mindfulness in almost every single moment of my day.
I, personally, don’t always have a friend hanging around to tell me that I have mashed potatoes all over my face, so I need mindfulness to flag me when I do. Mindfulness allows me to turn off autopilot, use the past and the future as the inspiration for the present moment, and take control of my creativity in the highest, empowering, and conscious way.
I crush realities for breakfast, thanks to mindfulness.
My process could be washing the dishes, forming a business proposal, or being in a meeting. We have a process for everything and in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, the process is supported by a system we have in place. My system happens to be mindfulness, which I find to be an informal practice of tapping into my senses or my real-time experience.
Meditation is a tool that brings awareness to our inner world; our bodies already know how to meditate. While taking deep breaths, dancing, or singing, we tap into that stillness we are trying to get to when we are meditating.
Meditation is developing an awareness of nothing; it is swinging back to the peaceful side of our creative leadership and moving into a place of observation versus active participation in our lives.
I have thoughts coming across my brain when I am meditating, but the practice of meditation allows for me to expand into awareness and practice not engaging or reacting to everything that comes up. The lovely and fascinating part of meditation is that, as we continue to practice observing the beauty of our lives in our brains, we have those moments of pause in real life.
One of the first times I realized that meditation was helping me with being a mindful leader, I was in a conversation with a colleague. As they continued to complain about the project they needed to work on, I sat there just listening; not offering advice, not interested in participating in their complaints, but rather, just empathizing with their pain. I paused and listened to them. Funny enough, the conversation moved on to discuss their dreams and what they really wished they could be doing with their time. And as I continued to listen sympathetically, they stood up and looked very light.
I stood up myself, smiled, and said, “What a lovely conversation. I wish you to get everything you want and good luck with your project!”
Later that day, my colleague not only finished the project but also wrote down a plan for ways that they could start their own journey to starting a business. They had thanked me a ton because they said that this one short conversation had inspired them to go for it.
I had said nearly nothing in the conversation. I didn’t really know how I could have gotten credit.
This is the moment I knew that meditation had allowed me to be a mindful and creative leader. I spent time observing, being present, and aware of this colleague, as I do in meditation for myself. The practice of being nothing allowed for my college to feel inspired and to take active participation in their lives.
There is something about being centered, creative, and healing in our approach to who we are in our lives. It unlocks the magic of our outer and inner worlds. We become empowered and beautiful. We take responsibility for our choices.
So, I invite you to meditate if you want to be more mindful. I invite you to get in touch with other tools for mindfulness that allow you to tap into the present moment and crush it.
I’m excited to see what we can all do.