Mindfulness is a committed focus on what exists in the present moment and an awareness of this focus without judgment. This focus requires our minds to set aside distracting thoughts about the future and the past. We also must accept our current state and the current state of the world. It’s tougher than it sounds.
Being in “the zone” is like mindfulness, but when we are in flow, we are not aware of our awareness. When I am in the zone, my mind and body are completely focused on one activity and I am so productive that time appears to stand still.
Meditation is a mindfulness activity that builds stamina for focusing in other aspects of our lives. Meditation can also make it easier for us to achieve a state of flow at work and in activities that require full engagement. In turn, being in flow can improve our performance on a broad variety of activities.
Meditation comes in many flavors. Most meditation involves focusing on breath or the body without active movement. Yoga promotes concentrated attention on our bodies, movement and breath. It is a kinesthetic form of mediation. In mantra meditation, practitioners repeat a meaningful word or sound.
If meditation is less-than-tantalizing to you, though, try these other ways to cultivate mindful focus.
- You can practice mindfulness when you eat by slowing down and noticing what each bite tastes and feels like in each moment, as it moves into and through your mouth. If that grosses you out, there are many other ways to be mindful!
- Listening to music can be mindful when we let all other thoughts fall away to focus on every note in a song.
- Build pauses into your day to stop and check in with your emotional state, then name the present emotion. This exercise pulls your mind into the present moment. Regular practice conditions your mind to step back and observing its operations without judgment.