On Mindfulness

by Annie

in ruthless productivity

Mindfulness: (n) the trait of staying aware of (paying close attention to) your responsibilities (Source: WordNetSearch)

Washing dishes by hand in kitchen sink

This can save your life -- or at the very least your sanity.


There’s one skill — one acquired skill, I should stress — that’s been responsible for most of my psychological recovery from the Great Business Implosion of Aught-Eight. And that’s mindfulness.

To be fair, I learned it in the context of my 12-year-and-counting dance with chronic pain.

Mindfulness meditation is highly recommended by the experts for folks struggling with any chronic pain condition, because it works. It helps relieve the pain and also eliminates the suffering — the mental/emotional component of pain that puts the sufferer into a feedback loop of pain–>fear–>increased pain–>increased fear–>lather–>rinse–>repeat.

But it works on any emotional feedback loop you’ve got going, including the natural (and completely understandable) fear that accompanies stepping out into the void of being your own boss. Especially the one that’s triggered by a reduction of income/clients.

Mindfulness is basically the conscious control of runaway thoughts and feelings by bringing your mind back to the present. To only the present. Not freaking out about the future and your inevitable homelessness. Not castigating yourself over the past decisions that will inevitably lead to said homelessness.

This moment. This one, right here, right now. Bringing yourself back to this-moment-right-here helps your body snap out of that feedback loop and halt the vicious cycle in its tracks.

Besides lower blood pressure, reduced autonomic stress response (with all those freaky hormones raging in your bloodstream), and lessened pain, this practice allows you to, y’know, actually solve the real problem, instead of expending massive amounts of emotional bandwidth on the unknown problems of tomorrow.

Now, for all you New Agey- types out there, this is no problem.  (Aw, who am I kidding? You’ve long since left this page. You’re already lighting the sandalwood incense and folding the legs into modified lotus, right? Peace out, peeps. Namaste. See ya tomorrow.)

For the rest of you, who are undoubtedly thinking “what kind of woo-woo nonsense is Sisk spouting now?” … read on.

You can be mindful anywhere.  Doing anything.

Exhibit A: I practice mindfulness at the kitchen sink. Which is the reason for the image up there.

Something about warm soapy water and the repetitive actions involved help me achieve that awesome state of mind we call mindfulness.

I suspect any kind of repetitive task that you can do without too much thought would work just as well. Washing dishes works for me, because it’s just me and my daughter; I would imagine if you have eight kids and a spouse, you might wanna stick with the dishwasher — the appliance kind, I mean.

Other suggestions? Try it while walking. (The best kind of multitasking — meditation, health care, AND exercise, all at the same time.) Or mopping floors. I’d imagine knitting or any kind of repetitive needlework would be really effective, too.

Or you can hit the yoga mat with the sandalwood incense. That works, too.

How, exactly? Simple (not necessarily easy): Keep bringing your attention back to your repetitive task. Bring your whole body and all your senses into the moment. Washing dishes? Breathe, wash the dish, feel the soapy water and the warmth, smell the soap.

Your thoughts will wander. Don’t get upset — there’s no “winning” here and you can’t do it “wrong.” Just gently bring your focus back to the dish in your hand. (Or whatever.)

Aim for twenty minutes a day, and I promise you that you will, at a minimum, feel better physically and mentally. Do it regularly, and the benefits seem to be cumulative. You’ll feel better longer, and handle the little eruption of business crises that happen to everyone much more effectively and quickly.

Plus you’ll have clean dishes. Win-win.

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