There are so many times during the week that I am poignantly grateful for my mindfulness practice. Uncomfortable, boring or hard situations now evolve into easy, spectacular or even funny events. For example…
1. Mindfulness saves the day… when driving.
Common scenario: You start your sedan, drive from your abode to the Quick Trip, the ride is a total blur. Unfortunately, this is how many of us live our lives; we can recall arrivals and departures but miss out on the subtleties.
Paying attention behind the wheel is an astounding way to practice being “in the now” vs. zombie zoning. And, it is undeniably necessary given the twists and turns that can quickly change the direction of your day or life — witnessing the hot brake lights pounding dangerously ahead, being aware of that precarious piece of tire on the freeway or swiftly noting that nagging police car at the bottom off the hill.
Being mindful also allows you to see others drivers with more focus and compassion. My old driver’s ed teacher would cheer mindfulness as it intensifies defensive driving abilities such as being watchful of other drivers using cell phones, lip stick or riding with Chihuahuas.
For the compassion piece, John Lennon could only imagine the end of road rage. If someone cuts me off or pulls out in front, my first thought now is to assume that they didn’t do it on purpose. I know, hard, right?!
From my practice I know deep down that others don’t want to hurt me. It makes my heart and life feel significantly better — even if it may not be the “obvious” truth; I know it is the deeper truth. (And scientifically, my brain’s amygdala is less reactive, so my ability to regain calm in a drastic situation is highly improved.)
Want more? Check out this mindful driving exercise.
2. When getting dental work.
This is a matchless situation to honestly gage how effective your mindfulness practice is fairing. If you can relax and meditate while your mouth is disagreeably spread while unnatural things are happening inside, dear one… you have hit the guru level.
Five out of 100 people experience severe dental fear; I would also assume that the public at large doesn’t have an overall fondness for having their teeth clanked on. Even Colgate’s website offers a helpful article about treatments and coping methods for dental visits.
Meditation and mindfulness have been proven to help with all kinds of anxieties and fears. They can help conquer extreme dental panic or simply help make visits a bit more pleasant.
Oh, and what about the person on the other end of the numbing needle? Dentists experience one of the highest burnout rates. They need YOU to practice mindfulness, so they aren’t looking down at a salivating face of fear waiting for the right moment to bite their fingers off. (And, yes, wouldn’t hurt if they adopted the practice, as well, and turned their burnout into bliss.)
3. When doing the every day chores of life.
Life is full of repetitions, repetitions, repetitions. Should I say that again? How many countless times have you shaved, taken the dog out to the bathroom, turned on and off the kitchen light?
This makes me think of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day. This truly clever film is a great example of using redundancy mindfully. The main character, Phil Connors, reshapes the freaky mishap of living the same, exact day over and over into learning to enjoy life fuller with more authenticity.
Here’s a simple exercise. When putting on your shirt to start the day, notice only this event. Pay attention to the fabric, the colors, how it feels on your skin, consider why you chose that shirt for the day or how it makes you feel when you look in the mirror. In doing this, how often does your mind wander? What does it wander to? What does it feel like to be so in the moment of something so ordinary?
4. When confronted with an uncomfortable conversation.
This is a prime reason to start meditating today… right now…
When experiences like this occur, here’s what I do. It’s almost like I add a divider between the situation and me; I give it space. And, my practice allows me to do this more efficiently every time. This space provides me room to focus on my body and relax the areas that are twitchy or tight. I do this while I stay present in the situation, which is key. Then, I take note if I have self-talk going on while others are verbalizing. I breathe and stay with the moment… I get out of my own head and listen intently to others while still keeping on eye on my body’s sometimes continual reactions.
I no longer do any head bobbing, or finger pointing or wishing someone ill will about their mama.
Now, I can calmly hear others, be empathetic and also stand up for myself. Does this mean I never get angry? Oh, no. My practice helps me gauge when I might need to push limits, be strong or even loud. Everyday, however, I soften and become more and more open and vulnerable. That can be uncomfortable and great all at the same time. But ’tis a place I would choose EVERY TIME.
To wrap up… being mindful is like being a very calm sports announcer — being aware of the play-by-plays of life yet not getting too wrapped up. It truly saves you from events, people or things that can put you in that space suit and drop you into the relentless, lost universe of a detached mind.