I’m a grown-up and a parent and a business owner, but I have to admit I’m sometimes very reactive — like a child. For instance, this morning, I looked at the time on my phone and rolled out of bed. I noticed two new emails in my work inbox. I opened them, and one of them was from a client who wanted to fix something.
Here I am, in my PJs and glasses, hair a mess, heart thumping, ready to fix it.
This is like having a dream about a very old acquaintance and waking up in the middle of the night to find her on Facebook — when you should really just be sleeping.
It just doesn’t make sense. But as a business owner, and a plugged-in one at that, it’s far too easy to be reactive. Everything can seem like a priority when you’ve fallen prey to bad habits like responding to emails right away or opening push notifications.
Why Reading About Mindfulness Doesn’t Cut It
If you read about mindfulness but don’t practice it, you’re only making the problem worse. Mindfulness, though it has the word “mind” in there, isn’t something automatic like a mantra you can repeat in your head all day. The whole purpose of it is to get out of your head and back in your body.
In fact, I think we need to stop talking about “body and mind” and separating these things out, because they’re not separate. Your mind is physical. Your thoughts, too, are physical, weird as that is to think about.
And that’s why it’s so essential that you practice mindfulness like a sport.
Become Less Reactive in Five Minutes (Do It Now)
Don’t read this article and then check your email. Instead, I suggest you read this and take five minutes and do what I did this morning.
This morning, I took five minutes (at the advice of a recent mindfulness article I read, like this one) to sit in silence with my eyes closed and focus on my breathing. I set a timer for five minutes and sat in a chair in the kitchen while I waited for the water for my coffee to boil.
I paid attention to my breathing. I didn’t force it into a pattern, or make it long or short, I simply breathed and paid attention to it. It was a little shaky at times, I noticed. Sometimes I needed a little extra air, sometimes my breath was shallow. I didn’t judge it or try to change it.
Sure, I still had little flurries of thoughts about this client’s request and that client’s problem. I even caught myself starting to craft an email in my head. But mindfulness isn’t about forcing your head to go blank, or thinking about a beach somewhere. Sure, if these things help you, use them! But from my own mindfulness practice over the last several years, and everything I’ve learned from reading Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve learned that mindfulness is the opposite of forcing something — it’s letting thoughts happen, and letting them go, one after another, like releasing a handkerchief into the breeze.
Everybody has five minutes. Do it now, and see how your priorities shift afterwards — and how your day shifts, too.