Authors: David B. Dillard-Wright PhD
SIMPLE DAILY SHORTCUTS TO
Transform Your Life
David B. Dillard-Wright, PhD, Heidi E. Spear, and Paula Munier
For Father George, my godmother Susie, and my yogini Emma.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
Live in the present.
Be here now.
Great advice, but what does it really mean? And, how do you do it? You don’t live on a mountaintop, or in a cave, or even in a monastery where you can devote endless hours to gazing at your navel in pursuit of enlightenment. You live in the so-called real world, where just getting through another 24/7 day is a challenge worthy of the Buddha.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can master the art of mindfulness—and live in the present, be here now, and just breathe. You can learn to quiet your mind, listen to your body, and reconnect with your true self—deepening your experience of your own life.
And, you can do it anywhere, anytime. Mindfulness is a portable skill; once learned, you can carry with you and call on it whenever you need it—day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.
In this book, we’ll show you how to cultivate mindfulness in your everyday life in only minutes a day. You’ll be amazed at how being more mindful can make a difference in the way you feel—body, mind, and soul. What’s more, you’ll discover the keys that open the door to your potential as a human being. You’ll enter a vast and beautiful dimension of universal wisdom, wisdom you can call on to meet challenges, cope with difficulties, and resolve problems. You’ll also learn to engage with your own life in ways that teach, heal, and enhance everything and everyone around you. It may take some work, but it is a labor of love you deserve to give yourself.
What Is Mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is paying attention to your life
as you live it
. Learning to pay attention to your life as you live it can sometimes be challenging. You get caught up in your conflicting emotions, you drag yourself down with baggage from the past, you worry yourself with your unhappy visions of the future. Distracted by this barrage of thoughts and feelings and memories and imaginings, you forget to notice what’s happening
, right in front of you.
LIVING A MINDFUL LIFE
“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
Odds are you’ve been practicing mindfulness all along without even knowing it. Most of us have experienced little aha! moments when we’re doing something else entirely—while going for a jog, or driving to work, or even washing the dishes. Self-awareness often surprises us when we perform such simple, methodical tasks that free the mind from the seemingly endless loops of thoughts and feelings that can distract us from the moment at hand. The sort of activities that can induce such unexpected mindfulness run the gamut of human experience, including:
Athletes frequently speak of being “in the zone”—the mental freedom they experience when the body is completely involved in meeting a challenge, such as running a long distance or climbing a steep incline.
Mothers know the serenity that sets in as they sing a child to sleep or rock a baby in their arms. This maternal peace can begin with breastfeeding, which not only enhances the bonding process with the infant but also deepens the perception of the life force itself.
The focus required to perform vigorous physical labor, such as carrying heavy loads with great care or chopping wood, can bring uncommon mind–body awareness.
The rhythm of the clacking needles, the feel of the soft yarn between your fingers, the persistent lull of the contiguous stitches—that’s the mindmeld of knitting that lets enlightenment happen.
Digging in the dirt not only evokes the sense of child’s play we experienced as kids in the sandbox, it also puts us back in touch—literally—with Mother Earth. Both playing and communing with nature require living in the moment and are therefore mindful activities.
Familiar tasks—those so familiar that you can do them “in your sleep”—often create space for the mind to relax and drop into the present moment.
In these instances, it is the realization—without thought or feeling—that you are participating in the moment that brings you into the state of mindfulness. Learn to cultivate this state more often and for longer periods of time, and you are on your way to enlightenment.
MINDFUL YOU, HEALTHY YOU
If discovering greater meaning and purpose in life wasn’t reason enough to convince us, the physical benefits of mindfulness should be. Over the past few decades, mounting scientific evidence confirms that mindfulness can reduce the harmful effects of our stressful lifestyles, making us healthier, as well as happier.
Want to have more energy?
Reduce the risk of a heart attack?
Control depression and anxiety?
Science now shows us that we don’t always have to reach for a pill bottle. There are alternative means of enhancing our well-being— and mindfulness is prime among them. Through various mindfulness techniques—many centuries if not millennia old—we can relearn the time-honored lessons lost in our fast-paced, technology-driven societies. At the same time, technology and science can help us to better understand these ancient practices, revealing how and why they actually work.
Throughout the ages, every society has created its unique set of mindfulness techniques. Many of these techniques have morphed over time, adapting to changing morés and customs. Some traditions have influenced one another in profound ways, such as yoga and Buddhism. Today, we see that same confluence happening even in secular settings. For instance, many stress-reduction programs incorporate yoga postures and Buddhist meditation techniques.
In this book, you will find a mixture of the old and the new, the scientific and the philosophic, the anecdotal and the empirical—all of which support the fact that mindfulness really does promote healthy living.
The Mindfulness Toolbox
Thanks to this wealth of knowledge and tradition, we can transform ourselves into creatures of mindfulness rather than creatures of habit. Some of the most effective old and new mindfulness tools include:
• Tai Chi
• Deep breathing
• Music therapy
THE MANY FACES OF MINDFULNESS
There are many approaches to mindfulness. Some may appear simple, practical, and easy to understand; others may seem otherworldly, impractical, and esoteric. Some styles may have proven too religious to appeal to you or not spiritual enough.
, you’ll learn how to choose—and use—the best tools for your own body, mind, and soul. To find the mindfulness approach that best addresses your individual needs, we’ll look at what each offers and decide which features are suitable—for you. It’s not necessary to limit yourself to one technique. By incorporating what reflects your unique nature, whether it is two or three styles or a dozen, you will be able to design a mindfulness practice that reflects all that you are and that encourages you to be all you can be.
There are as many ways to practice mindfulness as there are personality types. You’ll want to use the tools that best suit your personality. Exploring the many dimensions of mindfulness can be satisfying in itself, but taking your attitudes and habits into account can help you discover the best approach for you.
THE MINDFULNESS STYLE QUIZ
1. When you’re stressed out, you like to wind down by:
A. Hanging out with friends
B. Watching the Discovery Channel on TV
C. Working out
D. Getting a massage
2. You feel closest to God when you:
A. Go on retreat
B. You don’t believe in God
C. Attend services at your favorite place of worship
D. Take a walk in the woods
3. When a conflict arises with a colleague at work, you:
A. Go above his/her head
B. Negotiate a solution
C. Confront him/her
D. Disappear into your office
4. You’re late for an important appointment, and you’re stuck in traffic. you:
A. Text whomever you are meeting every five minutes with an update
B. Recalculate the time it will take you to get there every five minutes
C. Use this unexpected downtime to make a few calls
D. Turn the music on louder and rock out
5. It’s past bedtime, and the kids are tired and cranky and so are you. You:
A. Tuck them in and tell them a bedtime story
B. Negotiate a bedtime truce with milk and cookies
C. Yell at them to go to bed
D. Run them a warm bath and pour yourself a glass of wine
6. Your tax accountant made a mistake, and you find out you owe the IRS thousands of dollars you don’t have. You:
A. Change accountants
B. Negotiate a settlement with the IRS yourself
C. Threaten to sue your accountant unless he/she negotiates a settlement on your behalf
D. Worry yourself half to death before doing anything about it
7. When you’re alone, you like to:
A. Write, paint, play music
B. Read a good book
D. Dance naked around the house
8. For you, being with people:
A. Sometimes energizes you; sometimes tires you
B. Energizes you
C. Almost always tires you
D. Is not your first choice; you prefer to be alone