Our family just returned from a weekend getaway to Lake Tahoe.
As I walked along the lakefront on an unusually warm winter day, I couldn’t help but feel lucky.
Lucky that here I was, a mom of a radiant 7-month old boy who slept peacefully in his stroller as we strode along the lake.
Lucky that I had my health, including a body that could walk without limitations.
Lucky that I was wholly present to take in an experience pregnant with natural beauty.
You know, years ago I’d have entirely missed this 45-minute walk. I’d have walked without knowing where I was walking. The sun-kissed lake glistening in my periphery would have gone unnoticed. The crisp air suffused with sweet pine wouldn’t have registered.
Where was I all those years, you might wonder? I couldn’t tell you for certain. I only know I was “away” thinking… planning for some future event or relenting over a problem of the past.
It had become the norm in my teens and early twenties to operate from a place of mindlessness. And not necessarily because I wanted to, but because in all those years my mind unknowingly wandered off to problems of the future or past, I had trained this habit into my brain.
At the time, it felt somewhat normal to be two, three, twelve places at once. That is, until I realized there was another, less exhausting way to live!
You hear me talk about mindfulness ad nauseam on this blog because it’s a game-changer. Living a life of compromised attention has real costs. Not only in the short-run, but also down the road.
Mind the Transition
Transitions are one of the most important situations to be mindful of. And I’m not talking only about big life transitions, such as having a baby or retiring. I’m also talking about everyday transitions – those times we quickly switch tasks, change environments, or experience a shift in our emotional state.
How many transitions have you experienced today? Were you aware when you got out of bed? Were you awake when you walked into your office? Were you present when you sent your first few emails? According to research out of Harvard, there’s nearly a 50% chance your mind was somewhere else during these transitions.
I’m sure you gather – or have personally experienced – that half-hearted focus and perpetual disconnection can lead to rocky transitions, to say the least. In fact, not being present is one of the main reasons many of us look back on our day(s) only to feel a sense of incompleteness – feeling like we didn’t get much of anything done even though we spent 9+ hours at work.
Mindful transitions afford us a chance to slow down and recognize where we are. Taking note of what is actually happening in our inner and outer worlds can dramatically impact what we choose to do next. For example, you may not need to operate with the same sense of urgency at home that you do at work. Also, when you work on a project with a tight deadline, you may choose to block out time free from pings and pop-up messages.
Do you hear how becoming present could significantly alter your approach, as well as the end result?
Emerging from the mindless fog allows you to see with greater clarity what matters most in this situation. From here, you can choose a next step that aligns with your goals and intentions. Most importantly, when you transition mindfully, you can access the wealth of internal resources and strengths you possess to implement sensible solutions and plans. Who knows, you might even wake up to savor your vacation before it’s over!
One technique you can employ to transition mindfully is called the S.T.O.P Exercise. Try it out and let us know how it goes in the comment section below!
**Note: this is our first of several posts in a series on Mindful Transitions. Be on the lookout for topics, such as becoming a mom, pursuing a meaningful career, and going to sleep! Please feel free to request a transition topic of your choice below.