How To Be A Mindful Multipotentialite
Photo courtesy of Jim Winstead.

How To Be A Mindful Multipotentialite

Written by Emilie

Topics: Mindfulness

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Natalie K. Stickel

As a multipotentialite, I often get distracted. The demands of my many projects sometimes make it difficult to remain in the present moment; there are always so many people to contact, places to go, tasks to check off.

Last night before going to bed, as I squeezed toothpaste onto my brush, I couldn’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Sure enough, as I started brushing, I found myself wandering away from the bathroom to go add to my to-do list, jot down an idea, and text a friend. But then I stopped.

I’d been reading Being Peace by Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, and his words popped into my head. He asserts that each and every moment is an opportunity to practice being present and to find joy. In an interview with Oprah, he spoke of cleaning your teeth:

“If you are capable of brushing your teeth in mindfulness, then you will be able to enjoy the time when you take a shower, cook your breakfast, sip your tea.”

It’s during the everyday routines that our minds tend to wander the most. Brushing our teeth, doing the dishes, and walking the dog are tasks that we perform on autopilot, which allows our thoughts to pull us to far off places.

As I stood there, toothbrush hanging from my mouth, I wondered how much life has passed me by because I simply wasn’t there for it.

If our lives are made up of brief moments, we can choose to be present, to find joy, and to cultivate gratitude in each and every one of them. When you look at life this way, waiting in line at the grocery store becomes as important to fulfillment as walking across the stage at graduation. And when practicing mindfulness, you are able to dive more deeply into your passion because you’re completely absorbed in the here and now.

So how do we mile-a-minute multipassionates become more mindful? How can we train ourselves to come back to right now?

Greet the day

As soon as you wake up, breathe deeply, smile, stretch, and sit up, with your legs over the edge of your bed. Slowly bring your awareness to every part of your body, one part at a time, focusing on each sensation you have. Be grateful for your body and everything it’s capable of.

Set an intention

State your intention for the day silently, aloud, write it down, or draw it out. The idea is not to set a rule for yourself that you shouldn’t break; instead, you simply want to remind yourself of what you want to embody.

Find a peaceful oasis

A peaceful oasis is an area you dedicate to mindfulness. It can be any place that helps you renew your awareness, calm down when you’re frustrated, and find inspiration.

If you have enough space, you could use an entire room in your house for this. I don’t have a big enough home for this, but I’ve made one chair in my bedroom my meditation chair. Keep your oasis simple. Furnish it with that bring you peace, such as plants, calming artwork, and cushions or comfortable chairs.

Create a chore that’s not a bore

Pick an activity which is normally mind-numbing, and make it fun! Focus intently on the act itself. While brushing your teeth, enjoy the feeling of the bubbles and bristles on each tooth and gum. I’ve taken to tracing a mandala while vacuuming! Instead of making the old back-and-forth movement we’re all used to, I start in the middle of the rug, and work outwards in a star-like, circular, or other symmetrical pattern. I actually look forward to vacuuming now!

Create an awareness signal

An awareness signal is something that gets your attention and reminds you to be present. It can be audible or visual. In the corner of my desk at work, I have a favorite photo of a Mediterranean sunrise which I took in Benidorm, Spain. In monasteries, the signal is often a bell. When rung, it reminds all within earshot to stop whatever they’re doing, return to the present, and take three deep breaths.

Leave crumbs of encouragement

Crumbs of encouragement are tokens you leave around to jolt yourself back to awareness and gratitude. An example is a short message left on your bathroom mirror, with the words: “Just breathe. Just be.” Another example is a small sign that reads, “Dirty dishes mean a full stomach,” hung by your sink.

Too often, we let life pass by quickly, under-appreciated. We’re too distracted to be inspired by the lone flower defying odds, flourishing in a tiny crack in the sidewalk.  On those days, vacuuming is a nuisance, not a joy. Let’s change that.

Your Turn!

What distracts you time and time again? What daily rituals have you adopted to stay mindful?

nataliePyromaniac and GIS analyst Natalie K. Stickel (Natalie Kane) helps others connect with their creative brilliance through her website LIT. She hoop dances with the Dogtown Hoop Mafia in Richmond, VA, and founded FloWiTheJames, an organization that brings artists together to clean up their local James River. Her passions include environmental conservation, yoga, self-sufficiency, and gettin’ silly her circle. Photo: Dave Parrish Photography.

16 Comments

  1. Em says:

    Getting present is one of my biggest current challenges, ongoing for last two years or something :) It really makes all the difference to learn how to turn the autopilot off but it also takes time and I conquer it only a little bit by little bit. Brushing teeth, walking, sittig in a car while my bf drives, making tea, cooking, washing dishes, taking shower… there is million of occasions in every day where your mind normally drifts away and gets lost in thoughts, ideas, fears, what if, maybe… it causes massive stress actually, because the biggest things are really fearing what will happen (with all the scariest scenarios) or infinitely going through all the bad and awkward shit that already happened, including all the bad emotions and going through them again and again – or that is at least what my mind was always full of. And I hate it. Since I began to learn how to meditate, I became really aware of all the negativity my mind is trapped in and ever since then I am trying to beat it. I refuse to spend my life like this, living in the past or future, both is wrong and I only want to live now, at this very moment, in this second. Every time I realize where I am and what my mind does to me, I switch it off and I am amazed by the peace that instantly comes. My mind is a psycho beast with the most insane tricks to cheat me and it needs to be tamed. And every little victory adds to the whole picture and I become happier, calmer, more aware of what is going on and less stressed. It started with meditation and I never could imagine how much will it change my perception of the world :)

    I think it’s really crucial to multipods to be present, especially if they really are distracted easily and they know their minds are too full. Decluterring of your thoughts and emotions brings the peace and the creativity and anytime I do it, things just begin to fall in the right places itselves. Beat the autopilot, drive every action yourself, mindfully, and everything changes.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Em,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been going through something really similar. It really is amazing how much mindfulness helps. It is still a struggle though, as you said.

      Another thing that doesn’t get discussed enough, is making sure your neurotransmitters are balanced (namely GABA– look it up). That was a big game-changer for me. Meditation actually increases GABA in the brain, but there are also herbs that can really help. Just throwing that out there. :)

    • Natalie S says:

      What a beautiful, thoughtful response, Em. I know what you mean about meditation bringing awareness to negativity, too… it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. But that’s what’s incredible liberating and empowering about cultivating mindfulness– you gradually start to accept that you’re not perfect, that no one is, and that being present, in touch with NOW/what’s REAL, and FEELING all of it is better than not feeling at all. <3

  2. Nunzio Bruno says:

    I am big on single-tasking these days. When I think about or worry about everything that always needs to be done it leaves me in a to-do list paralysis. So instead I work on one (maybe two) major things I want to see done for the day and start in on it. There’s always little stuff that creeps in but if it’s not an emergency I put it aside and keep cranking until my big to-do is done. That way if I do end up squirreling for the day I can at least rest knowing I accomplished something that moved my business forward :)

    • Emilie says:

      I work in a very similar way, Nunzio. I typically only have one goal per day, and if I accomplish more than that, great. However, this way I almost always feel good about my productivity at the end of the day.

    • Natalie S says:

      I still have trouble with the “shiny new idea” phenomenon that Emilie describes in another post. I get distracted by whatever lights me up in the moment. I’m getting better at focusing, though, and cultivating general mindfulness has definitely helped.

  3. Georgie says:

    What distracts me is this habit of doing the thing I just remembered because if I don’t, I forget it and I hate to forget it. I know it’s not optimal, but it’s actually helped me accomplish a lot of things that I’d otherwise would’ve forgotten… Maybe. I’m open to experiment. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Georgie, have you tried keeping a notebook on hand, and writing down the things you remember? That way you won’t forget it, but also can stay focused on what you’re doing. It’s a technique I’ve been experimenting with.

    • Goutham says:

      I have been facing a similar issue, being forgetful in doing things.. I have tried different things to not to be forgetful but nothing helped much.
      @Georgie: Let me know how do you tackle this issue.

      @Emilie: What are the experiments that you have been working on to tackle this issue?

      • Natalie S says:

        if i don’t have a notebook on hand (I prefer to actually write things out, because I’m a visual person and my thoughts are often accompanied by sketches), I type notes in my phone using the Evernote app. Then you can sync them to your home computer. :) Hope that helps, Goutham!

  4. Willi Morris says:

    The mind of an anxious person is constantly like this. So I guess being a multipod with anxiety is doubly bad! Since I’ve been married, I’ve tried to appreciate little moments with my husband. And I try to clear my mind whenever I’m doing anything mundane, like showering. I also listen to music while folding laundry, which makes it infinitely better.

    • Emilie says:

      Totally. I’m also a multipotentialite with some long-standing anxiety issues. (Check out my above comment to Em, re: GABA). I’ve been learning more and more about anxiety and neurotransmitters and experimenting on myself. I’ve actually considered writing a post about it, but I don’t want to veer too much into the realm of health advice. It’s a little sticky.

      But anyway, yes. Meditation and other mindfulness practices definitely help with anxiety.

    • Natalie S says:

      I often find it harder to sleep at night when it *should* be time for bed… but listening to soothing, simple music helps then, too. Appreciating life’s little joys and being fully present for them helps with anxiety, I’m sure! And although it’s been said 10000x, simply BREATHING does wonders whenever you feel stress manifest itself in tense muscles, your face and jaw, etc.

  5. Janet says:

    congrats on the guest post! Your suggestions are so creative. I never thought of a mandala or labyrinth/spiral while vacuuming! This actually makes it seem fun. I also love that part of Brave New World where the birds would shout out “Attention! Attention!” My memory is bad so maybe it wasn’t birds and maybe it wasn’t Brave New World but the idea was to keep you in the present, of course. And be mindful. I like to take dance breaks.

    • Natalie S says:

      Phew! Thank you so much for your kind words, Janet. Dancing with abandon are where it’s at!!! Hoop dance especially gets me out of even the worst ruts. :)

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