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