CPA. CITP, CGMA
I was first introduced to the practices of mindfulness and presence about five years ago by a CPA colleague of mine. I had been traveling a great deal, working with clients and speaking at conferences and I was feeling the effects of my hectic schedule mentally and physically. The idea of having the power within myself to detach from the stress and worry I was feeling without having to go to a yoga class or meditation retreat was very appealing to me.
I began to explore ways that I could tap into the power of mindfulness and presence no matter where I was—this was especially important for me because I still travel a lot. One of the first things I did was read the book, Peace in Every Breath by Nhat Hanh, which provided me with a grounding in these principles and how to apply them to the present day. It’s important to understand what the true benefit of practicing mindfulness and presence really is: the ability to detach from the stress and worry which so often control our lives, especially our work lives.
Over the years, I have developed my own ways of working and living more mindfully and with deeper presence. I designed them to be simple and easy to do anywhere in a short period of time. I share them with you here:
1. Take breaks.
One of the most important ways to become more mindful and present is to simply give yourself the time and space to let your mind let go of the things you cannot control and to check in with yourself regularly. Scheduling a few breaks throughout the day instead of charging through back to back meetings and activities can help you do this.
2. Do a body scan at your desk.
Take five minutes each day (or several times a day) to scan your body to see how you are truly feeling. Take a few seconds to consciously feel each body part to increase your sense of physical presence and ground yourself in the moment. You can do this in an airplane seat or anywhere you may be.
3. Let go of your attachment to negative feelings.
This is something I practice all day every day! Whether I am sitting in traffic, stressing over being late or worrying about a delay in getting some reports I need, I practice mindfully acknowledging my negative feelings and then choosing to let them go if there is no action that I can take to correct the situation. For example, if I can take a different route with no construction, then I will do that but if I can’t take an alternate path, then I accept that and move on instead of letting my negative feelings get the better of me.
4. Practice gratitude.
This may sound a little hokey, but it really is an effective way of being mindful of all of the positive things in your life. So often, we focus on only the negatives. Taking a few moments to deliberately acknowledge the things that are going right not only allows you to feel more thankful, but it also brings you more fully into the moment instead of letting negativity distract you. In addition to taking time to be grateful, practice gratitude with others. Acknowledge what was done right instead of what was missed or not done exactly like you may have wanted.
5. Walking meditation.
While developing a regular meditation practice is wonderful, sometimes finding the space and dedicated time to do it can be difficult. Instead, doing a short walking meditation where you remain conscious of what is around you instead of being distracted by technology or negative thoughts can be easier. Take a five-minute walk at lunch and really appreciate being outside. Feel the wind on your face and listen to the call of birds, doing so is how you train yourself to become more mindful and present in other situations as well.
Consider showering at the end of the day as a ritual to help you literally wash off the day and transition into your next experience whether that is time with family, relaxation at home or going to sleep. Not only is it relaxing, but it also gives you another opportunity to work on being more present if you tune into your senses of touch, hearing and the sense of smell while you do it.
In order to truly practice mindfulness and be more present, you’ll need to commit to reducing the distractions you have during your workday and beyond. For example, to be more present, you need to focus on where you are, which means not checking emails and texts so you can fully honor everyone in attendance. In my firm, we are now instituting mandatory staff video meetings, so we are all accountable for being fully present.
While I’ve summarized some of the practices, I have found helpful in developing more mindfulness and presence, don’t get too wrapped up in how you are incorporating these things into your day. Instead, simply focus on accomplishing something. If you practice one of these ideas on two days next week that is okay. Decide to do one more activity on an additional day next week. Don’t set yourself up for failure, instead focus on the success you are having and acknowledge yourself for the progress you are making toward a more mindful and gratifying existence.
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