Q&A: How to do mindfulness like a boss

You’ve got shiz to do, places to be and people to meet, and if you’re lucky, you might stuff in a cereal bar and – god forbid – a private moment with your own thoughts. Keeping uber busy may feel like you’re nailing productivity, but often we’re missing life’s little moments, aren’t as happy and are actually getting less done than we think. Luckily, this culture of crazy and noise is actually more about our society than it is our natural state as a human being.

ieva.pngAfter all, we love connecting – whether its grabbing a bite with our best girlfriend or really getting into a creativity flow – but its hard to do it fully when your Twitter feed is so damn exciting. That 10-minute downtime in the the cafe queue might seem like perfect opportunity to fire off some emails, but you might miss a smile or a friendly back and forth when you order your cappuccino with your eyes on the tiny screen.

So how do we design glass-totally-full lives where we can experience every moment?

Luckily, Ieva Lakute is here to help. She’s a fellow freelance writer, cool Bristolian and my own spiritual guru. You’ll find her blogging about this stuff and she’s the sort of gal lighting candles, drinking herbal tea with a soothing backdrop of meditation music. She’s written a couple of really useful e-books in the spirituality sphere, but sadly they’re ghostwritten, so I can’t point you to them!

She also happens to be my Monday yoga bud. But instead of keeping her all to myself, I thought I’d share her great wisdom with you.

I think we all need the reminder to be mindful rather than mind full every so often. Consider this your susty hack to the present moment! xoxo

Hi Ieva! Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a freelance writer with a keen interest in well-being and spirituality. I’m originally from Latvia but I’ve been in the UK for just over a decade, and a few years ago I graduated from Bath Spa University’s MA Creative Writing course. I am proud to call myself a Bristolian, exploring all the quirky things that this great place has to offer! I keep a regular blog at Ramblings of a Latvian.

 What the hell is mindfulness, and why should we care?

I struggled to find a proper definition for mindfulness for a while. I now understand it as a habit that teaches you to stay present in ‘the now’ – of engaging all parts of your body to experience the present moment together. Although this practice has its roots in the ancient world, the techniques that are used today were pioneered and developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I think that mindfulness is so relevant today, when we are bombarded with things we have to do all the time, and stress levels are rising high. No wonder that we often forget to engage with our bodies and notice what is really going on. Our mind rarely gets a rest, and this can cause serious problems in the long run. If your body is unwell, it is signalling that you need to change your habits and transform your life – it does so with only one goal – healing. But often we fight it, or we are so disconnected from our body, that we don’t even notice that we may be sick, and in need of help.

 

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What are the perks?

A complete shift in perspective and the realisation that you can heal yourself, no matter what you may be going through right now. For example, you may be driving yourself to exhaustion to succeed in your job or attain a certain career. But practicing mindfulness can place your focus on different things – perhaps there are other reasons why you are working yourself so hard – for instance, you may be avoiding some pain that you don’t want to face. Mindfulness helps you look at life through a different lense, and make different choices – and these can lead you into a completely different direction. It empowers you to realise how much potential you have to heal yourself and change the way you think about life.

It’s particularly effective for people who suffer from anxiety and depression. After sitting still for fifteen minutes a day, you start to uncover this peace and joy that shines through like a rough diamond, underneath layers and layers of stressful thoughts and feelings. You realise that there is hope and you have the potential and every right to feel wholesome once again.

Okay, that sounds real good. So how do we actually do it?

Essentially, it’s about developing a daily habit of noticing your breath, your body and your thoughts, so it involves meditation techniques. When you practice this habit, you gradually become detached from your thoughts – you realise that what you think isn’t the reality, and it’s easier to let go of harmful habits and beliefs once you reach this state.

We all lead busy lives, so if you only have three minutes to spare, that’s fine – you can start by the ‘Three Minute Breathing Space’ which is a life-saver to help quiet anxious thoughts before a meeting or a presentation. You start by breathing deeply – in and out – and then noticing your thoughts, feelings, removing any judgement. Then you focus on the sensations in your abdomen as your breath rises and falls.

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What’s your favourite way to get mindful?

My favourite technique is the ‘body scan’ meditation. Check out this link if you have 15 minutes to spare. It’s amazing how much it relaxes you, and your sleep afterwards is more refreshing.

Can we still get mindful if we’re somewhere busy and loud – say, on the tube or walking down a crowded street?

Yes, absolutely. It’s essentially about tuning into your body. Just slow down your breath whenever you get a chance and tune into the sensations of your breath in your abdomen as they rise and fall.

What happens if we get good at being mindful? Will my life change?

Yes, expect changes – often huge changes that start very small and you may not even notice that they are happening. You gradually just feel a bit happier, a bit more relaxed, and you may even start thinking that what you once thought was impossible becomes easier to reach. It’s not a magic pill though. The trick is to just engage with the practic on a daily basis, notice the different sensations and thoughts within you without expecting anything to happen. Old thought patterns will gradually soften and you can start to rewire your brain into a new pattern of thinking. If you are avoiding some pain in your life, it’s likely to surface at some point – but sit with it, and let it be. It will get better.

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Give me one tip that can help me get mindful, right here, right now.

Stop. Breathe deeply – in and out. Do this ten times. For the next ten notice your abdomen rising and falling. For final ten breaths, imagine as if your whole body were breathing. Slowly open your eyes.

Did just reading that make you about 99% more relaxed, or what? Make sure you check out Ieva’s Ramblings of a Latvian for more spiritual inspiration.

If you loved this Q&A, consider sending it to a friend or co-worker who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Also, there’s plenty more where that came from – subscribe to the Susty Girl newsletter to keep up to date! 💗

Images thanks to MatoffMoyan Brenn and Emma Nagle.

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