How good are you at keeping your focus and sense of inner peace when you’re busy?
Do you stay clear, maintain your center and ability to concentrate, even when there’s a lot you need to get done? What about when time or a lack of it adds to the pressure?
During busy times many of us adopt a frenzied, scattered pace. But a scattered mind cannot be present, and does not lend itself to peace, efficiency, or focus.
Wouldn’t it be better to deal with busy-ness from a place of inner calm? When you’re calm and centered you don’t feel so busy, even if you are.
- Being present increases inner peace.
- Inner peace keeps us calm and clear.
- With clarity, focus becomes more effortless.
That may sound simple but it’s true. The problem is we’ve been encultured to believe that we need to get everything done and finished first in order to experience inner peace and renew our sense clarity. But this is really not the case.
From that mindset, everything takes more effort. Remembering becomes a chore. Focus takes enormous mental exertion. Peace and calm are put off as luxuries while we battle on relying solely on will to get things done. We’re less effective and efficient at our tasks, we have too many thoughts competing for attention and our minds get ahead of our bodies. Because of this, we are disconnected, off-center, and scattered. Our minds and bodies are not in sync.
Here are two short examples most of us can relate to:
- You wake up in the morning on a work day, still in bed, and start thinking about taking a shower. While your body is in the shower your mind is thinking about your work day and all the other things you need to remember. While your body is getting ready after the shower your mind is thinking about your commute to work… When your body is on the way home your mind is rehashing your day at work but also is imagining doing the things you need to do once your body gets home.
- You decide to get up from your bed upstairs and go downstairs and get a drink of water. As soon as your body gets up until the time it pours the drink your mind is thinking about getting, pouring, and drinking the water, even though your body is putting on slippers, walking down the stairs and through various rooms toward the kitchen.
In both scenarios you are not present. In each case, there was an opportunity to connect to the present moment and inner peace rather than letting your mind get ahead of your body, or stay behind your body. It is in simple instances like these that you can begin to cultivate a mindfulness practice, even if you’ve never done it before. It just requires keeping your mind and your body together, in the same moment. Your body is always in the present moment, even if your mind and awareness are not.
The good news is that there are simple techniques that don’t take much time or skill which will help you regain your center and inner calm, even in the midst of a busy day. When you take a few minutes to practice these throughout your day, you can then operate from a much calmer, clearer place. You check in with the present moment, empty your runaway thoughts, and are able to focus and remember more easily. Getting things done takes less mental exertion, and not only do you become more peaceful, but more efficient as well. Plus, you’re a whole lot more relaxed, and that just plain feels good!
One way I like to regain my center when the hustle and bustle has me running is by practicing what I call Walking Gratitude Meditation. Much like any other walking meditation, it can be practiced for any length of time, including short times throughout the day. No real meditation “skill” is required to start doing this, and, it doesn’t take much work or “extra time”, something that often keeps many people from beginning a mindfulness practice.
The 4 Steps to Practicing Walking Gratitude Meditation
Ideally, this practice is best done while in motion doing things that don’t take a lot of mental exertion. You don’t need to be walking per se, (you could be scrubbing the floor, carrying laundry down the stairs, or in the shower). You just need to be doing something that requires motion. For the sake of this example, I’ll use walking:
1. Put your focus on your body’s movements and motion
The point of this type of focus is to bring your awareness inside your body in order to become centered. Put your awareness on every step, every time each foot moves forward and then touches the ground. Feel your leg muscles, joints, and all the parts of your body required to walk. Experience every sensation your body feels. If you have trouble with this, breathe deeply first and focus on deep breaths, long breaths in and long breaths out, to bring your awareness into your body (try putting your attention on the movement and sensation of the air moving as you breath it). This is simple enough to do even in a parking lot, as you’re walking from your car to a store. Don’t let your mind get to the store before you do. Be in your body while you walk. (Also, this is very easy to also do in the shower, though you’d be focusing on other movements and sensations.)
2. Notice the mind’s wanderings
The point here isn’t to beat yourself up about the fact that your mind wanders, it’s rather just to notice when it does. The mind will wander to things outside of yourself, judgements and ideas about what your eyes are taking in. Or, it may wander down imaginary paths of possible futures, or conversely travel back and rehash events that have passed. Some of the mind’s wanderings may be distractive in nature and some may just feel plain lousy. Many may be useless and of no value. Just notice that your mind and your awareness has wandered outside of your body, outside of the walking meditation.
3. Interrupt the wanderings by cultivating gratitude
This step first serves to interrupt the wanderings of the mind. We need to interrupt the mind’s wanderings and give it something else to focus on because its wanderings have become habitual. This step then serves to cultivate thoughts that will bring you more contentment, joy, and peace. This will allow you to more easily regain your center and come back to the present moment. See if you can mentally express gratitude about something relevant to the physical moment you’re in. This can be done no matter what you are doing. You can be thankful about your ability to walk, to breathe, to be alive. The blue of the sky, the sun on your face, the eyes with which you see. Or, if you’re walking to your job, there’s probably something to be grateful about in that. Even if you’re walking down the stairs to do your laundry, there are many things you can come up that are worth cultivating gratitude for. While in the shower, why not be grateful for the running water? After practicing this, you will more easily notice when your mind wanders and it will be easier to bring your awareness back.
4. Take a few deep breaths, inhale long, exhale long, and then repeat Step 1
After the expression of gratitude, take a few long, deep, conscious breaths in and out. Put your focus on the breath, on breathing in air long and slowly and breathing out air long and slowly. Then come back to your body awareness (see Step 1).
Try to do this as many times a day as possible, and see what happens. Are you more clear throughout your day? Calm, and at peace? Are focus and concentration coming easier to you? Are you less forgetful and frenzied? I can tell you this works amazingly well for me. The more you can do it the better, and longer periods or walks outside work well, too. But don’t be intimidated by feeling you need lots of time, or special situations. Like I mentioned, you can do this anywhere, during any part of your day.
You’ll probably be quite surprised by what you discover. When you stop going in too many directions and just be where you are, when you are… things really become a whole lot simpler.
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Do you have a short, easy mindfulness practice that you use often? Or another way to gain inner peace, clarity and or focus when you’re busy? I’d love to hear about it!