Grocery Store Mindfulness

Grocery Store Mindfulness

If you're not a recluse who has successfully managed to bury their head in the sands of a dark Luddite nightmare-like fantasy where cell phones don't exist and the words "Huffington Post" is meaningless, then you know what MINDFULNESS is.

You don't have to watch Oprah, listen to Deepak Chopra, or practice Transcendental Meditation to be tuned into it. What started off as an attempt to secularize Buddhist breath-work and meditation has its hands all over everything from Mental Health to Google. Mindfulness is everywhere.

And with good reason. According to reports practicing Mindfulness slashes stress in the ICU by 40%,  practicing just 25 minutes a day will decrease physically disastrous stress toxins , and it has been proven to be effective in reducing self-harming activities in chronically suicidal practioners.  The benefits can't be stated enough.

Many people are talking about this. Carl McColman, whom I once said was a hybrid between a Catholic mystic and Indiana Jones' father (as played by Sean Connery), the fabulous contemplative author has discussed it recently on his own website, HERE.  And even I have posted on the practice of Mindfulness before, and you can find the first of those posts by clicking HERE. It's a great skill to develop and beyond that a practice that will change your reality.

The truth is I teach this skill every week, multiple times, to people who are experiencing intense suffering. These are amazing individuals who have endured so much, and they are beyond ready to step into a life worth living. By applying many different tools to their situations they make drastic changes, and experience true transformation--which, in my opinion, is unparalleled in any setting I have seen. However, the core skill that I emphasize is mindfulness. It worms its way into every other technique for managing and moving forward. 

In reality it is very simple. There are three basic steps. These can be done in the grocery store waiting in line, or they can be done when you're in an argument with your partner. You can practice them in the shower at home, or in a board meeting with your company CEO on a computer screen. But most importantly--they will revolutionize your life.

  • 1) Observe Take a step back and simply allow yourself to notice what is going on, real time. Watch your bodily sensations, your mood, your thoughts, and your feelings. Sense the air flowing through your nostrils and down into your lungs. Notice your willingness or notice your resistance. Simply take in the data. JUST THE FACTS. Do this without judgement... even when you start to feel judgemental--be NON-JUDGEMENTAL about it. Just observe it. Pretend you are an alien coming down and watching planet Earth for the first time. Have total beginners mind. Just be a stranger in a strange land taking it all in.

  • 2) Describe Having observed reality--experiencing it through your senses, now label it. That feeling in your gut--what is it?  Oh, that's fear...or anger...or indigestion. That thought rising up is a judgmental one. That sensation is painful. interestingly, in Western culture we tend to jumpy straight into the Description part of mindfulness LONG before we ever get around to actually observing. Don't make this mistake. START BY NOTICING and THEN (and only then) PUT NAMES TO THINGS.

  • Participate Because you have observed things as they really are, without applying your "shoulds" and "should-nots" to it, because you have described things--accurately attaching labels to sensations, you are now able to make decisions on how to approach the next moment. The most important thing is thatyou practice simple effectiveness in this step. It's not about getting things "right," it's about taking the next step that WORKS.

It sounds ridiculously easy doesn't it?  Three steps: Observe, Describe, Participate. And when experienced over and over, they do something--they teach us to pause prior to our impulsive behavior. Instead of opening my mouth and blurting out my response to my wife, I might think about my decision and choose to participate a different get the idea. These are practical, low-threshold steps that can be practiced at any point in time.

Jack Kornfield, a truly wonderful Mindfulness and meditation teacher, said not too long ago that while he's still the same person after 40 years of practicing mindfulness, he still has the exact same impulses, what he has is a bit more of a PAUSE. His ability to pause has increased. That enables him to make different decisions, leading to better habits, and long term character traits. In other words--it changes us.

Ok--there it is. Stripped down. Codified. And ready for consumption.