Before the pandemic, many of us had few moments of uninterrupted time to ourselves. With the pandemic, we have been forced to embrace stillness. Last week we discussed change and how we build resistance to it due to the discomfort it may cause. This week, we look at an essential component of change: mindfulness. We will discuss how debunking common beliefs about productivity can benefit our well-being. Have you been wanting to better understand how to practice mindfulness? This article is for you.
Rediscovering the meaning of mindfulness
It is human to be affected by the pandemic and its many unknowns. Many unanswered questions with high stakes may cloud our minds and cause stress sustained over time. Learning how to practice mindfulness requires us to embrace stillness. At Aura & Meta we harness the power of mindfulness to reconnect us with the present moment. Unfortunately, many of us may see stillness as a luxury best kept for vacationing, perhaps even associating it to idleness. Our culture values movement and action to the extent that since the beginning of the order to stay at home, we have been urged to take advantage of this new pace to fill the extra time on our hands, in part due to no longer having to commute daily for example. In this context, feeding into heightened productivity will only add to the physical, mental and spiritual stress. In short, we are ignoring our need to reconnect with ourselves at a time that is highly saturated with anxiety and doubt.
When we purposefully focus on the present, doing so without judgement, we observe how situations unfold. Outcomes of mindfulness practice are a positive state of mind, higher self-esteem, less anxiety and depression. Overall, we come to see life as more satisfactory. Finally, the good news is that researchers believe mindfulness is a part of our human traits, meaning that we all already possess the skill, we just have to better understand how to practice mindfulness.
The problem with productivity
It is commonly understood that productivity focuses on what needs to get done, which is a fine proactive approach to life. However, when it is devoid of mindfulness, productivity leads us away from meaningful engagement with our work, and ultimately the bigger picture.
In our modern world, productivity has been used to evaluate output and gauge a company’s strength and resilience. From this Fordian outlook on the activity that occupies most of our day, ie. work, we have taken a few shortcuts. Today, particularly in the context of the pandemic, we may have come to equate productivity to our value, leading to anxiety, a continuous state of stress and the inability to remain in the present moment. Do you let the concept of productivity define your worth? Ask yourself these questions:
- How do you feel at the end of a day where you haven’t ticked all of the items on your to-do list?
- How do you think of yourself on days where you have crossed all things on your list?
- How would you feel without a to-do list?
From an executive coaching point of view, while productivity can positively affect life at work, we may lose sight of our goals and the bigger picture. It is useful to integrate mindfulness into your work routine like being aware of how every task links to your greater goals. For instance, when faced with an uninspiring administrative task, we can choose to focus on the outcome of this task and its impact on the project or the rest of our work. Reconnecting with our goals helps us stay mindful and present.
Productivity and Stillness, an unlikely but possible match
Productivity implies speed, movement and visible quantifiable achievements. At a glance, these concepts come in direct opposition to stillness and developing presence in our daily lives. But, what if they were mutually beneficial? The temptation to fill empty time slots in our days is real, but what if we could fill them with presence and meaning. Quality over quantity, attention and focus over an accumulation of seemingly unrelated tasks and ticking the boxes of a long to-do list. In this context, prioritising relaxation and self-care as essential activities supports our productivity.
Stillness makes space and time for clarity to arise. With clarity, we may nurture a more meaningful vision of our goals and allocate our attention to the actions that best serve these goals. In meditation, it is believed that we most need stillness on the busiest of days. The greater the number of tasks, the more clarity we may need to successfully prioritise. From a kinesiology point of view, where there is disconnection from the experience at hand, there may be something within the situation that the person is uneasy with. Lack of mindfulness may come as a defence mechanism to remove ourselves from a difficult experience.
How to embrace stillness
The stillness induced by the current lockdown and obligations to stay at home invite us to strengthen our presence, opening up the opportunity to practice mindfulness. You may struggle to take time for yourself without feeling guilty after all this involves breaking away from the cultural urge to be productive. The pressure to keep moving whilst restricted to the space of our homes is real, and also quite contradictory. But calls to learn a new skill, embark on a new activity or start your own business for the most ambitious, may best find answers once we learned how to practice mindfulness.
Embracing stillness amidst the chaos is a survival strategy that is deeply aligned with how we perform as individuals. By settling into stillness we can find the wisdom to resist engaging with every single fear that may arise from the current situation. As we nurture our inner state of focus and calm, we may become more aware of our values, strengths and ultimately the goals we wish to reach. Thus every action we undertake zeros in on our truest desires. When productivity and presence are aligned, they supply us with an empowering boost of motivation and positive feelings, this state is also known as flow. We all know getting things done feels great and encourages us to move forward.
From stillness, emerges hope
Quieting the noise around us and refocusing our attention back to our physical, mental and spiritual presence may help us regain control over our experience of the current situation. This control does not apply to whether the pandemic will end or we will get to live outside again, but to our response to it. By focusing on the now, we are consciously removing our attention from any fear-inducing thought patterns about another time, past or future. Then we may refocus our energy on hope, on crafting wishes for a positive state extending into the future. This to us is the true meaning of mindfulness, a commitment to living in the present moment from which hope and a positive future can emerge.
Now that we are seasoned remote workers and have settled into lockdown, why not take the time to care for ourselves? Practising mindfulness and stillness may bring to light our unmet needs and desires in the present. Aura & Meta’s unique 8-week programme Reset, Realign, Restart: STOP existing. START LIVING is a gift for those who wish to reconnect with their authentic self to harness their strengths towards their life goals.