Mindfulness: Choose to be present

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Robert Safley
  • 301st Fighter Wing

Have you ever met someone new and forgotten their name immediately? As they were telling you their name, your internal dialogue was figuring out if you wanted to just use your first name, or perhaps rank and last name. Am I late for something? What did they say? Do you include a duty title? Where were they from? What am I having for dinner? Poof! The name was missed or easily overwritten in your short-term memory.


There have been numerous studies about focusing on the moment at hand, mitigating/eliminating distractions, and not looking past right now. It's known as mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing right now, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, environment, and acceptance that there is not a “right” or “wrong,” " good” or "bad" way to think/feel in a given moment.


When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts and actions are focused on living in the moment rather than rehashing the past or anticipating the future. Instead of letting life pass us by, mindfulness means engaging in what's in front of us right now. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it's hard to put into action. It’s a skill we should practice daily. With a fast paced society, we need to think on our feet, forestall expectations, and be ready to provide a correct response on a moment's notice; all of these are the antithesis of being mindful.


Psychology Today and Mindful.org suggest the following steps to honing your mindfulness routine:


1. Set aside time. You don’t need a meditation area, or any special equipment to access your Mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space. This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds — wherever your mind goes -- simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay. The next time the phone rings, take a deep breath and refocus versus picking up on the first ring.


2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment.


3. Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them and let them pass.


4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought, lots of thoughts. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.


5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.


The bottom line of being mindful is to not try to multitask or get so far ahead of yourself that you miss being in the present. If you're at the park with your son, at your daughter's soccer game, at a concert, or just outside soaking up some sun, be aware and engaged in THAT event. Put your phone down, stop thinking about work, stop thinking about your term paper that's due, and focus on the now.


You'll also find that mindfulness can reduce stress and make you a better leader. If you're engaged in the moment, you will notice mood swings in your Airmen, know when they need extra attention, and help advance wing priorities by understanding where to leverage your talents. For more information, click HERE.


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