Monday morning practice – Relax in the present moment

Written by Allison Wolf

I wanted to follow up my post on the benefits of mindfulness (see post below) with two simple ways to still your mind and spend some time relaxing in the moment. This week try one of these methods to calm your mind. Both are from Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Way in A Wild New World:

How Do You Know You Have A Hand?

This first one is a quick way of getting a moment of quiet in your mind, even if like me you are thinking all the time from Eckhart Tolle, author of the Power of Now:

  • Close your eyes and hold up one of your hands in the air so that it is not touching anything.
  • Ask yourself: “Without opening my eyes, how can I know my hand exists?”
  • Experience your attention going inside the body to answer the question, activating a non verbal part of the mind.
  • Now hold up both hands (with eyes still closed) and feel the inside of both at the same time. Your awareness will slide out of left-hemisphere verbal thinking into both hemispheres – wordlessness. You won’t articulate this until it’s over, and that’s okay. The point is to feel it. (Finding, p.10)

Every time I try this I get a pleasant mental shift towards quiet.

The Path of Beauty and Comfort

I use this second approach, which is lovely to practice on a summer day outside, or a modified version more often the technique above because it works well in a public setting.

  • Right now, find something in your environment that is visually beautiful. Put your full attention on it.
  • Without moving your eyes, now also listen to the sounds all around you, and then listen deeper, for the silence in which the sounds are taking place.
  • Find a spot on your body that feels comfortable. It may be just one toe. While still watching beauty and listening to silence, fully feel that comfort in your toe.
  • Breathe in slowly, feeling the sensation of your lungs filling with air. If you can smell anything fragrant or otherwise pleasant focus on the scent.
  • Practice focusing on all these pleasurable things at once. Feel the calm that arises as this process drops you out of language. (Finding, p.17)

I find this is an effective way of getting to the stillness. In the summer I practiced it on my deck, at a cafe, sitting in my back yard, and last week on the sky train. I now don’t worry about finding something beautiful to focus on. Instead, I put my eyes into soft focus by activating my peripheral vision to the left and right. Then I turn my senses to a comfortable place on my body, listen to the sounds around me and the silence behind the sounds. When my thoughts start to get noisy and busy again I just soften my gaze again, sink back into the comfortable spot on my body, activate my listening and return to quiet.

It is okay when your thoughts intrude. Just notice your thoughts and then let them go. It can also help to add a word or phrase to run through your mind. I have used “stillness” and “peaceful mind” and just plain old “shush” to help quieten my thoughts.

Since starting in March I have found I am now able to quieten my mind in a way that I never could before. It was like I was living with a blaring television in my life and I finally learned how to turn down the volume. Even waiting in line is no longer an irritation, but a chance to grab a couple of moments of peace!

Giving yourself even just 5 minutes of present moment awareness to start with is enough. Ultimately it is great to get 15 to 20 minutes a day when you can. I just started with snippets of wordlessness and that was enough for me to experience a positive impact.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at allison@shiftworks.ca or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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