The Birds and the Trees: Cultivating Awareness

Article by Daniel-Jason Minzie (Q20)

Many of us are effectively sprinting our own personal mental marathons at a suicide pace – and we don’t even recognize it. Frequently we are assaulted by incessant thoughts, worries, and demands and it’s these frustrations that we dash away from. Unfortunately these maladies of the mind can remain quite…determined to catch us. Such sustained effort against their assaults becomes exhausting. To avoid their stresses we become hyperopic:  that is, we focus exclusively on what must be done in the future as method of mental escape from our sorrow. We ask ourselves, “What needs be achieved tomorrow, in a week, an hour from now? How much time can I save today so that I may do x, y, and z tomorrow?” With each leap forward in time for our frame of reference, it becomes nearly impossible to pause and embrace our gift, the present, which is unfortunate, because this is where optimal experience and its rewards lie. It’s no wonder that many of us report that our happiest experiences occur during quality time with our friends and family or even a well- functioning team; usually when we’re surrounded by our significant others, the focus is on the here and now – not the report we need to have on the boss’ or our professors’ desk by the end of next week.

A future focus is indeed often a necessary element of success. However, too much emphasis on the future at the expense of engaging in and enjoying the present ultimately leads to train wrecks: i.e.  neglected relationships, excessive stress, and disrupted emotional regulation – all of which are killer for performance in professional world and our personal life alike. The key to reclaiming our vitality and restoring the natural zest we lose under such undue stress is a reconnection with the now, the present.

Mindfulness meditation is that key. Think of your mind as an elaborate computer. Sometimes our circuits are overloaded by a sea of information or overuse, so the solution is the reset the system. This, metaphorically speaking, is the effect of mindfulness meditation. It’s a sort of system re-boot. I’m sure you heard that every journey starts with a single step – consider this yours. A vast amount of information is increasingly suggesting that the benefits of this simple exercise extend beyond just the mental realm; they also reach into the physical and actively change the structure of our brains.

For text on Mindfulness Meditation, I would highly recommend “Re-wiring Your Brain for Love” by neuropsychologist Dr. Marsha Lucas. She explains the nitty-gritty of the science in an easy to understand and quite straight forward way and provides relevant exercises to help you develop a fully functional and well-integrated brain. Don’t be shy about the title; the usefulness of the material transcends romantic relations alone. Also, I’m sure that most of us know our cross-functional teams could use a little more love during those storming sessions!

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