Why Mindfulness is a must-have mental skill.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become” – Buddha

Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are always in a constant chase in order to achieve them and other things which we think will make us happier. As a result, we either get into stress or discontentment with our present state of existence depending on what we can and cannot. We end up spending lot of time mulling over past mistakes and negative thoughts and want to get rid of anything that limits us.

Negative thinking is one of the reasons for underachievement. When you choose to engage in negative thinking you are deciding to believe in your inability rather than your possibility. How you think manifests in your actions. If your mind is always filled with jumbled, chaotic thoughts, that’s what your output will be. When you’re clear on what is important to you and on the type of person you want to be, it becomes easier to block out distracting mental noise so that you can focus on your goals and objectives. When we face overwhelm, self-doubt and various other unhelpful habits of mind, learning to pause them in their tracks puts you back in the productive state.

Mindfulness; key to being a productive self

We as humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to operate by a negatively biased mindset. In our daily life, be it personal or professional endeavours, there are emotional and mental challenges we experience as our work load keep changing as per work demands. Stressful conditions give rise to doubtful critical voice that makes us feel incapable of handling such situations. Having no intervention to keep such negative thoughts in check can result in cognitive and emotional derailment. However, mindfulness provides for a non-confrontational intervention where you can choose to pivot your thinking and stop the broken record of unhelpful thought looping on repeat.

Mindfulness meditation is not only a way to gain insight into your own mind; it also serves as one of the primary ways to become aware of the negative thoughts and emotions that are blocking you from focusing on your goals. In meditation, content from your subconscious that you hide from the world and from your own awareness reveals itself. When negative thoughts rise up to the surface of awareness, you can choose to respond rather than recoil or react to them impulsively. Allowing yourself to observe your present moment reduces stress and increases your wellbeing and productivity.

So, what is mindfulness meditation?

In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement. When we practice mindfulness, we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

Mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your thoughts and thus helpful for gaining more focus on what you want rather than past or future. No longer will you constantly be at the whim of your racing thoughts. Instead, you can focus on the people and goals that matter most. there are two main functions our brains perform during mindful meditation:

• The generation of thoughts, feelings and emotions — these are transient and can change from one moment to the next;

• The observation of information, data and feedback without judgment, evaluation or criticism, or without even trying to make sense of it.

We learn to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings that arise within us. We practice being able first to notice that we are having these unfavorable thoughts, labels, criticisms, judgments and feelings, and then we pause them in their tracks by choosing to observe them: 

Even though the idea behind mindfulness meditation seems simple – it requires patience and commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment because our mind quickly gets caught up in other tasks. And also sometimes, the present moment becomes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved only by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.

How to practice mindful meditation

To begin the process of mindfulness meditation, get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes and simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath. Focus on your breath. Try to observe where you feel your breath most, In your belly? In your nose? and try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for two minutes. Notice How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to your breath? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there or tasks that we want to get to. We all experience these sorts of distractions. Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practice to overcome such distractions.

Set firm intentions

Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. If you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating. Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions or goals and objectives that you want to focus on and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome negative emotions, and thoughts.

Tap into the feeling of being

Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual. Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.

Connect to something bigger

Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. Learn to align with this force through mindful meditation. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture. Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life and sets up positive emotions to go after your goals.

Practice mindful breathing

Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending. Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.

Accept your thoughts and emotions

Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information. You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and  self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.

Welcome feelings of joy

Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.

During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Contemplate on interdependence

Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate  in our suffering and in our desire to be happy. When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.

Finally, If you have a long-standing habit of negative thinking, the first step of managing your negative thoughts is simply knowing that they exist. If they are to grow out of control, they might cause lot of despair. Focus on your most troubling thoughts in mindfulness meditation even if you feel uncomfortable. This is where the core of your distress lies. Our deepest beliefs and personal truths will be at the base of all our thoughts. These thoughts fixate in negative outcomes. To untangle from these destructive thinking patterns, you have to be aware of how they work. When you recognise the negative thought patterns, counter them with alternative messages that are positive and optimistic based on truth and not fear. How and what you think can determine relative happiness of your life.

To conclude,

Do not take meditation as some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain. Just practice bringing your attention to your breath, and then back to the breath when you notice your attention has wandered. Include the above insights as individually or apply them all together. Insightful meditation not only helps to bring your attention back to your breath but also gives you a focus to keep your thoughts meaningful and positive. And allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide you some much-needed space to make better choices and focus needed to achieve your goals.

Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice. Invest in making this skill an essential feature of your mental toolkit. You’ll not only leap leagues ahead of your competition, but you’ll also move faster and further toward your chosen goals. The noise in your head will quieten and your feelings of overwhelm will lessen even though the workload and increased responsibilities remain. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.

Are you living with integrity?

Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains.”

Many of us make choices and decisions in our day to day life that define who we are and what we believe in. All of us face integrity-based choices on a regular basis. Most often, the choices we have to make may seem insignificant, but even the smallest choice or action we take has an impact on our reputation. And it always takes courage to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. But many stay disconnected from their true inner core and tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance. “The end justifies the means” has become a common school of thought in today’s world and many tend to either exaggerate, over-promise, or underdeliver in a desperation to meet their expectations or goals. They tend to justify their act of dishonesty by telling themselves a valid reason as to why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

Acting without the constraints of morality may provide instant gratification in the moment but is always temporary and the success with such actions comes with far reaching consequences and at the price of your trustworthiness. Just as honesty is essential to develop trust in any healthy personal or professional relation, so is integrity to become trustworthy. If you can’t trust someone in all areas, you can’t trust them in any. Integrity is a prerequisite for credibility and involves an inner sense of wholeness which results in being consistently honest and morally upright. Integrity is important in all aspects of life, professional, personal, or social.:

What is integrity?

Integrity is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles and is a state of being whole and complete or undivided. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes. Integrity encompasses truthfulness, credibility and sincerity. Learning to live with integrity requires developing self-awareness, adhering to strict moral values and communicating truthfully to others regardless of the complexity of situation or the possibility of negative consequences.

Lack of integrity, for instance, saying you will do something and not doing it or telling a lie or leading someone to believe that they can trust you and betraying them, or hiding things about yourself so that the aspect of you that other people see is not the real you or changing your opinion in order to bend to other’s opinion shows inconsistency between your words and actions. Lack of integrity is not adhering to your conscience and not living in a state of wholeness. For instance, when someone puts pressure on your authenticity, then deciding to change your stance so others will see you as a good person demonstrates your lack of integrity. To give false impression or telling lie in a way to avoid shame of being different or for the fear of being ridiculed also takes you out of integrity.

Integrity is important to achieve your goals

Integrity is one of the most important and valuable character trait to build in order to be successful in your endeavours as it can help you to build trust, be honest and consistent in your efforts and in decision-making. Integrity includes two components that go beyond just doing the right thing. The first is honesty to adhere to moral and ethical principles. If we are honest with ourselves we know intrinsically what the right thing is without having to look to laws, rules or some code of ethics. Being honest with ourselves and others makes us authentic to build trust. And the second is consistency to live in alignment with your values, actions and words. Being consistent enables others to rely on their expectations of your future behaviours based on your past commitments or actions.

We often fail to stay committed to our goals and resolutions due to lack of integrity that is, we simply don’t keep our word to ourselves. We make promises to ourselves and then break them often for reasons we don’t even understand. How good are we to our expectations depends to a larger extent on our integrity. When you are in integrity, you bring the same you regardless of the circumstance and don’t leave parts of yourself behind thereby removing self-doubt and show consistency in your commitments. You cannot commit to your goals if you agree to things but never seem to be able to show up for your agreements, or when you use your words destructively or when you say things you don’t really mean. Such actions often take you out of integrity. Personal power to achieve your goals and objectives comes from being in integrity with yourself and others.

principles or values are prerequisites for personal growth. Maintaining moral high ground and honesty in your dealings with coworkers, friends, peers, superiors or team members helps you own your sphere of influence and can gain their trust as you become dependable and hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions or choices. This can help you to build healthy relations and impacts your success positively.

“The most important persuasion tool in your entire arsenal is your integrity.”– Zig Ziglar

How to practice living with integrity?

Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral violation, it means having the strength of character to learn from those and seek continual self-improvement. It is an important character trait that can be strengthened and developed in our daily life. Here are some strategies to enhance and live in integrity.

Identify your core values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. They are often shaped by your formative experiences, but your values may change as you grow and adopt to new stages of life. Assess the degree to which you adhere to them and focus on what matters most to you. To live with integrity is to align your behaviours and actions with your core values. Define what’s truly important to you and make sure they fit with your vision of yourself. Which values are important to you ? Do your values make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of your values? Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire? Do these values support your choice even if it isn’t popular? Answering these questions can help you in determining your values. By becoming aware of your values, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation and maintain your sense of integrity.

Align your choices with your core values and do not drift or fall into the easy or popular path while making important career choices, work or business agreements or personal decisions. Consider all the options and consequences and the impact of your decision on yourself and others. How does your decision align with your personal values? How would it differ from a decision you would make if no one found out about your choice? If you make a choice right now, will it hold good in the long-term? A good way to ensure that you are living a life of integrity is to assess where you are now and where you want to be in future in terms of your personal integrity. Analyse every choice you make. Keep in mind that in times of fear, stress or chaos, the temptation is even greater to make a wrong choice. Integrity isn’t about living by your values when it is convenient, they are values that you should live by all the time which include both big and small choices. By aligning with your values all the time, you can approach decision-making with more clarity and confidence.

Set a moral code for yourself and others. Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe will lead you to righteous and satisfying life based on what your values are. Be willing to update your code as you adjust your sense of right and wrong and your moral reasoning. Most of the times how we think about right or wrong changes as we gain more experience. Whether it is leading a group of people or managing a business, parenting children, leading with integrity requires outlining a standard of behaviour by which others abide. Adhere at all times to the behavioural standard you have established for them.

Surround yourself with morally upright people. Avoid spending your time in environments that can drag you down morally. If people around you violate your sense of integrity, consider removing yourself from that environment. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and who support your decisions. If you surround yourself with dishonest or by those who cut corners to get ahead, then you will find yourself following a pattern of enduring and adopting their behaviour. Do not give into others who try to get you to do things which are not in alignment with your values in favour of an easy gain. Remind yourself that you alone have to live with consequences of your behaviour.

Create an atmosphere of open communication

Communicate to others with authenticity. Be open with others regarding issues that affect them. Stop speaking impulsively or sugarcoating your response. Be assertive to put your point of view with authenticity and without being aggressive. Keeping secrets or hiding important information can lead to an environment of mistrust. Listen attentively to others to lead them with integrity. Acknowledge others’ contributions and practice tolerance for different perspectives. Be transparent in your interactions with others so as to avoid mistrust. If you are running into obstacles then communicate to the person and take responsibility for your words and actions.

Be honest in keeping your promises

For some people, overpromising, underdelivering, or apologising for running late, for being behind schedule on their work or project, or forgetting to do the thing they said they would becomes a regular thing. Stop and reflect before you say ‘yes’ to commitments. Practice saying ‘no’ to things you know you will have difficulty completing. If you break a promise, apologise, but don’t let that become a habit. Keep your appointments personally and professionally. Be honest in owning up to your mistake and take responsibility for your action and do whatever it takes to right the situation. If you give your word that something will be taken care of, do it. Follow through your promises and commitments. Reflect on what circumstances, relationships and patterns are leading you up to broken commitments to identify where you are most frequently breaking promises with yourself and others.

Live with mindfulness

When you live with mindfulness, you are conscious of the way you think, speak and behave every day and you work towards carrying out those activities in a more meaningful way. Meditating through mindful breathing can help you gain a deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. You cannot live a life of integrity without being mindful of and concerned for others. A lack of empathy can result in poor judgment, act of selfishness and lead to unhappy relationships. Show compassion and empathy towards others. Reflect on how to live and make decisions in a way that is reflective of your values and beliefs by contemplating on which actions of yours are in accordance with your conscience? Is there consistency between what you are thinking and what you are doing? Are your thoughts and practices are same? and so on.

To conclude,

Are you living your life with integrity?

What are your core values? What standards of behaviour are really important to you? Do you have a habit of breaking your promises? Are you two-faced? What specific values you admire about other people, Is the fact that they are generous or honest? Are you aware of your authentic self? Do you identify yourself with those values? Would you still live by those values even if they put you at a complete disadvantage?How honest are you in your behaviours, actions, and words? Are your choices and decisions aligned with your core values in all situations? Answering these questions can put you in the perspective of whether or not you are mindful of integrity in your choices and decisions.

Acting in accordance with your integrity requires aligning all aspects of yourself with what is right and to be honest and authentic with yourself. Living with Integrity is not forcing yourself or trying to be better or harder and following yet another should. It is more about authenticity, self-honesty and a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code and being whole and undivided. Appreciate yourself when you act with integrity and acknowledge when you don’t. Use the above strategies to correct course when required. Be persistent and patient with yourself and others while practising integrity.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/05/19/are-you-being-self-aware/

https://sscascades.org/2019/06/09/how-to-be-a-good-listener/