Choice Upgrade: A Calm River over Turbulent Waters

“We should all learn to stop and smell the roses, mediation,”says Mike Brooks, Director of the Austin Psychology of Assessment Center. “Unfortunately, most of us aren’t present for most of the day. We’re thinking about what we need to do or what we should have done. But if we have one foot in the future and one in the past, we’re pissing on the present.”

“Our thoughts are like a river. When we’re thinking about what we need from the store, the river is calm, but when we’re having negative thoughts, like worrying about a presentation, for example, the current becomes more turbulent,” says Mr. Brooks. Mindful people, those who live in the present, can step back and stay on the riverbank, watching their current of thoughts be swept away by their content thus keeping the river calm.

People think meditation is to empty the mind, says Brooks. “Its not about clearing the mind; its about focusing on one thing. When the mind wanders, the meditation isn’t a failure. Our brain is like a wayward puppy, out of control. Catching it and putting it back to the object of focus is the meditation.” Brooks says meditation is like exercise; a full workout is preferred, but there is value in short bursts. Research shows Several weeks of meditations for 15 minutes can reduce stress, says Brooks. “You can get the benefits of a formal meditation practice by weaving mini-meditations in your daily life.”

    Daily Routine Meditation Examples

Walking Meditation: Focus on the sound of your shoes hitting the ground or the colors around you. When your mind wanders catch it and go back to the one thing you are focusing on.

Breathing Meditation: This is one of the easiest because its always with us and exists in the present moment and you can do this anywhere your day takes you.

Exercising: Running and cycling are examples of exercises where you can focus on the ground beneath you, the sound of the pedals or the sunshine. Don’t jump mindlessly from one sensation to another says Brooks. Choose one item and maintain your focus!

Eating/Drinking: As you eat or drink focus on the various flavors. You could count how many times you chew to aid in your digestion. “Savor what you have in the moment,” says Brooks. Drinking tea can become a form of meditation.

Observation Meditation: This is great when you are bored or waiting on line for something. Observe your thoughts or notice what others are doing without opinion or judgement.

Focusing on the Present: Is great when you are doing mundane tasks such as the dishes, brushing your teeth or laundry. Focus on the experience and stop your mind from wandering.

Conclusion: “Focusing on what’s happening now pulls us out of the river of thoughts.” The benefit of mediation is that when something comes up we’re much better at catching our thoughts instead of getting swept into their current.”

Resources: Austin Psychology of Assessment Center

Ascent Today Habit: To keep yourself focused throughout the day practice mini meditations when walking, doing chores, eating, waiting at red lights, exercising, etc. Focusing on breath is a great way to get centered. Stay on the riverbank imagining your thoughts are on leaves drifting away so you are not attached to your wandering mind.