Trees of heaven, North CarolinaMindfulness has changed my life. I’m not exaggerating. It is as dramatic as that.

I used to walk the world in a state of mental haze. I had trouble reading people’s non-verbal cues, was unaware of my surroundings and had little capacity for empathy.

All that has changed for me. And my life continues to change. My life, well as the lives of countless other people who meditate.

Writer and and fellow mindfulness blogger on PsychCentral, Elisha Goldstein, has described his experience with it as well as that of other people in his compelling new book “The Now Effect.

In it, we learn about a powerful tool called STOP, which is an easy to remember acronym for a simple yet very effective mindfulness technique: S stands for Stop, T for take a deep breath, O for observe what’s happening in that moment in your mind, body and surroundings. And finally P for proceed to what has to be done right there.

Mindfulness means first and foremost to be present. And for us mindless creatures, that’s the hardest thing to do. Because it requires to pay attention, and that means to make an effort. At least initially, before it becomes a routine.

Mindfulness is especially important in relationships. It makes a world of difference to be able to just wait a moment before we engage with another. Is what I am about to say going to be perceived as overly critical? Will my tone sound annoyed and impatient? Do I really want to go down that road again, or do I just take a breath and simply do not react?

Even the silent treatment can take on a different feel, when we don’t just walk off abruptly, but stay present with our eyes, even when we aren’t ready or willing to speak.

My favorite story in Elisha Goldstein’s book is “Thinking Small Can Produce Big Results.” He explores the very common thought pattern that we feel easily overwhelmed by all the things we should be doing. Workout one hour a day. Meditate 20 minutes. Talk to mother on the phone for half an hour. And so on.

He reminds us that we don’t have to take things so seriously. A small effort is enough. I love the “75/50/20″ idea. Instead of having to drag yourself to the gym every day to sooth your guilty conscience, all you have to do is 75 jumping jacks, 50 sit-ups and 20 push-ups. You’ll be done in no time but you’ll feel great.

Life can be simple.

 

photo credit: moonjazz