“If I had to do it over, I’d do things differently”, said a very wealthy man as he lay on a semi-firm hospital bed in his last few hours of life. The Rabbi sitting next to him replied, “What would that be.” The man continued, “I’ve spent my entire life in a feverish drive to be the best at what I do and to acquire the most wealth and to me that was success. But I think I missed the boat. If I had to do it over again I’d really understand what is sinking in at this moment. It’s all about connection. It’s all about who you love and how you love them and that is what matters.”

In 2005 I conducted a national research study attempting to support people in cultivating more mindful moments in daily life and seeing what affect that had on their levels of stress and well-being. It turned out that with just 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week for 3 weeks, there was a statistically significant effect for that time. I went further and conducted interviews with the participants to understand what the experience was of these moments that had the most significant effect. The top quality that was mentioned over and over again was that of “connection.”

The message: When we feel connected to something or someone in a moment, not only are we present, but it seems to have positive effects on our levels of stress and well-being. More importantly, it appears to be at the foundation the quality of being present of what may be most important in life.

This connection may just start with us. What I mean by that is beginning to acknowledge what we’re feeling in a particular moment is a step toward connection. Even if we don’t want to accept the feeling, we can acknowledge the reality of its presence. If it’s a particularly difficult emotion and we feel safe enough to do so, we can spend some time really feeling into it and “being with” it, instead of trying to “fix it.” This is connecting, which the dying man said is what he would do more of and what my study found was the cornerstone of mindfulness and something that has a positive effect on stress and well-being. Even a step in this direction is better than no step at all.

Note: During this process it is highly likely that judgments will arise, “this is bad”, “this is awful”, “this will never help me.” These are expected to arise because they are habits and are parts of the self that are trying to keep you safe from not experiencing discomfort, but at the end of the day they are what maintain the discomfort.

Try noticing both comfortable and uncomfortable feelings today whether they are just in the body or are emotions. See if you can just take the step of connecting with them by acknowledging them. This can be a first step. There may be nothing more important in this life than beginning to break from the habitual pattern of disconnecting and moving toward connecting.

As always, please share your thought, stories, and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.