There's no wrong way to do mindfulness.
Since the goal is to be fully engaged in the present moment, and everyone's present moment is different, as long as you're focusing on the here and now, you can't mess it up.
So what prevents people from giving it a go?
Try this: Label each statement below true or false.
(Spoiler alert: They're all false)
1. "I need a cushion."
Reliance on a prop to achieve a desired result can take you out of your personal power. It's like waiting to exercise until you have the bands, the bench, and the kettle bells.
This is the mind's version of the sit-up. You already have everything you need.
Some of the best mindfulness practices arise from zeroing in on physically uncomfortable feelings, which you won't find sitting serenely on a cushion. That ergonomically incorrect chair you've been meaning to replace? Notice the tension in your back. Feel the tingly lack of circulation to your legs.
It's impossible to fully focus on your body while you have a meandering mind. So concentrating on a spot of physical tension is a simple way to avoid autopilot and practice deep presence.
Perturbed by the personal space violation of the subway commuter whose hand really doesn't need to slide this close to yours on the pole? Acknowledge the annoyance. Decide what to do about it. And then feel the physical sensation of your hand sliding farther away. That's your cushion.
2. "I need to set aside time."
Have you ever heard statements like "Even if you set aside just 20 minutes a day ..." and raised an eyebrow at the assumption that 20 minutes is an inconsequential chunk we can easily work into our routine?
In an age of energy-bar lunches and endless to-do lists, "just 20 minutes a day" is an order taller than the latte you didn't have time to grab on your way to that morning meeting.
Thankfully, mindfulness is a practice you can incorporate into tasks you're already doing. Paying attention to the taste of your food, feeling your hands on the steering wheel, noticing your finger on the touch screen -- these are opportunities to drop into your body and practice being right here, right now.
On your next exhale, let your shoulders fall. Feel the sensation of letting go.
Inhale a deep sip of air and feel your chest expand.
Exhale, let your shoulders fall.
That was five seconds you just spent coming back to your body and grounding yourself in the present moment. Mindful breathing lowers blood pressure and increases focus. And the best time to do it? When you think you don't have time.
3. "I need silence."
I used to think mindfulness happened only on silent retreats at spiritual centers. Or at least in a quiet house. But I've found that some of the most chaotic moments are opportunities to check in with my body and see what's going on.
Observing internal reactions to external events is a key component of mindfulness.
That jackhammer pounding outside your office window? Zoom in on the sound. Then, as you did with the subway space invader, notice the thoughts and feelings that come from the disruption. Frustration? Tension in your head? Get curious about your physical and emotional reactions. And then label them (annoyed, forehead hurts), without trying to change them.
Instead of trying to tune out the noise, tune in to your responses to the noise.
Not only will you get to know yourself better, but you'll also be less triggered by external events. Rather than getting caught up in them, you'll begin to see them through the eyes of an observer. From here, you can make more rational, objective decisions.
4. "I need a clear head."
We all have mental chatter. The goal of mindfulness is not to empty your head of thoughts, but rather to heighten your awareness of how you're feeling in the present moment.
Awareness that you're not present actually means you're present.
The next time you realize your mind has wandered, congratulate yourself for noticing. Then gently return by attuning to your physical surroundings. Notice the temperature of the room, the feel of your fingers on the keyboard, the sensation of your feet on the ground. Anything that focuses you on your physical body. Because remember, you can't be fully present in your body and off in your wandering mind at the same time.
And productivity lives in the present.
There's no excuse to put off practicing mindfulness. But if you find yourself making one, remember, you're already on your cushion.