Blame it on the cocktail party of Twitter, the constant flow of invites and text messages, or the hum of the cars on the street – the modern mind is managing a thousand tiny distractions. This constant tug-of-war for your attention can easily leave you feeling frazzled and unfocused, especially as the holidays approach.
That’s where David Nichtern comes in. He gets it.
“If you put a window in someone’s mind on an average day it looks like what we call monkey mind…its just swinging from vine to vine, from topic to topic,” David explains.
The idea is that our mind is habitually fragmented and if we want to feel more focused and at peace we have to learn to work with it. For David, the antidote to the frantic mind is a mindfulness practice – a collection of simple techniques to sway your mind back into the present moment. But David’s not hating.
“Our mind, when we sit down, is going to have energy to it. And I’ll say this now and I’ll repeat it; there’s no problem with that. We think that’s a huge problem. The only problem about it is we’re a little bit off balance and distracted. And we can work with that.”
So, there is nothing wrong with you. A jumpy mind is normal. Its just that when its too out of step with what you want to be doing – say working on a big client project – it can be frustrating and your decision-making skills can slip.
“If we bring mindfulness into what we do and we cultivate that, we’re synchronizing the sort basic aspects of our existence which is our body and mind,” David explains. And when you sync up with yourself you are better able to navigate the practical demands of work and life.
To help you start out a mindfulness practice, David breaks the basics down into three simple steps:
1.) Note your physical setup and notice how you sit.
2.) Consciously place your awareness and attention on something neutral (ex: your breath).
3.) Then watch. Recognize the myriad thoughts and emotions that come up and then return your awareness to a simple kind of placement.
You aren’t trying to get to some grand state as a result of these steps. You are just noticing your mind and coming back to a neutral state, again and again, over and over. That simple practice helps to harmonize your moment with your mind and that’s enough to change your overall experience.
When the holiday distractions start to creep in – hello, holiday deals and must-hit holiday parties – try to get back in tune with the tasks at hand, and try to calm that “monkey mind.” Remember: There will be a time for all those distractions, but maybe not while you’re trying to get work done.
“Mindfulness is taking your attention and bringing it together in alignment with wherever you are, with whatever you’re doing,” David explains. “When those are in sync, everything you do is going to have a lot more clarity and focus.”