Wellbeing Team Mindfullness Challenge

 As part of the research that went into creating this mega-challenge for this round of A Clear Vision of Life: The Wellbeing Program, the Wellbeing Team decided to try their own hands at managing their mindfulness. Their task was to track their mindfulness for two weeks and then write about that experience in 300 words or less. The Alpha Xi Delta Wellbeing Team used the following definition of mindfulness as they planned and organized themselves: “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. You can likely find variations of this—some longer, some shorter, but the essence remains the same.

 Below are three accounts from Malerie, Jenny and Megan, Wellbeing team members, of how their two-week experience went.

Malerie Payne, Rochester Institute of Technology ’07

Have you ever heard something being compared to the difficulty level of herding cats? Herding cats would be so tricky! Cats don’t want to be herded, cats want to do what they want! Cats, with their sneaky moves: jumping onto shelves and under beds and fitting into the smallest of spaces. Herding them would be impossible, y’all.

The concept of mindfulness is something I would like to think I have mastered, but my two week attempt at incorporating this into my life was eye-opening. I have a tendency to think and do several things at once, and I can’t help but feel like my mind is constantly jumping from one place to another. Like a herd of cats. Does this craziness resonate with anyone else?

I noticed that in order for me to begin practicing mindfulness, I had to be intentional about it. Otherwise, all of the other things happening in my life would find a way to crowd my brain and my time.

I left a note for myself on the fridge: “be mindful.” When cooking dinner, I began to notice colors and tastes and if something was burning – much easier than if my mind was elsewhere.

I left my earbuds at home when I went for a run, and I noticed that if I focused on my breathing and stride, I was more aware of my body. My technique improved, and I was a safer runner overall.

I noticed that when I was watching TV with my husband – and not simultaneously scrolling through social media on my phone – I would actually know what was happening. It feels good not to have to say, “wait, I wasn’t looking… what just happened?!”

Through this two-week experiment, I realized that experiences (like cooking and running and catching up on a TV show with my husband) are much more enjoyable when I practice mindfulness. My first step: make the choice to be actively engaged and focused on what is in front of me at the time.

Jenny Greyerbiehl, Alma College '01

If you know me well, you know this challenge was likely going to prove to be quite difficult, because despite my knowledge about the topic--I mean who hasn’t heard about the benefits/importance of mindfulness at this point?!?--practicing it, is an entirely different thing. 

Throughout the 14 days, I’d guess that I at least thought about the word (yes, just the literal word) “mindfulness” at least once a day… doesn’t that count for something?!? In reality, there were very few times when I could force myself to “be mindful”--as there was always something else I could be crossing off my list instead. 

I am happy to report I was successful for one period of time, almost three hours actually, when I was in my car, by myself, driving from Michigan back to my home in Indianapolis. I decided my parameters were simple, focus on driving/the road, in silence, without talking to someone on the phone, listening to the radio or a podcast, etc. to distract me. I found it to be peaceful. I noticed things, like fields of flowers, kitschy billboards, roadside stands, etc. I was also able to appreciate and explore my thoughts as they came, one at a time, not rushing to the next one, because, well, I had time to kill. Several times I caught myself picking up my phone, and had to convince myself to put it back down, but all in all, I enjoyed it. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it again, the next time I’m in the car for a long trip!

So what’s all this whoopla about? What’s the quick and dirty of Mindfulness? This TEDtalk by Andy Puddicombe is under 10 minutes and is a great introduction. It’s had over 7 million views, so he’s definitely attracting an audience. He’s also the creator of the HEADSPACE App which focuses on making meditation something that is accessible and doesn’t require incense or funky poses.

Many believe that there are significant health benefits of practicing mindfulness for both adults and children. From stress-reduction to emotional resilience to serving as a buffer to children who are experiencing bullying—mindfulness could be a mechanism to help individuals maintain a healthy state of being.  

Megan Foster, Indiana University of Pennsylvania'03

When it comes to being present and being mindful, I found that it was much easier for me to be aware and call-out someone else who wasn’t being in-the-moment. After all, I have a reason for not being present. Others? They can’t possibly have a reason as good as mine! And so beings the cycle. After a nice little gut-check, that rationalization became old…quickly. Not to mention extremely unfair.

I tried to honor my task at being proactive in being mindful. I found that I was most successful during yoga. I go once a week. It’s the only time when I am able to find success at focusing on just the here and now. Mind you, I’m not good at yoga; I’ve only been attending for about 10 weeks. But I relish the opportunity for someone to tell me to focus on my breathing and filling the spots in my body with air. When I find my mind wandering to that load of laundry awaiting me in the basket when I walk in the door, I’m more easily able to refocus and reconnect back to what it is I’m focused on in that very moment. If I could pick one word to describe it, I would pick liberating.

If that’s how being present and focused makes me feel—liberated--then why is it so hard to execute in other parts of life? Why am I not making this more of a priority in my way of functioning? Why am I more focused on Pinterest than having an adult conversation with the person I married? If I’m being really honest, I’m not going to always win at this. That’s not to say I’m not going to try. It means I’m going to give myself grace and take things one step at a time. One mindful step at a time. 

About A Clear Vision of Life: The Wellbeing Program for Alumnae

A program by alumnae, for alumnae. A Clear Vision of Life: The Wellbeing Program is built to engage Alpha Xi Delta alumnae and encourage personal development. Based on the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, you are encouraged to review “Challenges” related to each of the five elements of wellbeing: Purpose, Community, Financial, Physical and Social.

For more information about this program, click here