3 Mindful Magic Tricks for Every Day Life
Mindfulness is a simple idea that has been taught for over 2,000 years by nearly all religions as the key to salvation, the soul and, in modern society, greater purpose. This is a non-secular, clear-cut practice of separating one’s thoughts and emotions from one’s self. That’s it.
For many today, that might translate roughly into not getting caught up in the drama. For others it means finding deeper inner peace and greater purpose in life. And for leaders it means finding the mental space to be a great leader. Mindfulness is the path to finding yourself and gaining control over what matters most – your mind. My personal translation of this, after 15 years of building three companies, is “less doing, more being.”
And that starts by just letting go of the past (see above), as well as unraveling the anxiety around the future. And then presto, the stress is gone – replaced by the warm, compassionate, high energy, life-loving Aaron! It’s not magic, but it’s damn close!
3 Mindful Magic Tricks
“Find your voice, then help others find theirs.” It’s a motto deeply ingrained in my psyche. And so, I’m sharing here my three favorite Mindful Magic Tricks, for those minds open to the possibility of a better way…
DISCLAIMER: I am far, far from a perfect mindfulness practitioner, so please don’t confuse what works for me as the emblem of the ideal practice (at least not yet 😉 ).
Magic Trick #1: The Breath
“Just breathe,” the Zen Buddhist monk said to me atop the mountains of a famous Zendo in Tassaraja. My mind (not words) replied, “I am. I am!” as I sat motionless, in classic cross legged/straight backed meditation style. And yet, I was not following the instructions. So simple, yet so hard.
To sit still and just breathe, focusing solely on that deep in-breath and out. The hard part is focusing on NOTHING ELSE. For all those new to the concept of meditation, that is all it is. Not some freaky-deaky Jedi Master technique for levitation.
The magic part of this trick is that it’s often just ONE breath that makes all the difference in a given moment. What I like to call the Moment of Truth.
For example, say you are having a difficult conversation with a co-worker or employee on your team, and you feel your chest tighten and your mind narrow – the exchange is emotional and the energy is high. It’s your turn to respond, so what do you do? You look right at that person, close your eyes, take one big deep breath in, open your eyes, and let that deep breath out. In that moment, you’ve created space between thought and reaction, and now you have a chance… a real chance to provide a calm, compassionate and purposeful response versus an emotional, ego-driven reaction. Just that breath is what got you there.
Personally, my favorite time to use it is when giving a speech, sometimes in front of thousands of people. It’s perfect for that time when you’ve lost your train of thought, or when someone asks a difficult question.
Magic Trick #2: Right Here. Right Now.
The Power of Now, made famous by Eckhart Tolle, is key to our mind ownership. It’s about simply tapping into what’s happening here and now, and focusing on nothing else. Translation: letting go of thoughts of the past. That last email you got telling you what a terrible person you are. Or that meeting earlier this morning with the team that just didn’t go as planned. Let it go… and move your mind to something you are doing right now. I am driving. So drive. I am walking. Just walk. I am meeting with Susan. So just meet with Susan. Nothing else.
This also means letting go of anxiety about the future. We all have endless lists of things to do and goals to accomplish. Don’t worry, that won’t go away just because you stop thinking about it. It will always be there. What won’t be there is your presence. Your calm. Your greater sense of purpose and powerful positive nature. You lose that if you allow the future to compromise what is happening here and now.
Just ask yourself, “What am I doing right now?” and allow your mind to say, “Oh yeah, I’m _____” and then just focus on that. You’ll never get so much enjoyment out of washing the dishes. Trust me!
Magic Trick #3: Be the Observer
As you’ve probably noticed, all of these areas are inter-related. And this trick is without a doubt part of the above tricks in 1 & 2. “Be the Observer” means allowing yourself to simply observe the thoughts or emotions you have. For example, your loved one might say something that frustrates you – that one thing they always say or do that bothers the crap out of you! Next time this happens, stop and say, “Hmm, that’s interesting…after all these years, him/her saying that causes me anger. I can feel it.” That alone will give you a much greater perspective around this simple emotion, versus the emotion being who you are, and of course causing that knee jerk reaction that gets us no closer to a solution.
After that simple observance, you may want to say, “Hmm, I wonder where that reaction comes from? Is it something tied back to my childhood, or a feeling of inadequacy that I have yet to address?” and then let your mind dwell on it for a second longer…before you let it go. Just like in trick #1, let it go like the clouds floating by in the mind’s sky. Look at it, see it pass by and smile, knowing you are one step closer to gaining control of that crazy, crazy thing we call the mind.
Why? Why did you write this, Aaron? You’re a well-known figure in the industry – respected by many, revered by a few and generally known for your entrepreneurial conquests. Why such a soft and personal share?
Answer: Because all my conquests are of little consequence. All that really matters is my “state” of mind, better known as becoming mindful. And I hope that writing about and sharing my experience can shed light on the topic for others.