Arriving Home :: Making Mindfulness-Based Decisions
We meditate not only to feel calm, at peace or more at ease during our actual meditation practice. We meditate so we can feel better in our lives, change our daily experience and ultimately live in a wiser, more skillful way.
Meditation has a way of showing up in the nooks and crannies of daily life and getting in there to help and support us navigate our ups and downs, our mistakes and successes and most of all, learning to trust both ourselves and the process of life itself.
One of the most helpful outcomes of meditation I have seen for my students, audiences and readers is the strengthened connection one has with themselves after some consistent practice. If we break this down more, there’s actually a lot of different aspects at play. You are simultaneously growing your self-awareness, the ability to recognize and understand your thoughts, feelings and habits, along with a sense of confidence, centeredness and trust that comes from a greater sense of self-awareness. Confidence and awareness build hand-in-hand. The more aware you become, the more trust and confidence you have in yourself. The more confident you are, the more you give yourself permission to contemplate, explore and understand your mind and emotions.
My first moment when I realized how meditation was beginning to help me was this very experience. At the age of 23, I had just committed to a daily meditation practice a few months prior and had been consistently following through on this commitment. I hadn’t missed starting my day with meditation for 3-4 months at this point. I remember getting ready to leave for work in the morning as usual. I had just meditated, was gathering my bags, lunch and work items for the day. With keys in-hand and several bags in the other, I shut my front door behind me locked it, and turned around to walk to the car and without any particular reason, I stopped in my tracks mid-stride. I paused and closed my eyes. I could feel the weight of the bags on my hands and shoulders, yet I also began to notice the warmth of the sun against my face, the coolness of air in my nose and on my skin, and I started to recognize a feeling of confidence and centeredness that I hadn’t felt since I was a little girl. The type of self-assuredness you feel when you are in the complete freedom of knowing nothing more than how to be the full authentic expression of who you are.
I realized in that moment that I hadn’t been feeling quite as insecure lately. I was speaking up more at work and in meetings and more confidently sharing my thoughts and opinions. Most notably, I hadn’t been second-guessing myself or my decisions and choices as much lately. My decision-making process had become full of awareness, understanding and a greater trust in myself to make the right decisions.
I took a deep breath in and out, opened my eyes, turned around to look at the beautiful view from my house and smiled as I allowed gratitude for this newfound sense of self-confidence and ability to trust my decisions wash over me. I knew I had changed and this was the first deep acknowledgement that meditation had started to help me in both a small and substantial way.
How To Make Decisions Mindfully
Whenever I share this story, I get asked how it is we can go about making decisions that we trust more and ones that are based on wisdom and mindfulness. How can we learn to trust ourselves to make the right choices? The good news is we can train ourselves to make mindfulness-based decisions just like we train our attention to be in the present moment in meditation. There are steps you can take and a practice you can cultivate to make your decision making process one steeped in the wisdom, clarity and awareness of mindfulness.
The Practice: Do this practice whenever you are about to make a decision and you want to grow your ability to make the decision from a trusted and centered place.
If it is possible, pause and close your eyes. If it is not timely to close your eyes, turn your attention inwards and feel your feet on the floor and your breath in the body.
Bring your attention and awareness to both your body and your breath. First notice the sensation of what it is like to be in your body in this moment. Second, place your attention on just your breath. Let your mind and attention focus on the feelings of just the breath.
After a few moments of following your breath to the point you feel more concentrated, gathered and centered. Open your awareness up to the decision at hand. Bring the decision to mind.
With the decision in mind, first notice any feelings that immediately come up. Are the feelings ones of excitement, anticipation, uncertainty, fear or curiosity? If possible, name your emotions. Bring recognition to them and if needed, extend a compassionate understanding to them. Remembering that it is quite normal to feel a mix of feelings when being faced with a decision.
Now, notice your thoughts around the options you have. Let your options outline themselves clearly one by one in your mind.
Once you have an understanding of the options you can take, revisit any feelings you have around each option. Does one make you feel more fearful or uncertain? Does one produce more anxiety? Or is there an option that produces more ease and spaciousness?
After exploring your feelings associated with each option, pause and place your attention on your breath for a moment. Then revisit the options that made you the least uncertain. Pick the choice(s) where there was an opportunity to feel an element of trust.
With this option in mind now, place your attention in the area of your heart and hold the choice there. Are there any feelings or thoughts that are pointing you to the knowing and understanding that this is the right choice and option when making your decision? If there are, you have found your right choice. You can now confidently make your decision.
Repeat steps 7 and 8 as many times as you need to for each option at hand with the decision you have to make.
The more you bring self-awareness to each piece, part, thought and feeling you have surrounding the decision you are making, the more confidence you will grow with the choices and decisions you make. Soon, this practice becomes second nature, and in no time you will find yourself making mindfulness-based decisions one moment to the next.