I’ve been working in the wellness industry for over a decade and a half. I began my career in my basement as a Fitness Trainer. Back then I worked with people to improve their physical well-being. We worked on movement, nutrition, and lifestyle. With my client’s goals in mind, I created programs that worked their physical body in order to build strength, increase endurance, and improve posture and function. Each workout would build on the last and take into consideration their abilities and postural needs.
Over the years, I transitioned from a purely physical focus to something more metaphysical. I continue to work one-on-one with clients, although our work is less of a “workout” and more of a “work-in.” Just as I would focus on the physical musculature as a Fitness Trainer, my work with clients now focuses on their attitudinal musculature—that is, the workings of the mind and more importantly the fundamental system of beliefs the mind follows.
When it comes to our attitudinal musculature, there are two very important muscles at work: mindfulness and awareness.
Mindfulness is our ability to be conscious of something, mainly a thought or action. When I’m washing the dishes, I am fully present in what I’m doing. All my senses are focused on this one task: I can see the residue being washed off the dishes, I can hear the sound of the water swirl around the plate, I can smell the soap, I can feel the water on my hands, and my thoughts are right here, right now. The length of time which I’m able to stay focused on this task is known as my attention span.
Awareness is like our peripheral vision—it stays alert to everything that’s happening around us. It gathers all the information from beyond our immediate focus and tells us what to do with it. Most of its guidance is based on past experiences. It is what hears the neighbours screaming at each other, or it sees the screen of your phone light up with a text notification. Awareness’ role is to deliver information to mindfulness, and mindfulness’s role is to stay present so that we can make the best decision for that moment. Ideally, this decision will support us now and in the future.
These muscles are wonderful and serve a very important purpose. However, just as a muscle imbalance in our body can negatively affect our movement and postural alignment, so can an imbalance in our attitudinal musculature negatively impact how we function in this world. The healthy relationship between our mindfulness and awareness muscles has an effect on everything from our ability to complete a task in a reasonable amount of time to how we relate to others and ourselves.
Disharmony looks like this: I’m writing this blog post that’s due on Tuesday. My phone lights up and it’s a text from a friend. I check it and she’s asking for some advice about her trip to Florence. I’m immediately transported back to when I lived there—the sounds, the smells, the visuals. I reply to her with a few recommendations. I decide to include links to my favorite places and start scrolling through various reviews and blog posts about the restaurant I just searched. I read them, agree or disagree (secretly but not so secretly judging the people I disagree with), and keep scrolling and searching. I look at the clock, an hour has passed and now I’m late for an appointment. My blog post has to wait, yet again.
Not only does it look like disorganized time, it can also look like arguments with loved ones, procrastinating an important project, feeling stuck in areas of your life, and so forth.
Harmony looks like this: I’m writing the blog post and I notice the phone lights up. I think to myself my deadline is tonight and I only have one hour to complete this. I’ll check my message later. I continue with my task and complete it in 35 minutes. At the end of my task, I check my message and reply to my friend with the names of my favourite restaurants. I’ll save the nostalgia for when I’m journaling tonight.
Other ways harmony presents itself is through joyful experiences with loved ones, accomplishing many things in a short period of time, learning something new and sticking to it, being prepared for new opportunities, etc. Where there is balance in our attitudinal musculature, there is growth in our lives.
And so just as we need to train our physical bodies to keep them healthy and functioning with ease, so must we train our attitudinal muscles. And how do we do that? Through meditation. A simple five-minute breathing meditation repeated daily will help us build our attitudinal musculature so we can move through life with joy and ease.
Try this now: place your hand on your heart and, if you can, locate your heartbeat. Once you have it, breathe in for a count of four or five heartbeats, and slowly breathe out for four or five heartbeats. Repeat this for five rounds of breath. (If you’re having a hard time locating your heartbeat, just breathe for a count of four or five).
We increase our attention span by training ourselves to focus on one thing at a time no matter what is happening around us or what thoughts come into our mind. Usually, what distracts people during meditation are their thoughts. We have this perception that we need to stop them altogether—that’s impossible! Thoughts will always be. We simply learn to control our reaction to our thoughts by observing their presence while staying focused on our breathing.
This is exactly what my 40 Days of Stillness program is designed to do. For 40 days you will practice a five-minute meditation that balances the relationship between your mindfulness and awareness muscles in order to sharpen your focus and increase your ability to stay present in each moment. Over the course of the 40 days, you’ll work these muscles in various ways to awaken, strengthen, and improve your focus and create a life of presence and intention. For more information on this program, click here!