How many times do you find yourself not being able to find your keys as you’re scrambling to get to the gym to avoid the 20 burpee penalty for being late?  And.  How many times do you find those keys on a surface that you actually scanned in that panicked state just 5 minutes ago?  Is there a trickster at play?  Were your eyes not working?  Or, you “suddenly” feel a tweak in your hip that you know is not just a tweak - was there really no warning??

Practicing mindfulness is not just about the actual time you spend in your daily practice - 15, 20, 30 minutes whatever it may be.  It’s an actual state of being - over time, you become better at it and it starts to permeate your entire day, how you interact with yourself and the rest of the world.  You become more present.  Let’s go back to our two scenarios.

Lost keys - you are frantically scanning, looking for the keys, berating yourself for once again “not putting them where they belong” (judgy), thinking about how much traffic there will be, how late you will be, why did you leave this to the last minute again (judgy), at the same time you may also be pondering something you need to get done after workout or working out the details of something that happened at work this morning…and on and on.  Is it any wonder that you either can’t see or remember where you put those keys? 

Next time try this - stop.  Take a deep breath.  Not just into your chest, right down into your belly.  Gently allow yourself to only think about this breath, visualize it flowing through your airways all the way down to your belly and back out.  Now. Only think about keys, hit the pause button on everything else.  Open your eyes - thinking only about the keys slowly and mindfully, registering everything that you lay eyes on look for your keys while visualizing what they look like.  In your mind retrace your steps...keep your mind on this task in this moment.  Chances are, either the keys were right under your nose and you just didn’t see them or you forgot that when you came in earlier you had an armful of groceries that you just dumped on the kitchen counter…aaah yes.  There they are. 

At the gym: Next time you’re doing back squats - try to put this into practice - focus entirely on what you are doing, forget your day, before or after. By tuning in to your body now, you may better be able to distinguish between your muscles sending a message of distress versus a message of hard work - being more mindful in your workout can give you feedback that a movement is not quite balanced.  This is the information that can make the difference between pushing through to injury or pushing through challenge to your next PR.

Jon Kabat-Zinn in the book Full Catastrophe Living makes the point that our mind’s default setting is to wander…in other words, while you are doing whatever you are doing there are any number of “stories” going on in the mind at the same time.  This seminal book which is really a book on the practice of mindfulness within the context of MBSR (or mindfulness based stress reduction) is about so much more than finding your keys but in the end, if you really think about it, they truly are linked.