Friend, if mindfulness is not a daily practice for you, we need to chat. Not the “when you get home we are going to talk” type of chat your parents used to give you, but more the, “hey grab your fave beverage and let's chill on the couch and talk mindfulness” type of chat. Phew, that was a rather long-winded sentence, but you get the point, right?!? Anywho. Today I wanted to share with you an extra special treat, and that treat is all about how to “S.T.O.P.” to gain conscious awareness.
WHY THIS PRACTICE IS IMPORTANT
Mindfulness brings awareness to your life, thoughts, and triggers. It also helps bring calm, clarity, and control to your internal and external worlds.
We spend so much of our waking life hanging out in past or future-focused thought, completely missing out on the present moment. When this happens, we lose insight into all that is transpiring outside our conscious awareness.
Hence those moments where you feel anxious out of the blue and have no clue why or when you go from zero to raging mad in what felt like a millisecond. It's moments like these, where mindfulness is your go-to tool to help you become consciously aware of what is taking place in your inner and outer world.
This “S.T.O.P.” exercise below is a tool designed to help you ground yourself in the present moment while gaining awareness of the now. The best part is that it takes less than a minute to complete, it can be done anywhere, and no one knows you're even doing it.
Take a breath
Open and observe
HOW TO PRACTICE S.T.O.P.
Now let me break down S.T.O.P. a little bit more for you…
Stop: Stop what you're doing and pause. You can “stop” while in line at the grocery store when you feel yourself becoming impatient with the lady in front of you (totally not speaking from experience right now). If your kiddos are stressing you out, or your students have you close to losing your marbles, stop. You can stop while stuck in traffic or being triggered by an anxiety-provoking situation. Heck, you can even stop just to simply be present in your life.
Take a breath: Take a long, slow, deep breath in. Exhale out slowly. Just feel the breath in your body and bring awareness to the fact there is breath. Continue to breathe as you move on to opening up your awareness and observing what is transpiring in your internal and external world.
Open and observe: Bring awareness to what is going on internally and externally at this moment. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s here?
- What do I see?
- Whose in the room with me?
- What object in the room interests me?
- How do I feel on the ground?
- How do I feel?
- What thoughts are triggering me?
- How can I open up to what is going on?
- How can I be with it and not fight what is happening?
The goal with this step is not to fight or change what is going on at this present moment, whether internally or externally, but rather to simply bring awareness to it and be with it.
Proceed: Once you have brought awareness to what is going on in your present moment, proceed with your day with greater control and clarity.
I challenge you to practice this technique randomly throughout your day to help you be present in your life. We spend so much of our time lost in future-focused dreams, worries, and fears. What would it look like to live in the now and to be mindful of our internal and external world? It's crazy the awareness you will gain into your triggers when you simply STOP!
This practice may feel awkward at first, but a touch of practice, patience, and persistence will make it second nature in no time.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to leave you with this quote:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor E. Frankl
What response are you going to choose today?
Yes, it’s ok to “Stop what you’re doing and pause.” It’s also important to understand what it means to breathe and to really have a deep understanding of the word.