You know how wonderful you feel sitting in meditation, allowing all those pesky thoughts to drift on by? Or how being mindful, living in the present moment -- like actually tasting your food rather than inhaling it -- brings you greater peace and enjoyment, not to mention the terrific perks in terms of cardiovascular health and overall well-being.
And then... you step out of the inner sanctum of your mind into LIFE, which is messy and raw and often irritating and annoying -- so much for peace and enjoyment.
But what if you could reap the benefits of mindfulness even as go about your daily do? Without selling off all your possessions, dumping your significant other and family, and escaping to an ashram/convent/monastery.
There is a way. Be a G.E.M. -- A "go-the-extra-miler." No, I don't mean stay an extra hour at work, or be the one that picks up everybody else's slack -- not that those things are bad -- but I'm not talking about action here. I mean go the extra mile in terms of intention and attention.
I was at a restaurant recently with friends, and I couldn't help noticing how different an experience it was than the usual dinner out. Every one of the staff -- from the hosts who seated guests, to the busboys who brought you water and cleared the table -- smiled. And they didn't just turn the smile on when they arrived at our table, the staff seemed to actually be enjoying their work, and invested in us enjoying our time there. It was prime dinner hour, yet despite the hustle and bustle, servers came by every so often, again with a smile, to make sure we had everything we needed, and seemed genuine in their desire for us to have a great evening. Which we did.
I came away from that restaurant knowing two things:
--I'd go back there anytime
--I wanted to be a G.E.M. too
It takes no more time to seat a patron with a smile as without one. It takes no more time for a busboy to offer a glass of water with a smile as without. It takes but a nanosecond for a server to stop by a table and ask, with a smile, if all is well. But it does take a clear and specific intention, in this case wanting guests to have a positive an experience as possible of their evening, and give attention to what might contribute to that experience.
That's going the extra mile. That's mindfulness in action.
It's easy to be mindful, present and generous of intent, in the privacy of your thoughts. It's a whole other ball game to do it in the testing ground of reality. Yet isn't that where true enlightenment happens? It's when you unexpectedly find yourself behaving as your best self in challenging circumstances. Whether you're a server in a busy restaurant, an office worker dealing with quirky coworkers and a difficult boss, or a spouse coming home after a particularly grueling day -- and yet you somehow find the inner courage to want things to go well (intention), and focus your attention on how you might make things good for whoever's in front of you.
The benefits to others are obvious, but the benefits to you are far greater. Mindfulness in action raises your self-esteem as you express your best self. It enhances your self-confidence as you feel capable of giving more of what you have to offer. It puts you on a more optimistic track. All of which support your physical, emotional and mental health and happiness.
Oh, and did I mention the value of smiles? Recent research shows that "smiling can reduce the level of stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while increasing mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins" (Ron Gutman. Smile: the Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act). In other words, it's darned good for your health.
So be a G.E.M. Go that extra mile and put your mindfulness where it belongs -- in action.