Last week we explored the definition of mindfulness. But how does one reach a level of constant mindfulness? The first step is experiencing what I call the “State of Gray.”
The State of Gray is simple, and yet can be very difficult. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, calls it being in the now. Martha Beck, author and columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine, has called it doing nothing, and most recently, wordlessness and oneness. Back around 500 BC, the philosopher Lao Tzu called it wei wu wei, or doing not-doing. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, calls it refusing to obey the voice of knowledge. Buddhists refer to it as mindfulness. I like to call it the State of Gray, a peaceful space between black and-white thinking. No matter what this state is called, how it is described, or how one gets there, it is the very simple concept of turning off the mental monkey chatter of our left brain so we can truly be in the moment. Being in the State of Gray allows us to be free from thoughts of the past or future, free from judgments and expectations, and free to just be and experience. Excerpt from From Type A to Type Me
The State of Gray can be found in many ways. It can be found in through the practices of meditation or yoga. We can be helped to find the State through guided imagery or hypnosis. Some can even get there through solitary redundant movements like runners’ high, knitting, or playing solitaire. In my book I go into a deeper explanation of the State of Gray and how to get there. What I would like to share here is how to move from the State of Gray being a small portion of your day, to being the way you approach your life.
One of my frustrations is when I meet someone who proclaims that they live a mindful life because they practice meditation for XX hours a day. Yet when I meet them, when they are not in meditation, they are not mindful. It may be true that they reach a zen state during their practice, but when they interact with the world they do not carryover the same state of acceptance, clarity, and compassion. The goal is to not to just find a pocket of peace but to bring that peace to everything you do and everyone you interact with.
The State of Gray gives us the foundation of mindfulness then, with practice, one can bring mindfulness throughout the day. Knowing that you ultimately control your body, mind, and emotions gives you the power and means to become mindful. We often feel controlled by our emotions. We allow our body’s distress to cause our negative reactions. We let our minds run wild with regrets of the past, fears of the future, or judgments based on our bias. Yet the truth is we have control over our reactions to our emotions and our body. We have control over the path our minds take.
Starting today, notice when you are reacting in a way you do not find pleasant. Then follow this simple, yet challenging steps:
- Notice the trigger of the issue.
- Notice your unconscious reaction.
- Determine what part of your reaction you control.
- Then shift your reaction to something more positive.
When you are mindful, when you are truly aware, you have the power to create the life you want and the person you want to be.