Decluttering Your Mind & Living In The Moment with Harriet Stein
“Mindfulness is not about stopping anything. There’s no stopping. It’s just noticing our thoughts—with compassion, with non-judgment.” – Harriet Stein
I had the delight of speaking with Harriet Stein, an inspirational teacher and professional speaker. Harriet is passionate about the life-changing benefits of mindfulness and aims to touch as many lives as she can with her discoveries.
- Why mindfulness is for you
- Taking control of your mind
- Planning vs worrying
Why mindfulness is for you
Mindfulness is rooted in expanding possibilities and practicing a deep appreciation for our environments—internal and external.
“People will say to me, ‘I'm the kind of person that has all these thoughts in my head, so I can't practice.’ And I always smile and say, ‘I call that type of person a human being.’ We all have so many thoughts in our head.” Harriet shares.
Mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts; it's about noticing them. We have the choice to hit the pause button. There will rarely be an ideal environment to meditate on our lives and thoughts. There will likely be a jackhammer outside or a vacuum in the hallway.
“Mindfulness is not only meditation, it’s paying attention moment by moment to our lives all the time when we are awake,” Harriet explains.
There's no special hall pass to practicing mindfulness. Embracing life as it comes is an art open to all.
Taking control of your mind
Sometimes we’re on a mental treadmill, running in five different directions like a monkey in a zoo. That’s usually an indicator that we’re letting someone else adjust the speed.
“We have to take that control back as to what's going on in our minds and decide not to multitask,” Harriet says.
If you feel yourself venturing into monkey mind status, try to focus on something mundane like washing your hands or doing the dishes. Notice the details. How does the water feel on your skin? What does the soap smell like? Listen to the flowing water.
When your mind begins to wander back to the five other directions, retrain it back to one of your five senses. Acknowledge your thoughts and focus on your task.
The majority of overthinking comes from worries, which are typically attached to the desire to control outcomes.
“We have no idea what's going to happen five minutes from now,” Harriet points out, “aliens could come down in an hour from now, we have no idea at this point. Ground yourself in the present.”
Grounding is an essential aspect of mindfulness and turning away worries. What is happening right now? All we can control is our responses, our thoughts, and our actions for this exact moment.
Planning vs worrying
People spend a lot of energy thinking about the past, entertaining what if’s, and wondering about maybe’s—dwelling on what could have been different. We can’t change the past, and imagining different versions of what was does not serve the present.
“If we want to be successful in life, in whatever we want to do, would it be helpful if we were beating ourselves up about something from the past?” Harriet poses.
That’s almost universally a “No!” We serve ourselves and others better by giving energy to what we can control.
Harriet uses the example of prepping for a meeting. Instead of focusing on the present needs that will help move us forward, we tend to think about negative aspects of the previous experience. Maybe someone interrupted us or was inattentive. If it was an isolated incident, that is not a blueprint for how every interaction with that individual will go.
Just as we should practice grace and compassion for ourselves, we should practice the same for others. Where is our attention best served?
“People need to realize that they are not alone. We look at social media, and we think everyone else has it together when everybody is going through something—everyone. We rarely know all the challenges that they're dealing with.” Harriet points out.
Try going into your next group experience knowing that even though you might know these people for decades, try to see them with the concept of non-judgment. Remember that you haven't seen them on that exact day before, and see what happens if you give them the benefit of the doubt.
We all start somewhere, and weaving new thought patterns doesn't happen overnight. Any progress forward is time well spent.
“Realize you're doing a wonderful job. If you are alive, there is more right with you than wrong with you.” Harriet paraphrases Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of her teachers.
Mindfulness helps bring awareness to our thoughts and recognize if we’re planning or worrying. And from there, we can build a more balanced life, with less monkey brain multitasking.
What are some ways you can incorporate more mindfulness into your day?