Mindfulness involves easing into the present moment and choosing to respond to whatever arises with as much compassion as possible. It’s important to remember that mindfulness is a process — and it takes practice. But it’s worth it. The more tuned into the present we are, the richer our lives become.
Personalized learning both jumpstarts and revitalizes mindfulness practices for adults and children alike. It achieves this by offering the freedom to choose how we want to return to the present whenever our awareness wanders off into the past or the future.
We are often told to count our breath, watch thoughts float by like clouds, or some variation of these exercises in order to become more mindful. And this works for some people. Yet kids (and easily bored adults like me) often find such one-size-fits-all imagery mismatched with our unique preferences and learning styles. As a result, we may find a thousand excuses to do something else – anything else – but mindfulness practices.
In light of this, we've developed and use the following seven easy steps when conducting personalized mindfulness sessions. These steps have made mindfulness practices relevant to hundreds of clients – all while harnessing their intrinsic motivation.
Step 1: Allow Participants to Voice Their Stress
Clients often carry their stress around like heavy weights strapped to their minds and bodies -- and many people don’t always name all the stress that bogs them down. Yet, as we’ll see in the steps that follow, owning it is the first personalized mindful step toward disowning it.
Step 2: Understand How Stress Relates to Mindfulness
The great news is we are not our stress. We are far more than it. There is a gap between stress and our response to it. In that gap is where personalized mindfulness comes in to play.
Step 3: Appreciate the Multiple Benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness are as diverse as those who practice it. Overall, these benefits can address many of the stresses that were voiced in the first step. Here are some of the more common ones:
Step 4: Take a Brief Self-Inventory
Personalized mindfulness is based on a concept called “skillful means,” or using our abilities and interests to redirect back to the present with a non-judgmental attitude.
To gauge which skillful means might work best, it is first helpful to take a brief survey like the one below:
Step 5: Look for a Main Pattern
To help participants discover a main pattern amidst their self-inventories, I share how many of my responses could somehow be traced to sound. For instance, one of the things I do for fun is attend live music events, a genuine interest of mine is piano playing, and, to top it all off, my optimal learning style is musical in nature.
Step 6: Choosing Our Own Paths to Mindfulness
This individualized mindfulness method has instilled an intrinsic motivation to meditate – and not just during designated meditation times. We now find mindfulness spilling over into all aspects of life. When we're stressing, the sound of a passing car might gently guide us back to the present where we can find some refuge.
Step 7: Revel in Your Personalized Approach
Schedule at least 20 intentional minutes a day when you use your unique skillful means to stay as present as possible. These 20 minutes need not be consecutive. In fact, clients often focus on the sounds of a different five-minute song at four varying times throughout the day.
Mindfulness is too beneficial to be discounted as another annoying thing on our already busy to-do lists. Through these seven steps, we can harness the power of personalized learning to become more mindful. As a result, we just might begin to practice not because we have to, but because we want to.