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Mindfulness can be elusive in today’s world when we do not create space for it. We can so easily become lulled into a state of complacency, numbness, stress, and distraction. Once the cycle begins, it can be hard to break. Taking the time to pause and then to breathe is a small but powerful step. That small step opens the door for mindfulness to enter the room and for mindful awareness to become mindful action.
My Magic Mat
It is easier to return when we have a strong home base — a foundation for mindful awareness. Like the soil in which a plant sets its roots, this foundation grounds us and frees us to grow taller and stronger.
For me, that foundation has always been yoga, and my magic mat is my home base. For you, it may be something entirely different. It may be a seated meditation practice, cycling, or running. You must find a practice that works best for you, and when you do, cultivate it, feed it, and protect it.
My mother took me to my first yoga class at the age of eighteen. At that time in my life, I viewed yoga as purely an exploration of the physical realm. I enjoyed the challenge of mastering the various poses, or asanas. My mat was just that, a mat, a location on which to pursue this physical practice. It was very much a surface practice for me at the beginning.
It was also my mother who, at various points in my life, urged me to practice seated meditation. I resisted. Years later, caught up in the hamster wheel of my pharmaceutical sales job, I was not able to see my parents as much as I (or they) would have liked. Whenever my mother saw me, my stress and exhaustion were evident. She encouraged me to take up meditation as a way to mitigate my stress. She had been practicing herself for over two decades. “Meditation makes you more productive and will give you more energy,” she assured me. In my mind, however, it sounded like losing 40 minutes of productivity.
I was not yet ready for meditation, but yoga had planted the seed for mindfulness. When I first practiced yoga, it was from the Bikram school: a regimented series of 26 asanas in a heated room. It was mainly a way to exercise and to be strong and flexible. Later, I discovered Vinyasa yoga, where there is more dynamic flow from posture to posture, with a strong emphasis on synchronizing the breath with each movement. I fell in love with Vinyasa yoga as it became more than just exercise. It was my moving meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness and for unblocking your vital energy or prana. For me, yoga was my introduction to both.
Instead of focusing solely on the physical, I learned to withdraw deep within my self, focusing on each conscious breath while quieting my overactive mind. I learned that the answers I seek can be found internally, rather than externally. I discovered a wiser, stronger, more peaceful version of myself. Yoga became a powerful way for me to strengthen my heart and mind and the connection between them.
My yoga practice made me realize that mindfulness is the presence of the heart.
In time this daily practice became my home and my compass. Yoga also finally opened me to pursuing Transcendental Meditation. Both bring me internal clarity and peace. After years of consistent practice, I can carry this clarity — and sense of peace — with me throughout the day, even when I am not on my magic mat. This simple yoga mat (an otherwise unremarkable rectangle of sticky plastic) has become a constant in my life. It has carried me through devastation, heartbreak, and stress for more than 20 years.
Paradoxically, the stronger this home base is, and the more deeply we plant our foundation, the easier it is to take with us. Our mindfulness practice may start on the yoga mat or a meditation cushion, but it does not stay there. We bring that same wisdom, strength, and peace with us into all aspects of our lives, especially our most challenging moments.
Once we learn to carry mindfulness over into the fabric of our daily lives, it creates powerful ripple effects. It transforms our choices, our being, our energy. Mindful choices energize us — not just by improving our health and well-being, but by aligning our hearts and minds and aligning us with our purpose.
Author Bio: Naz Beheshti is the author of Pause. Breathe. Choose.: Become the CEO of Your Well-Being. She is an executive wellness coach, speaker, Forbes contributor, and CEO and founder of Prananaz, a corporate wellness company improving leadership effectiveness, employee engagement and well-being, company culture, and business outcomes. Clients include Nike, JPMorgan Chase, Omega Institute, UCSF, Columbia University, and Stanford University. She lives in New York City with her husband. Visit her online at http://www.NazBeheshti.com.