It never fails to astonish me how doing nothing for a few minutes each day (meditating) helps me do everything else better.
In a 2015 interview with On Being‘s Krista Tippet, social psychologist Ellen Langer, sometimes referred to as “the mother of mindfulness,” explained the impact of present moment awareness on our ability to take action. Langer has been researching mindfulness since the 1970s, long before it was mainstream. She defines mindfulness as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”
One of the many nuggets of wisdom Langer shared in that interview really resonated with me this week. She said:
Many years ago, I talked about the difference between “can” and “how can.” It seems so similar, but they’re vastly different. When you ask yourself “how” do you do something, you’re bypassing your ego in some sense. You’re just out there examining, fiddling with things trying to find the solution. If you ask yourself “can you do it?’” then all you can appeal to is the past, and so with lots of things — when people say, “people can only do A, B, or C,’” the first thought in my mind is always, well, how do we know that? How could that be? (For the full On Being interview with Ellen Langer, click here).
Mindfulness Helps Us to Just Do It
A while back a friend said to me, “It’s fun watching when you get an idea and, even if you’ve never done it before, you just jump in and figure out how to do it.” I hadn’t thought about that before. Ellen Langer helped me realize that mindfulness has, indeed, trained me to bypass my ego and just try stuff that I believe to be in alignment with my purpose.
This week’s example of “just jumping in” is the video I made to promote my next 30-Day Mindfulness Meditation Challenge beginning on Monday, September 18. I was a one-person team for this, writing the script, setting up my camera on a tripod and testing out different backgrounds, making important style decisions like glasses on or glasses off, having to take into account the sun’s angle since I wanted my garden to be part of it, shooting a zillion different takes, switching from the phone camera to my big camera when I ran out of storage, then learning how to edit and add text in iMovie using a mixture of YouTube videos and “help please!” phone calls to my tech-savvy friends Bill and Tim, and asking for quality control from a handful of friends (thank you, Emily, for telling me that I looked naked when I was wearing a tank top for the first try).
The final product isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for a first effort. I seem a little more subdued than I am in real life (probably because I was self-conscious about the neighbors overhearing me talking to myself in the backyard). But letting go of perfectionism is a sign of deep personal growth for me. As author Anne Lamott says, Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.
More than halfway through my lifespan, moving straight to “how can I” instead of tripping myself up at “can I” is a much more efficient way to lead a life of purpose and fulfillment.
So with all of that said, here’s the final product!
To learn more, read testimonials, and to register for the session beginning on Monday, September 18, click here.
As I note in the video, this will be the last time I offer this program in 2017, so if you’ve been on the fence, now is the time to jump in!
If you enjoyed today’s post and are not yet a subscriber, please join my Readers Circle via the sign-up box in the right margin and receive my free ebook Six Playfully Mindful Strategies to Beat Procrastination and Boost Productivity. You’ll also receive updates on my book Blooming into Mindfulness, weekly blog posts, and photography, speaking engagement, and workshop news. Email is much more reliable than social media in getting information to you in a timely fashion, so sign up to make sure you’re in the loop! (I promise not to share your address or send you spam.)
And if you know someone else who might benefit from an extra dose of calm in their lives, please spread the word! Social media likes and shares are always appreciated.
Finally, if you find typos anywhere on my site, I’d be grateful if you let me know. I hate typos! Contact me so that I can correct the error. Thank you!