How To Live A Mindful, Present And Fulfilling Life

Originally posted on Forbes.com

People like Elisha Goldstein make mindfulness look so easy.

With a naturally calming nature and unmatched wisdom on balanced living, most would assume that Elisha always practiced a more conscious living.

Today, Elisha is a psychologist, a teacher of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and the founder of The Mindful Living Collective. In this online space, anyone can discover new teachings and practices, connect with like-minded people, and apply these lessons to their own lives.

He is also the co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living, and his books include Uncovering HappinessThe Now EffectA Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, and MBSR Everyday.

However, Elisha was well into adulthood and struggling with addiction and anxiety before he started this journey. It was through the journey that he realized that learning to be more aware, present, and intentional within his life wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it.

Now, he is dedicated to teaching others about the benefits of mindfulness—and I’m honored to help him share some of his invaluable insights with the world.

“What I want to do in life is to help people create and find more meaningful moments,” says Elisha. “So, at the end of their life, they’re looking back from their deathbed, saying, ‘I was really there. My life mattered.”

Building More Mindful Relationships

Hard times happen to all of us, and the best mindful meditation practices can’t stop them. However, they can lead us through the storm towards the other side—perhaps even stronger than before.

The people with whom you surround yourself with can also make all the difference, especially if you’re experiencing emotional turmoil. Elisha himself can relate due to his own addiction and anxiety issues earlier in life.

After discovering mindfulness, Elisha began to think about if the people he was spent time with were positive, supportive influences within his life.

“We don’t always have that in our work or our family environment,” Elisha continues. “[Sometimes] we need to seek those people out—and that’s okay. We need to be intentional and conscious. The people we surround ourselves with make a huge impact on our level of resiliency, happiness, and success.”

Reshaping Failures into Success

Mindfulness is also valuable when facing failure—something we’ll all endure at some point in life whether it’s in business, art, relationships, or another life journey. Few things feel more personal and insurmountable than when you put your heart and soul into something only for the pay-off never to come.

“Sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and see the whole journey—not just that moment in time,” says Elisha. “My moments of failing became my greatest gift. My greatest sources of pain became my greatest sources of motivation to learn, seek more, and to become something that has now become a heavy thread throughout my personal and professional life.”

While standing outside of failure, seeing it all as part of a great journey might seem doable. We all know it’s much easier said than done while in the middle of it all—and that’s where being more aware of these toxic thoughts comes into play.

When your mind intrusively injects negative thoughts about what went wrong, train yourself to flip that thinking around. Rather than consider those mistakes as all terrible, reframe them as integral stepping stones towards success. “Because I made those mistakes, I can learn from those mistakes,” says Elisha. “I can do something different, and I can try again.”

Explore inside of yourself to find positive, growth-minded ways to view even the worst circumstances. “If every cell of my body believed in that, how would it make me feel,” asks Elisha? “It’d make me feel energized, motivated, optimistic, and hopeful!”

Reframing thoughts is something we can do in both our personal and professional lives. “We all have this same makeup—thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behaviors—that are a part of being human,” says Elisha. “Knowing what to focus on, and how to focus on it, makes all the difference.”

Mindfulness at the Workplace

Workplace relationships: the best can still have conflict. The most frustrating can feel impossible.

“The first thing we want to do is see the person that’s really there,” says Elisha. “That’s what we often miss. Our brain is wired to freeze people and put them in a box so that it can handle more complex things.” It’s called procedural memory—the same reason we can drive a car or ride a bike while we’re on autopilot.

“The brain does that with people too,” he continues. “The people that we work with. The people that we love. All of that. So, if you’re in a contentious relationship with someone, make sure that you take a step back and get curious. One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is getting curious.”

While taking that step back, ask yourself questions about what your co-worker might be dealing with. What might they need that they’re not getting?

“Oftentimes, if a person is being contentious, that means they’re feeling a little imbalanced,” says Elisha. “Maybe they’re not getting what they need—and that might be okay. They might not get what they need. But they might need a sense of certainty if they feel uncertainty in whatever you’re proposing.”

These co-workers could also feel like their ideas are being ignored, or their voices unheard. Whatever the issue may be, genuine, intentional listening with the intent of understanding their perspective can open an honest dialogue.

“[By applying] mindfulness to the communication,” says Elisha, “we can try to make sure they feel understood and cared about.”

Meditation for Busy People

One of the most common reasons I hear people say they don’t meditate is because of time. They’ve heard about the benefits of meditating. They believe it’d even help them personally. But between lives filled with work, families, hobbies, or all three, they just don’t think they could fit it in—at least in a way that’ll make an actual impact.

Elisha gets it. As a father of young kids and a business owner, he too must find new ways to integrate meditation and other mindfulness practices into his schedule. One way that he’s doing this is by doing shorter and less traditional meditation sessions.

To make them equally effective, however, does take extra intention and planning.

“I do make it a bit informal,” Elisha says. “I try and train my focus on what’s going on in my life right now.” With such a busy life, while meditating, he notices that his brain tends to default into thinking about everything stressful. To counteract that instinct, he intentionally veers his focus instead on everything he’s appreciative of in the world.

“I try to think of three to five things,” he says. “As I’m thinking about them, I’m visualizing those things. I’m visualizing those things because I want to feel it in my body.” Replicating this feeling within the body impacts the intersection between body and mind. This helps your brain retain these positive feelings outside of meditating.

Now that you have insights on getting more out of short meditation sessions, where can a busy person with limited personal space actually do it?

Going back to accepting a more non-traditional practice, do it where you can! Meditation cushions and silent rooms are wonderful, but they aren’t necessary.

“What about [meditating] in the bathroom,” asks Elisha? Or get a practice in with foods and drinks by bringing presence and awareness to each bite or sip. “It can be a regular meal or even eating a bar if you’re busy at work. Just make it a more mindful and rewarding experience.”

From ten minute walking meditations during your lunch break to enjoying your morning coffee and acknowledging every taste and sensation, we all have small opportunities for mindfulness every day.

Take advantage of those tiny moments, and it’ll all add up to a living a life that you’ll look back upon with a smile.

Listen to my entire conversation with Elisha Goldstein on the donothing podcast. Learn more about the science behind meditation, how he started a successful career in mindfulness after serious life struggles, his advice on living in the present moment, and much more. 

Join my mailing list and get my mindfulness resources guide for free. Learn about my mission to show business leaders how mindfulness can transform you and your business in my book donothing and on www.donothingbook.com. I’d love to connect with you on Twitter and LinkedIn, and keep up with my company imageOne.

Julieanna HeverDr. Andrew Weil