Mindfulness for Westerners

The practice of mindfulness, which is defined as an active and open attention to the present*, has become fully immersed in the Western world. Many Westerners struggle with the concept of mindfulness. Imagine how many Westerners would interpret the following quote from the book The Power of Now:

“At the deepest Level of Being, you are one with all that is”

Echhart Tolle

Cue the eye roll.

What we (and by “we” I mean my readers from the Western Hemisphere) need to have is concrete evidence. Saying “you are one with all that is” doesn’t cut it. We need data points to track our growth. Data is the new bacon. And dang nab it, we Westerners want some juicy bacon.

The problem is mindfulness doesn’t exactly entail bacon. Mindfulness isn’t something you chart on a board and write down your KPI’s (key performance indicators). Buddhist monks, who were the originators of mindfulness, weren’t discussing their quarterly progress towards enlightenment.

So how do Westerners, caught up in a data driven society, become in tune with mindfulness? Management consultant and author Peter Drucker famously said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Let’s think like Drucker for a moment. What if there were KPIs to track our progress towards improved mindfulness?

If Drucker built a time machine and teleported back in time to collaborate with Buddhist monks, here are two strategies they’d come up with.

1. Count The Number Of Times You Return To The Present

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you know how hard it is to remain present. The purpose of a meditational practice is to clear your mind from the millions of thoughts that run through your noggin.

I’ve heard countless people say they have trouble meditating because their minds continuously wander. Instead of clearing your head, you plan out what’s for dinner, think through your workday, and contemplate your weekend. Some may consider their mind drifting off as a bad thing.

Here’s the catch, by recognizing your mind has wandered off, you’re able to return to the present. By realizing you’re not present, you return to the present. That in itself is a win.

Let’s say you meditate for five minutes, and in those five minutes you catch your mind drifting off 25 times. That’s 25 times you bring yourself back to the present moment. The act of returning to the present goes beyond meditational practices. The same goes for whatever you’re doing at any moment.

Don’t beat yourself up when you drift off. Instead, pat yourself on the back when you recognize the distraction and return to the present moment, no matter how brief of a return it is.

Mindful KPI #1 – Tally how many times you return to the present

2. Make Time For Activities To Be Fully Present

For large portions of our days, there are things we aren’t excited to be doing. Taking the trash out, commuting to work, and staring at your monitor screen are not likely to channel the mindfulness we strive for. If your entire day is filled with activities you couldn’t give two hoots about, your mind will begin to wander, and sometimes not to the best places.

If your day is filled with nondescript activities, it’s critical to schedule activities in your day that promote being present. Keep in mind meditation is not the only way to center yourself into the present. Depending on the person, this can include such things as working out, watching your favorite sitcom, or calling a friend.

Regardless of the activity, you should experience total immersion in what you’re doing to the point you lose track of time. Psychologists call this being in a state of flow. Athletes call this being in the zone. Actors call this being in character.

All you’re thinking about (if you are thinking at all) is the task at hand, whether that’s running through a park, nailing a 5-foot putt, or solving a crossword puzzle. Your mind is focused to the point you aren’t wondering what time it is, when a Covid-19 vaccine will be readily available, or who’s going to be sent home next on The Bachelorette.

Mindful KPI #2 – Tally how many daily activities cause you to “lose track of time.”

Mindfulness Opportunities

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to practice mindfulness and being present. We’re surrounded by gazillion distractions, worst of which is the buzzing smartphone attached to your body. We’re constantly reminded how much we suck at this mindful gig.

But don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself credit for the moments you are fully present. And the best way to give yourself credit is by recognizing measurable KPI’s that demonstrate your mindful gains. Reflect on each day and think about the activities that got you in the zone. If you didn’t allocate time today towards mindful activities, whether that’s swinging a golf club or solving a puzzle, think about implementing those activities tomorrow.

The same goes for the number of times you return to the present. Don’t think of losing sight of the present as a failure. Instead, recognize the success of taking a moment and bringing yourself back to the present.

Learn to combine practices from the Eastern and Western Hemispheres to make the masterpiece that is your life. It’s one of the most important things you’ll ever do.


*For a deeper analysis of mindfulness, check out this resource from Psychology Today

Enjoy this post? Subscribe and get notified when new content is released.

Success! You're on the list.

Finding The Root Of Your Pain

Life consists of pain.  This is a universal experience for all humans.  Pain can be experienced physically throughout our body as well as mentally or emotionally within our minds.  Naturally when we experience pain, we’re quick to pinpoint the issue.

The fact we assess pain quickly is a good thing.  It means we desire to get rid of it as fast as possible.  While it’s good to address pain quickly, the act of making a snap assessment doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s an accurate assessment.  The issue lies in that by swiftly acting to make things better, we don’t properly address the root of the pain.

A personal example (which some of you may have experienced) is the unpleasantness of low back pain.  It goes without saying I’m not a doctor.  I’m using a metaphor of back pain based off my own experience.  Please consult a professional for any medical problems!

Low Back Pain

One evening I was tying my shoelaces and afterwards felt inflammation in my lower back.  Over the coming weeks and months this became an ongoing issue.  As a problem solver, I began attempting pain alleviation through foam rolling, applying heat, and stretching directly where the pain existed.  I was convinced the problem rested solely in my lower back.   Initially I did not entertain that the cause of my pain was a result of weaknesses in other parts of my body.

While there’s no debating my back was in pain doesn’t necessarily mean it was the root of the pain.  In reality the issue was weaknesses in the areas around my lower back.  I began stretching my hips, hip flexors, and hamstrings.  As a result I noticed drastic improvement in my back health.

Finding the Root

To find the root to a problem one must evaluate the big picture.  Dealing with my back, I was forced to evaluate the whole anatomy of my body.  Our bodies, just like our lives, are interconnected.  Therefore to address pain one must take into account all external and internal variables that could contribute to the pain.

There are countless examples of miss identifying the root of pain.  See below three instances in which we seemingly identify the root of each of these people’s problems:

  1. The root of your neighbor’s alcoholism is a lack of self-control
  2. The root of an athlete’s knee pain is their knee joint
  3. The root of child’s headache is too much sun exposure

These problems and roots seem pretty straight forward.  After further analysis, it turns out the root of the issues were the following…

  1. The root of your neighbor’s alcoholism is a lack of self-control loneliness
  2. The root of an athlete’s knee pain is their knee joint tight quads
  3. The root of child’s headache is too much sun exposure dehydration 

In all three examples, what turned out to be the root cause may not have been obvious upon first analysis.  It’s a common mistake to find a solution to the consequence instead of the root.  Solving the consequence may help in the short run, but surely the root will generate a consequence of the same magnitude or greater in the future.  Therefore it’s imperative to properly identify the root, which is only discoverable through deep personal introspection or through the help of those you trust.

Enjoy this post? Subscribe and get notified when new content is released.

Success! You're on the list.

How To Clear Your Mind

What separates humans from other living creatures is our capacity for higher level thinking.  While it’s great we have powerful minds, it can also be our worst enemy.  Everyday our minds jump from thought to thought.  This can be detrimental to our well-being.  It prevents us from living in the present, whether that’s enjoying the small pleasures of life or focusing on the task at hand.

So how do we manage all these thoughts swirling around in our heads?  You do it by writing things down.  By writing things down, we remove the urge to keep things stuck in our heads.  I’ve categorized three different types of things that lurk in our minds.  They are tasks, ideas, and baggage.  I will briefly explain each category and why it’s beneficial to write each down.

Writing Down Your Tasks

Tasks can be considered errands, or things that must get done.  On days in which there’s a lot to do, it can be stressful keeping track of everything.  When this happens, write it all down!  Part of our stress can be attributed to our fear of forgetting something.  By writing down each task, it allows us to approach our objectives in a calm and organized way.

Writing Down Your Ideas

Ideas can include things such as your next great startup idea, the punch line to a funny joke, or potential names for your new pet.  As humans we are gifted with creative minds.  The problem is many people don’t record their ideas.  As a result these ideas slip from our minds.

Writing down ideas is beneficial in two ways.  First it prevents us from letting those ideas slip into the oasis.  Secondly it allows us to build on past ideas.  For example let’s say one day you write down your idea for a startup.  The following day you write down the name of the startup, potential target markets, and so on.  As they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were your creative ideas.

Writing Down Your Baggage

Baggage can be things such as emotional scars, regrets, long-held animosities,  and all those other unpleasant feelings.  Is it critical to write down what we’re feeling.  Some may argue venting about your problems to others is the solution.  While I do agree there is a time and place for that, I’m also a firm believer there are things that can only be expressed through written language.  It can be hard to fully convey your feelings verbally, especially when it’s something you’re extremely emotional about.


If you’re looking to release your mind from all the bombardment of thoughts, take the time to write things down.  You’ll become more productive and creative.  Most importantly, you’ll provide an outlet to release your mind of the negative thoughts swirling around in your head.  If the end goal is to clear our minds, the most simplistic way of achieving that is by writing everything down.

Enjoy this post? Subscribe and get notified when new content is released.

Success! You're on the list.