Catskill local Megan Montenaro started her business, Relax It’s Flowers, to combine her love of flower arrangement with her focus on mindfulness. According to Megan, arranging flowers creates the perfect environment to focus all your energy on the present. Relax It’s Flowers offers 90-minute classes to learn just that. Megan unplugged and relaxed at our New York Outpost earlier this month. Now, she’s sharing one of her favorite mindful practices.
Learn to Listen: Your Mind (Heart, Blood Pressure, and Joints) Will Thank You
In the morning, do you reach for your phone and check email before you’re even fully awake? In the evening, do you fall asleep as you scroll through Instagram?
When you have to wait in a doctor’s office, for a friend who’s running late to your brunch, or for a meeting to start, do you fill these moments with mindless scrolling as opposed to mindful thinking?
If you answered yes to any – or all – of these, I have a hunch you would benefit from this wonderful listening exercise. I used to do this every morning, before I got out of bed. It would remind me that being mindful, in any situation, can shift aversion to indifference and you can control your reaction. I sadly stopped the practice a few months ago, but spending the night tucked away in the woods of Catskill, in the Eleanor cabin at Getaway, was the perfect time to begin again.
It doesn’t take long, no one will notice if you want to do this in public, and I promise it will help on many levels (just google “physical benefits of mindfulness” if you need more convincing).
Are you ready?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and as you finish your exhale, begin to listen for 5 different sounds. At first you might hear nothing at all, or everything might blend together to form “noise.” Breathe again, relax, and keep listening. Don’t describe what you’re hearing. As soon as you identify a sound, move on to the next. Let the sounds come in and out of your ears, rising and falling, like waves in the ocean. If you get distracted and start thinking about what’s in your inbox – take another deep breath, feeling how it’s cold on the way in and warm on the way out.
Just listen. That’s all you have to do. When you reach 5 sounds, take a deep breath and begin again. This time, count only four different sounds. Do it again, but count three sounds. Then two. Now one.
What did you hear? Did you always hear the same sounds, and in the same order? Was one of them annoying at first, but then it didn’t even bother you? Did you even hear it anymore?
Being mindful is the exact opposite of multi-tasking. It is doing one thing at a time, on purpose and with purpose. If you’re doing that – in this case if you’re just listening – it should be impossible to do anything else, and your mind will be quiet. Only when your mind is quiet will you have the space to avoid automatic reactions and decisions made from a place of fear or panic. Soon you will find, the problem isn’t your problem, it’s your reaction to the problem that’s your problem.
The next time you have a few minutes and you find yourself reaching for your phone, don’t. Just listen.