We make decisions, big and small, all day. Some decisions are relatively inconsequential, like deciding what to wear or which way to take to work. They are split second decisions we don’t even think about. When was the last time you thought about your response to the cashier asking “how are you?”? Then there are decisions that seem small, but when we repeat them over and over again can have big impact. The decision to drive without a seatbelt or smoke a cigarette. Next, there are the decisions we spend time thinking about. For example, deciding to spend a lot of money on something or considering how to respond to an email that triggered some emotions. Finally, there are what I think of as soul decisions – decisions that will have a sweeping impact on how you live your life. These are the big decisions like committing to a relationship or ending a relationship; career choices; where you live; how you live in alignment with who you want to be.
Whether big or small, being mindful to the decisions we make each day can help guide us towards living fuller lives. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment while noticing our story lines without getting caught up in the story. We can bring mindfulness to the small decisions by simply slowing down. It looks like physically slowing down and observing. Look at what your choices are to wear today. Take a breath. What inspires you? What is the story attached to that shirt or those jeans? Do you want to honor that story or retire it? It may sound silly, but this is where the practice happens; because as the decisions get bigger or more meaningful, it gets even trickier.
What is the story when you make a decision to repeat a bad habit? We have so many stories, it can be hard to hear them all. So, the practice is the same. Slow down. Take a breath. Listen to the story without judging or reacting. Typically, there are stories of rejections or fear; stories that are old and even inherited from our families. When we are mindful and listen to the stories we can respond without reacting or rationalizing.
The most important decisions are soul decisions. If you’ve practiced bringing mindfulness to everyday decisions, you will find yourself bringing a deeper level of mindfulness to soul decisions.
You can bring mindfulness to soul decisions by:
Creating Space: Dedicate protected time for your mindfulness practice. Remember, this does not mean thinking, making lists, charting pros and cons. This means taking space to just be and notice.
Breathe: To clear the mind, let your focus rest on your breath for several minutes. Follow the breath in and out. Notice the exhale and inhale. Watch the stories arise and then bring your attention back to your breathing.
Notice: Notice what you are feeling, both physically and emotionally. Try not to resist the feelings – comfortable or uncomfortable.
Ask the questions: Once you have become fully present, you can ask yourself what your intention is in this decision. Letting go of any stories, in this moment, what is that you want, what is your intention? Does this line up with the decision you are making?
Notice Again: Then notice how this feels in the body. What does it feel like? Where do you feel it? Regardless of all of the old stories, how does it feel right now, in this moment?
At the end of the day, we all want peace and happiness. Mindfulness reminds us that our path to peace and happiness happens moment by moment, through our small decisions and our big soul decisions.
What will you decide?