Mindfulness is the central skill we need to live in a state of mindcoolness.
Over the years, I have tried and trained various techniques to exercise my mindful spirit, my “consciousness” if you will. But I know that some men despise spirituality altogether, so here I present to you a few of my favorite non-spiritual mindfulness practices.
Just sit down (or, more advanced, stand up) and focus on not moving. Naturally, your belly will expand and contract as you breathe, but you do not voluntarily move your body: not your arms, not your fingers, not your eyes, not your mouth, not your head, nothing. If something itches you, well, bad for you—you do not move. If saliva runs out of your mouth, well, so be it.
You just sit (or stand) in silence and focus on zero volitional movement. This is the simplest and best way to increase your bodily self-control.
Turn it into a challenge! Before you start, set an alarm on your phone. Just 3 minutes on the first day. Then increase the duration by 30 seconds each day and watch your self-control steadily improve.
As a man, you must be in command of your body. Mindful motionlessness is a form of meditation that enhances your self-control strength non-spiritually. Motion control trains you like a mime, like a soldier in the army, like a Royal Guard, like a traditional martial artist.
Before every heavy deadlift set, in the very last second before I pull, I always run a quick full-body scan in my mind. With lightning speed, I send little flashes of attention to all parts of my body so that during my lift I have maximum muscle engagement. It feels like all 550 muscles of my body are contributing and my consciousness is in every one of them, ideally, in every single muscle fiber.
A barbell is an excellent tool for mindfulness training.
The only reservation here is that you have to be a somewhat advanced lifter. Unless you have a solid motor pattern of the deadlift firmly ingrained in your nervous system, I recommend you focus on the technique first. As a beginner, use your conscious effort to improve your technique, not on being mindful (although these two activities overlap, of course).
Once you have the deadlift down pat, using it for mindfulness training will also improve your raw pulling strength because you learn to recruit your motor neurons more efficiently. This is what Arnold Schwarzenegger called the mind-muscle connection.
For me, this is a most uncomfortable mindfulness practice. Whether you do Yoga or simple static stretching, prepare yourself for pain and discomfort.
On the outside, stretching (or foam rolling) does not look impressive, certainly not badass. On the inside, though, you need to toughen up hard to endure the discomfort for extended periods. Everybody can hold a stretch for a minute. Can you hold five for ten minutes each?
A deep stretch is not possible without a deep kinesthetic focus on your body. After a while, it will feel like you are breathing directly into the tension you are trying to dissolve.
There is one problem with stretching, though: A serious regular routine is a serious time investment. To motivate yourself beyond the mindfulness benefits, find a muscle tension you want to relieve, a physical affliction you want to cure, or a part of your posture you want to fix (check out the book Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett).
Conversely, if you should stretch anyway to improve your flexibility for a sport or to follow your physical therapist’s advice, you can use the mindfulness training aspect of it for additional motivation.
I have already written about why you should go outside for a walk whenever you do not feel great. The keys to walking outside are aimlessness and undistractedness. Walk without an aim and without distraction, and your walk will automatically train your skill of being mindful.
Have no place to go to; you are just leaving home. Have no plan to ponder on; you have left your worries at home. Have no audiobook to listen to; your consumerist habits must die.
Ideally, walk in nature, go into the woods. But even if you cannot leave the urban area, you can learn to appreciate the intelligent, creative, and productive forces that went into building all those gray, noisy objects around you.
Above all, be mindful less of the beauty of your surroundings and more of the beauty of your walking body. Be mindful of your way, your gait, your posture, and your breath—and be mindful of the air on your skin.
I especially love walking meditation when it is cold and rainy outside; for uncomfortable weather forces your consciousness deep into your body, similar to stretching and cold showers. Winter is a great season to leave your coat and jacket a home, and every “bad” weather is an opportunity to become more mindful and to toughen your immune system.
Patience is a virtue. Patience is power. And patience is a splendid chance to exercise mindfulness.
When you get bored in class or during a business meeting, shift your attention toward your body, particularly its breath and posture. You have to wait in a line, at the doctor’s office, in a traffic jam, at the DMV, for a bus, at the airport, or for new computer updates to finish? Shift your attention toward your body, particularly its breath and posture.
It is as simple as that to turn any upsetting time-waster into a productive training in being present. You can even combine your mindful patience with the self-control training (motionlessness) mentioned above.
Could there be a greater power than the ability to turn any life situation into an opportunity for constructive skill development?