Train Your Brain in Mindfulness
Bill Cottringer

“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Why train your brain in “mindfulness?” Because mindfulness is what facilitates the other major components of emotional intelligence—self, awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills. And, there is enough evidence that proves emotional intelligence (EQ), drives success as much as IQ, if not more. At the very least, emotional intelligence, which can be learned, can make up significant gains in lost IQ points from genetics. You cannot develop the needed emotional intelligence skills without being mindful.

So, what exactly is “mindfulness?” Four decades ago, Psychologist Ellen Langer started researching this important state of being. It was her way of helping people move from being overwhelmed with chaos on autopilot to more purposeful self-management. This led to better managing of the manageable things which were more important, letting go of the rest of the nonsense that goes on in our minds. The nonsense is what causes undue and unnecessary, disabling stress. Life is stressful enough without us adding an extra layer by being stressed about being stressed.

Mindfulness is the essence of engagement—putting you more in the present tense and more sensitive to the context and perspective of what you are experiencing. This is opposed to remembering past experience which may not even be relevant, or worrying about future things that won’t ever come about. Rest assured that your bad experiences and failures of the past, will intuitively lead you to avoid them when they happen again. But you can’t consciously take advantage of your intuition without being more mindful. It is engagement by mindfulness that leads to productivity and creativity, two qualities we can’t do without in our success quest.

Mindfulness embraces a strange, fundamental truth perspective that is hard to digest, involving the traditional concept of “time,” especially the perceived movement from the past to the present to the future. When you strip time of all the unnecessary, man-made measurements— sun dials, hour glasses, clocks, calendars, watches and the illusory idea of a past and future and spaces in between things like a question and answer or separate events—all that you have left is the ever-expanding now moment. This is the true meaning of “eternity.” Thinking about the past that no longer exists or the future that isn’t here yet, takes too much valuable time away from your present experiences, which are really all that count.

The next question is how to train your brain to be more mindful? Here are a few useful tips to inspire you to develop your own brain exercises to do this.

1. Empathy leads to mindfulness, but mindfulness also returns to empathy. So, expose yourself to books, stories or movies that are empathy-packed. You will adopt empathy from the mere exposure and be entertained at the same time. These things quickly and effectively take you to a state or mindfulness.

2. Talk to other people a lot. That is the easiest way to gain some of the best empathy-enabling understanding of different perspectives and at the dame time improve another aspect of emotional intelligence—making the necessary emotional connection with others. You will learn a lot of other useful things too. Just another good way to spend your time.

3. Conduct a rational inventory about how you spend most of your time to become aware of how much time you are wasting re-living past memories or anticipating future expectations. That will inspire you to spend more time engaging with life in the present moment, which is always the best way to spend your time.

4. Practice being generous with your renewed compassion from your empathy gains. It serves no good purpose to keep good thoughts in your mind if you don’t deliver them with your hands. Love and compassion for others is the goal of developing and using emotional intelligence to be more successful in what you are doing. It sounds trite but it is still true.

5. Force yourself to stop and notice all the little details and moments in your immediate environment and you will find that they aren’t so little. This kind of appreciation and gratitude attracts big dividends. I will always personally treasure Will Smith’s advice in “Hitch.” He reminded me that “It isn’t the amount of breaths you take; it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

6. Practice some form of de-stressing. Less stress equals more mindfulness because stress always involves too much time fretting about the past or worrying about the future. This is why I do photography, writing and hiking. They all clear my mind and thinking for better use in the present moment.

7. Realize that mindfulness is more of a natural state of mind than what normally goes on and so, you really can’t acquire or capture it any more than trying to lift yourself up by you own bootstraps. Like the Beatles’ used to say, “Let it be” and it will.

Practice more mindfulness and watch your failures disappear and more successes appear.

“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness; Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Coming soon: A Cliché a day will keep the Vet Away (Another Dog’s Tale). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or