We’ve all heard that mindfulness is something we should practice. But what is it? Is it really that important? How can you do it? And why might Intuitive personality types balk at learning and practicing mindfulness, when they especially need it?
First, a simple working definition. For the purpose of this article, mindfulness is simply paying attention to information from our senses and the world around us, focusing on what’s happening in the moment instead of getting lost in what’s going on in our heads. Sensing personality types may be most at ease in the moment, finding joy and reassurance in what their senses take in.
By contrast, Intuitives (N in the Myers and Briggs system) are more at ease in their mind than their body. They don’t like to feel bogged down by external routines and may be annoyed by anything that puts limits on their imagination or their mind traveling to wherever it finds to go. For Intuitives, mindfulness can feel like just another chore to do – something hard or boring that doesn’t offer any benefit.
But mindfulness doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming. It doesn't have to be any kind of formal practice. And rather than limiting your imaginative wanderings, it can simply be a way to recharge in-between them, so your mind can be calmer, happier and more effective.
Let’s start by looking at some reasons why you, as an Intuitive, might want to consider giving mindfulness a try.
Four ways Intuitives can benefit from mindfulness
1: To keep from burning out
No matter how much you enjoy the free travels of your mind, too much time inside your own head and away from the simpler aspects of life can be exhausting. Occasionally taking time out to take a breath, notice your surroundings, or simply enjoy the moment can help you recharge so your mind will work better instead of working against you.
When you’re constantly spending too much time in the past, the future, and the theoretical, you can forget to live right here and right now. You miss out on good things that can happen in the moment. Plus, all that activity in your head, however brilliant or beautiful, can get exhausting. But if you ground yourself in your senses every now and then, and pay attention to the simplicity of this moment, it can keep it from all just becoming too much.
2: To keep from spinning out
Sometimes all that mental motion can feel less like soaring to great heights and more like speeding out of control. You can feel caught up in a swirling storm that's carrying you to places you may not want to go.
Suddenly, what started out creative or inspiring can end up leaving you anxious, disconnected and out of breath. All the “what if’s” can become less about wonderful possibilities and more about overwhelming worries. Mindfulness can help you slow down, turn down the volume, and keep from skidding or free-falling out of control.
3: To keep from missing out
Mindfulness can be as simple and joyful as noticing the world around you and enjoying where you are right now. For instance, let’s say you take a walk or jog every day to get your steps in. So you put in your earbuds and tune into a podcast, put your head down, and hurry through the required distance.
You are so tuned in to the voice coming through your phone or simply the noise inside your head that you don't notice anything around you. You miss the wonderful colors and fragrances of the new flowers blooming, the blue-winged butterfly floating past you, and the dog that would really like for you to pet its soft fur. You might also, ironically, miss some intuitive connections you might gain from paying attention to what’s going on around you.
4: To help you change it out
Let's say you're awake (still, again) and you really need to sleep. Or maybe you're feeling things you don't want to feel or thinking things that aren't helpful. You really want to get somewhere else (like asleep or calm or happy) but find that trying hard doesn't help. Mindfulness can help you ease toward where you want to be by starting with where you are now.
We all know that just telling ourselves to go to sleep already, or to calm down, or to feel differently than we feel or not think what we’re thinking is the opposite of helpful. (Remember being told not to think of pink elephants?)
You need a bridge and a travel plan that doesn’t feel forced. Mindfulness can help you use just noticing and being where you are to get where you want to be in a gentle, gradual way, while also enjoying your current location, and the journey.
How to be more mindful
Now that you’re convinced that mindfulness just may be worth trying after all, let’s explore a few ways to get started.
Use your senses
What do you see, hear, feel, taste or smell right now? How can you use those things to enjoy the moment more, gain some insight, or just slow down and calm down? Start with what is. Then think about the pleasant sensations you can dwell on or cultivate.
If you’re in bed awake and don’t want to be, start with what you feel. Ideally, you should focus on what comfort you can find in your senses: the soft pillow under your head, the warm blanket embracing you, the soothing darkness in the room, the sweet smell of lavender from the diffuser.
Or, during your busy day, just take a moment to really enjoy the steaming cup of tea or coffee you’re drinking, inhaling the steam and fragrance, feeling the warmth on your hands, savoring the subtle flavors. Consider it a micro-vacation instead of just a caffeine-infusion to mindlessly consume.
Do the same with your favorite treat, such as a few squares of really good dark chocolate. Instead of shoving it in your mouth while you work away at your keyboard, just trying to gain enough energy to keep going for another hour, take in the rich aroma, the velvety texture, the blissful blend of bitter and sweet.
Close your eyes, appreciate the experience, and feel the endorphin infusion. It’s sometimes the tiny luxuries, and how we savor them, that bring joy to our lives and help us find our reset button.
Use your body
Conveniently, we always carry our best mindfulness tools around with us. Our brain and nervous system, though they sometimes need to be quieted down, are also essential to the awareness and sensory information needed for mindfulness. But our bodies are also a great help in practicing mindfulness. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths to slow everything down or feeling your feet planted firmly beneath you to literally ground you.
Take going for a walk as an example. You can make a point of being aware of what you see, hear and smell as you move your body out in the world. You can also feel your body moving, the firm ground beneath you as you take each step, the sun warming your back or a gentle breeze caressing your skin.
Keep it small and achievable
You don’t have to make mindfulness a formal practice or commit to spending large stretches of time thinking about what’s going on around or inside you at this moment. You can just take a few seconds throughout your day to slow yourself down and enjoy the small things you tend to overlook while getting lost in your big ideas.
By practicing these strategies, you’ll see that mindfulness is not a master you’re enslaved to, but a tool you can take out when you need it. It can even become a treat that helps make your days and hours more pleasurable – and your mind more clear and relaxed.