Chasing Mindfulness in Micro Disasters

How a flat tire helped me take notice.

Most of our work days are marked by a low grade chaotic hum fueled by 25 tasks for 20 slots.  Whether you are selling stuff, raising kids or running a company, the demands outstrip the time. Scientific evidence is stacking up around the benefits of mindfulness in our daily lives. Slowing down and clearing the decks for a few seconds seems to improve creative thinking and change the structure of your brain. Sometimes a moment of mindfulness can be found in the midst of life’s micro disasters.

The Mindfulness of Micro Disasters

Don, Doing Work While I Undo the Perfection of My 5 Seconds of Mindfulness By Pulling Out My iPhone.

Thousands of blog posts tell you how to be more mindful in your daily life. Ideas range from “put your phone down” to meditate 1 hour a day. I was reminded recently that a mindfulness practice does not have to be constrained to a daily time block or structured practice. Sometimes life’s micro disasters give you just the moment you need to quiet the mind for a few seconds, just enough to clarify your thinking, solve a problem or deliver the peace that comes with silence

On an early morning mountain bike ride with my friend Don, we were beating each other to a pulp and one of life’s micro disasters popped up. We had a flat tire. Micro, because these things happen and we were prepared. Disaster, because we were racing each other and the clock.

A wave of anxiety washed over me as I rehearsed my, “sorry I had a flat tire” language. As I reached into my pack for the tools we needed, I glanced up the canyon. The pressure of a max heart rate and max work stress weighed on me and I almost missed it. The sun had just come up, the mist hung in the canyon, the crisp air filled my lungs. For a few seconds that felt like eternity, anxiety was replaced by calm, the world just stopped spinning. The average present moment awareness lasts 3-4 seconds and that is generally enough to hit a big reset button.

Since my experience on the trail, I am aware of these moments throughout my day. High stress seems to make the experience more acute.  Next time you are faced with one of life’s micro disasters, take a deep breath, clear your mind and see what happens.