How to Prepare Mindfully For Anything
Preparation often comes up during discussions about the joy of mindfulness and living in the present moment. After all, how can you live in the present while still preparing for the future?
It’s so easy to think that the goal of mindfulness is to exist in the veil of permanent presence, moving slowly, and fully experiencing every part of every moment to the fullest. And while immersion in the present is important, it’s a mistake to think that mindfulness practice is always like this.
Mindfulness practice is also about preparing for the future. It’s about planning with awareness so that when a new present moment arises, we can respond with skill and wisdom.
Recently I’ve been preparing for a business pitching competition that I entered. And I’ve had some time to reflect on what it means to prepare mindfully. Here is what I learned (or learned again I should say):
Prepare for Perfect Imperfection
Often I catch my clients and myself creating plans based on everything going perfectly. We’ll create our schedules by stacking one thing on top of the next and calculating our travel time down to the millisecond. We do with the idea that everything will go smoothly. But in reality, things rarely go as smoothly as we would like.
Mindful preparation is about planning for mistakes to be made. On practical level this means leaving more time for travel, more time to get dressed, and more time to have important conversations. On a spiritual level this means allowing for set backs and the chances for discovery they create. As well as, planning in a way that takes into account the random beautiful chaos of life.
Prepare with Space
Preparing with space simply means that we schedule or create time to pause and be with what is going on. It also means that when we are in the midst of getting ready that we realize that the time we aren’t working can be just as important as the moments we’re toiling away.
Preparing for space not only helps us deal with problems that arise. It also gives us the space we need to reflect and practice being fully present as we engage in future events. On a practical level this means putting OPEN appointments on our calendar, making time for meditation, and taking regular breaks.
Preparation Isn’t About Certainty
Some people prepare so things will go exactly how they want them to. And while being clear on what you want to achieve is important, becoming attached to one specific outcome is dangerous.
When we get attached to one way of being, we limit our ability to respond the way the world around us is changing. But if instead of shooting for certainty you prepare by working to accept that things change, you are much more likely to be able to respond with a cool head. For must of us this means that you need to be prepared enough to ad lib, but not so prepared that you have it memorized. You need to know the outline, without getting caught up with every comma in the text.
Prepare for Acceptance
Preparing for a big event can bring up a lot of fears, frustrations, and anxieties. Nevertheless, it’s a mistake to try to avoid these feelings by working harder on getting ready. If you do, you are only delaying your fears and anxieties until the exact moment you’re preparing for.
Instead, it’s important to notice and accept these feeling as they arise, exist, and disappear. The easiest way to do this is to pause and acknowledge when you are feeling fear or frustration. Then spend a few breaths being present with that feeling before you get back to work.
By practicing being present with these small fears and anxieties, it’ll be easier to notice and accept these feelings when they come up on your big day.
A Final Note on Mindful Preparation
Along with all of the above points, practicing mindfulness is itself one of the best forms of preparation you can do. Practicing mindfulness teaches you to have faith in your own wisdom and ability to respond skillfully no matter what arises. Moreover, while being mindful by itself isn’t enough to fully prepare, if you combine planning with mindfulness, you can create the space you need to meet the future with equanimity and compassion.