Wisdom 2.0 founder Soren Gordhamer shows how to do it.
Author, entrepreneur and mindfulness expert Soren Gordhamer is on a mission to help people live more wisely, mindfully and compassionately in a world where everything competes for our attention. His philosophy is based on enriching life by being present in every moment, acting with intention and following your energy. He believes that practicing mindfulness can be a priceless part of good health.
As a major force in spreading the mindfulness philosophy, Gordhamer holds an annual conference called Wisdom 2.0, has published a book by the same name and is the co-founder of a company called Lucid that makes a mental performance training app. With all of that going on, it’s clear that from his perspective, busy-ness does not preclude mindfulness.
As recently as seven years ago, mindfulness was not a commonly known concept. Today, it’s becoming a much bigger part of the mainstream notion of health.
Back then, Gordhamer says, “You had to explain what you meant about mindfulness. And in some ways, it’s not even the best word because it sounds like your mind is full, as if your mind is full of things. That is why so often when I talk about mindfulness, I talk about the word ‘presence.’”
Gordhamer’s definition of mindfulness is “bringing quality presence to whatever is in front of us.” But technology is making that more challenging.
With our mobile phones, social media and work, technology constantly demands attention. It splits our focus, reducing our ability to concentrate. The average mobile phone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times every day and spends 145 minutes on the device, according to a study released this past July by research firm discout. That’s more than 882 hours per year spent glued to a mobile device.
While Gordhamer says he loves and uses technology himself, it has its place. Life is filled with precious moments, but if we are always glued to our screens, we miss them.
“Because we are flooded with information,” Gordhamer says, “Many people are looking at mindfulness practices and being present as a way to regenerate, refresh and come back to themselves.”
Being present can also benefit our relationships — romantic, familial, close friend or casual.
“Thich Nhat Hanh said that the greatest gift we can give another person is our presence,” Gordhamer says. “So how do we give that gift to more and more people throughout the day and to ourselves?”
From Gordhamer’s perspective, building mindfulness into your day doesn’t mean you have to change your daily activities. Simply practice mindfulness throughout the day. Be present no matter what you undertake. Check in with your state of mind every few hours. Ask yourself what you are feeling in that moment. Focus on your actions and what’s going on around you. Once you get used to checking in with your state of mind, you can more easily determine what your body needs. It sounds easy enough, but to keep true to this practice, you have to have intention.
Act with intention
Intention is the conscious choice of action. It means that you know what you’re choosing — and giving up — whenever you do something.
To illustrate this point, Gordhamer talked about visiting the Eiffel Tower this past summer. While he was there, many of the people around him were taking in the experience and enjoying it. But others were busy taking photos and videos, documenting their visit to the tower, instead of absorbing the magnificence of the building, the view of Paris and the human achievement the architecture represents.
“There’s a tendency in our culture to be so active documenting everything that we miss out on the experience,” he says. “We want to show people that we were at the Eiffel Tower, more than we want to experience what it means to be at the Eiffel Tower.”
That’s where intention comes in. Take one or two photos, and then put the camera away. Enjoy the sprawling landscape of the city of Paris below you with your eyes instead of through a camera lens. Breathe in the scents of Paris. Feel the cool wind on your cheek. Be in the place: the Eiffel Tower.
It’s the same with human interactions, where relationships increasingly take place electronically instead of in person. Today, we pay for coffee or groceries with our phones or by sticking a credit card in a reader instead of looking a cashier in the eye and handing him or her money. When we’re in cafés, we look down at our devices instead of talking to the person across from us.
It takes intention to put human connection above all else and to put the phone away when you’re eating dinner with your family. When you’re texting someone, it takes intention to make plans to meet in person so you can talk face to face, instead of holding a conversation one line at a time. It’s easier to have compassion and empathy when you see your friend across from you. Following your intention also means not getting wrapped up in documenting the moment or playing a game.
Follow your energy
Being present in the moment and following your intention makes you more mindful and helps with day-to-day living, but what if you’re not sure about what it’s adding up to — what you want to do in life?
When Gordhamer gets asked that question, he tells people it comes back to what they find energizing. He responds with a question: “When you have free time, what do you do?”
When they answer, he tells them to put more time into and attention on that passion. Perhaps it will turn into a vocation, or it may not, but it can lead to something great.
He tells a story of a friend of his who left Facebook and didn’t know what to do next. She liked to draw but didn’t think she was good at it. So she drew stick figures. And then she’d write comments below the stick figures. She called her venture Dharma Comics and Gordhamer says it has taken off like wildfire. If she had focused her thoughts on her lack of artistic talent instead of drawing what she wanted to — stick figures — she would have missed her opportunity.
“Generally, our bodies and our systems are already moving us towards certain answers, and if we try and label it, it doesn’t work. But if you see that you have energy for something, follow that and see where it goes. I find that the results are much more rewarding when I just trust and follow the energy.”
Wisdom 2.0 takes place February 17-19, 2017. You can find more mindfulness tips in Soren Gordhamer’s book “Wisdom 2.0,” published by HarperOne.
Tips for Daily Mindfulness
Here are three quick mindfulness tips from Soren Gordhamer that you can start today.
- Explore what brings you joy.
“There’s something about having an experience that brings you joy that then awakens you and creates more mindfulness,” says Gordhamer. He suggests that you find your moments of joy throughout the day and cultivate them. Then make sure you set aside time for them, even if it’s five or 10 minutes to start.
- Start the day in a creative space.
“When you wake up in the morning, spend five to 20 minutes in a creative space that sets in motion what you want to create for the day.” It can be writing in a journal, a short meditation or a walk, but spend it intentionally setting forth what you want your day to be like.
- Take time to breathe.
Instead of checking your phone while waiting in line, try a short breathing exercise. Stand up tall and release any tension you’re feeling in your shoulders and jaw. Inhale deeply and naturally. Concentrate on your breath. When ready, slowly exhale. Repeat three times.