Ofosu and Leah talk with meditator and martial artist Hakim Tafari about how he finds mindfulness outside of meditation—even when he's brushing his teeth. They discuss practical tips for becoming more mindful in situations where it can be difficult, and how mindfulness can feel like seeing life in 4K.
More about Hakim:
Hakim Tafari is a runner, meditator, martial artist, yogi, and musician. Hakim brings mindfulness to everything he does—especially exercise. You can follow him on Instagram @hakstao https://www.instagram.com/hakstao/
Well Balanced is co-hosted by the expert meditation coaches of Balance. Balance is a highly personalized meditation and sleep app that's been named Google's App of the Year and Apple's App of the Day. Completely free for the entire first year, Balance is helping 3 million+ people around the world improve their stress, sleep, focus, and mood. Unlock your free year of Balance today by downloading it from the App Store or Play Store: https://balanceapp.sng.link/Arat1/h3qp/icji
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Ofosu: Hey, what's up. I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey.
Leah: And I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We are the meditation coaches on the Balance app, and this is our weekly show, Well Balanced, where we're gonna explore ways to live a healthier and happier life.
Ofosu: So today we are gonna help you try to find mindfulness in your everyday life.
You know, those 23 and a half hours that you aren't actually meditating because mindfulness is about more than just meditation. And we've got an awesome guest who's gonna be helping us do just that. His name is Hakim Tari. He's a runner, meditator, martial artist, Yogi and musician. And a good brother of mine.
And was that the Google pixel super bowl ad you might've seen him in the super bowl? And he's here with us today. What up, Hakim?
Hakim: Wow. What a way to come in. I might have to start bringing you around with me to all of my fun times.
Leah: Yeah. It's uh, it's really exciting to have you here to just set the stage for the conversation. Uh, I'm just gonna give a definition of what we mean when we say mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially when we're paying attention intentionally to what is happening in the moment in the present moment. And we're doing that without judging. This is good. This is bad. I like this. I don't like this. We're just having an acute self-awareness and an awareness of our surroundings. So we can exist in our life without judgment.
Hakim: That was, that was pretty spot on. Yeah, that was beautiful.
Leah: Thank you. I just wanted to share a little bit about that because I think it's an overarching term that gets used a lot today without people knowing exactly what it means?
And it's not just a meditation. It can be so many other things in life, but the effects of it are pretty amazing. It literally changes our brain chemistry and the structures and activity in the regions of our brain that involve attention and regulating our emotions.
And it also makes us more positive and able to find more creativity in times that are really stressful when normally our brains wanna shut down and so much more. Honestly, that's just scratching the surface.
But the point is that it can really show those benefits everywhere in our life.
Ofosu: So, we wanted to talk with you today, Hakim, because in my eyes and in the eyes of so many, you are really living proof of this. And, I really wanted to start off by asking, how does mindfulness show up for you on a typical day?
Outside of meditation.
Hakim: You know, for me, I would say mindfulness shows up in almost every aspect of my being from just getting up in the morning to cleaning my teeth. I remember a long time ago when I went to my dentist and we were talking about mindfulness and he was saying, you know, you should treat your cleaning of your teeth as a meditation. And I really took that to heart and you know, it's a whole practice from the electric toothbrush to the mouthwash, to taking the time to thoroughly brush my teeth is a radical act of mindfulness.
Leah: What is that for someone going okay, mindfulness. This can be brushing my teeth, but what am I actually supposed to do?
Hakim: Okay. So I'll give you, I'll give you a step. I start off with a cup of water and rinsing out my mouth using the intention to cleanse whatever impurities are going on in my mouth. Taking the time to swish around thoroughly. I start to take a breath, and be mindful about my intention. Then I go to the mouthwash.
I do the same thing again, I put the intention of what I'm trying to do and take my time and make sure using the breath is the anchor. You know, for me, the breath is my anchor. When I get lost in thoughts or anything like that, I come back to the breath and then once I'm done with that, I get the toothbrush and each tooth gets the same type of love.
And then after that, I go to an electric toothbrush and it's like a process. And I build up on that process and it's not just how long I can do it. It's what I am getting out of it what's coming up. There might be something that comes up while brushing like, I could have acted better against this person, or I shouldn't have said something about this person, or I could have corrected this. Things come up in the practice.
And that's where you're able to investigate and notate. You might have the answer to climate change while cleaning your teeth and we laugh and joke about it, but it's true because now I'm exhibiting a certain type of mindfulness and it feels good in my body.
Leah: You recognize certain things that are unfinished that need attention.
Yeah, because you're not gonna have any thoughts when you're doing mindfulness or you're gonna just wash the dishes and have completely no thoughts. It's like, no, they're still gonna happen. It's just, you are, you're bringing full attention to what's happening in the sensations in your body.
And you're being really present with all that's happening in this current reality at this moment right now.
Hakim: As a result of taking my time and being more mindful, I'm able to think about things that happen throughout the day. Things that might go on throughout the day, and I'm able to maneuver and navigate and motivate myself sometimes. Whereas I would've just gone in, cleaned my teeth, sped out whatever, and maybe not have done a good job, right. And come out feeling empty. Whereas, when I'm cleaning my teeth, I know that I'm doing a service to myself. I know I'm doing a service to my body, and I know I'm doing a service to good humans because they're not smelling funky breath when I'm talking to them.
Leah: Yeah. That person sitting next to you on the plane appreciates it.
Hakim: Yeah. So there's certain things. And I mean, I, I use cleaning my teeth, but even, you know, with plant parents taking the time to nourish your plants.
Ofosu: Spoken like a plant parent yourself.
Leah: I know. I was like, do we have the same tree in the background?
Hakim: Oh yeah. Yeah. We definitely. Plant parents in this household.
Ofosu: Yeah. Yeah. I'm an orchid dad. So I get it.
Hakim: Taking the time to have conversations with the plants because they're living beings, too.
Leah: They like classical music by the way.
Hakim: Listen, they love all types of music. Trust me, trust me. When I put the Brazilian on my most plant is bumping just as much as I am.
So it's a great way to take your time and slow down and to really look at the 4k picture, as I always love to tell people, you know, back in the day, we were just used to black and white. Now we have 4k. Yeah. It's a big difference. And that's how my thoughts were maybe 15, 20 years ago it was black and white and now it's in 4k.
Now I see things in such a beautiful picture so to speak.
Leah: So I'm curious what you think for somebody who might be more of a beginner stepping into mindfulness. They're like brand new to this. They're going okay, where do I begin? What would be your advice on how they can find activities or certain mindsets that might help them achieve this in their own life, other than just sitting in the meditation of course?
Hakim: Yeah. You know, one of the things that is beautiful about the practice of mindfulness is that you can adopt it in anything you want to absolutely even working out as vigorous and as maybe intense as it is. There is still a high, intense activation of mindfulness that goes on, especially when you're lifting 30, 40 pound kettle bells.
The last thing you want to be doing is just swinging it without having some type of mindfulness about it.
So again, I'm exhibiting mindfulness when I'm working out, even just connecting with good friends that I had a chance to do today. And I felt myself having to kind of pause in certain ways of talking about my life and being mindful of the words that I say.
So there has to be a mindfulness when you are talking with your friends and colleagues, if you really love them the way you say you do.
Leah: Yeah. I find that in speaking with others that one of the more tricky areas for me to maintain mindfulness, because it's so easy to fall into the, um, the trap of thinking about how, what they're talking about relates to something in your life and getting lost in a tangent of, of thought about your own world and, and in an effort to wanna relate to the person. But without really actively listening to them in that moment, fully presently, or getting excited about what you're gonna say next.
Hakim: And that's one, one of the things about mindfulness that really has been a really great thing for me to really embellish is knowing that there is an art to listening, listening and paying attention to when somebody's talking, it's not always about me.
Ofosu: I appreciate what you shared about having the intention in your heart is a continuation of the practice of mindfulness. A friend of mine, her mom, has dementia. She's on call 24/7. There's a lot of stress. So she's just working. Her act of service to her mother is now her practice and she's able, she's paying attention to how her body moves when she's helping her mom with this or that she's coming back to her breath when it, the whole thing gets overwhelming and just listening to her talk today was a reminder of how mindfulness can be a support for us and, and be there for us in any number of scenarios.
Leah: I had this, this man named Ette, come in and speak at my latest teacher training. And he's an Indian philosopher and he was talking about mindfulness and how, as a part of his master's program in yoga and meditation, he had to have a certain amount of practice hours with people.
So this man came in, who has been a chain smoker for 20 something years. And he's just multiple packs of Marlboros a day. He came in and he said, listen, I'm gonna be easy. I'm not really interested in quitting smoking. My wife pushed me to do this. So I'm just gonna do it for two weeks with you and give you a nice sign off. And that'll be that. And she'll be happy that I tried.
And so he was already resigned to the fact that he didn't think this was gonna work or help him. So Ette goes well, if you're already not, you know, really interested in the practice, then there's no point in being here. We should just go out and have a smoke.
But we'll do it in the yogic way, in the mindful way, mindful smoking. And he goes, there's a mindfulness for smoking. And he goes, yeah, absolutely. So they walk outside and he goes, okay, now just take the cigarette very slowly. Mm-hmm and just notice it, how it feels in your hand mm-hmm and now bring it slowly to your mouth and smell it and then he smelled it.
And he goes, you light it, you notice the sounds of the lighting. Then you take a big inhale. And he had him take a bigger inhale than the man probably had ever inhaled. And he inhaled very slowly and he inhaled for about 20 seconds. And he said, the man's eyes got really big and they started to turn bloodshot and he was holding his breath and then he exhaled and he just stopped.
And he looked at him, he put the cigarette out and he walked off and he said, I didn't know if I was gonna get a really bad review because this man just walked off. I have no idea what happened. And he said, two weeks later, his wife came in, gave him a big thing of flowers and said, thank you. You helped my husband quit smoking.
And he asked the man finally, when he came around, he said, what happened?
He goes, well, all this time, you know, This man was a professor. He said, all this time, I thought smoking was helping me be more creative, cause it was giving me that time to breathe and be creative. And I realized this was the first time I ever realized that it felt like it was choking me and it was trying to strangle me.
So it was the first time I ever mindfully breathed in smoke and realized that doesn't feel good. So I wanna be here for my children. And so I think, you know, mindfulness can also be really powerful in helping us quit these bad habits and help us realize like, wait, is this actually what I wanna be doing?
Hakim: Yeah. Wow. And you know, for so many years he was living black and white because he was moving at a certain speed. You know, I'm going on being sober ‘x’ amount of months from alcohol. [Ofosu: Congratulations.] Thank you. I'm trying to go some years, like some of my cohorts, but we have this tendency of thinking that we need something.
And then the minute that we slow down and we bring a mindfulness to ourselves and a mind, then we start thinking about things, not in black and white and the clouds get dispersed. And that clarity that ten eight turns into 4k. And then we see the uncomfortable and we see the hidden nasty truths that we’ve been hidden from, for such a long time.
And what happened is, this guy got sort of real uncomfortable, funky truth about smoking and choking. And if we can strip away the barriers and open up, then we see the clearer picture.
Leah: Yeah. And for those of us who aren't smokers necessarily, maybe we could have mindfulness during our scroll of social or something and be really mindful about the whole experience and notice how it's making our bodies feel.
Ofosu: Yeah. I'm about to write an article on how social media is like a new intoxicant, you know? And so, so, um, so yeah, and I, I experience it on, on a regular basis. Well, one thing I'm taking away from this is, is that I love the so called mundane act of cleaning your teeth as a doorway or as an act of mindfulness, because it really is true that mindfulness can show up in any act and wherever mindfulness presents itself. Opportunities present themselves opportunities for clarity, liberation, and, and happiness present themselves.
So, um, thank you so much, Hakim? Thank you. Yeah, we're gonna have you back, uh, soon, I hope. And for you listening, if you wanna stay up to date with Hakim, you can follow him on social media at Hakstao. Am I saying that right? Yep. Yep. You're saying that right. All right. That's H a K S T a O. And we've got a link to his page in the show notes.
Hakim: Thank you so much.
Leah: If you wanna stay up to date with our show, you can follow us wherever you get your podcasts, and that way you can get notified whenever we release a new episode. We're also everywhere. Apple podcast, Spotify, Amazon music.
Ofosu: Thanks a whole bunch. Thanks for joining us today. We'll talk to you next Monday. Until then, please remember to be kind to yourself and we'll see you soon. Have a beautiful week. Peace.