Whistle While You Work

June is the month for Father’s Day, so this seems like a good time to give a shout out for my dad. He passed away this year and I am grateful to him that he left a profound legacy of generosity and presence.

My dad was always working on a project. If he wasn’t in the house, he was surely in the garage or yard puttering away at anything that needed to be fixed. One of my siblings recently reminded us how he would whistle while he worked. Not a melody or specific song, but this very gentle half-whistle; this barely-there wandering tune that sustained the tedious hours his projects required. We all chuckled at the reminder of his patient presence.

I wondered if there was something to my dad’s characteristic habit, so I started to use the half-whistle whenever I was frustrated, irritated or rushed. Sure enough, when I whistled, everything in my head and heart slowed down. Almost instantly irritation ebbed and impatience melted away. Maybe it was because I was remembering my dad, but I think it demonstrates a bigger truth.

Whistling is a mindful practice. It requires a deep breath from the belly, which slows down the sympathetic nervous system, brings the heart into coherent rhythm and allows the body to ramp down from perceived stress into present-moment awareness. The continued deep breathing when whistling can help further slowdown thoughts and help the mind to healthfully detach from the story line of frustration, anger, impatience, or whatever the experience. Whistling provides the opportunity to observe what is happening, step back and re-assess how you wish to respond to any given situation.

Mindfulness Tips

While my current mindful practice is whistling, here are a few thoughts to ponder about being in the present moment to reduce stress and increase clarity of mind:

  • When you are aware of stress, step back for 10 seconds and breathe deeply. Almost nothing needs an immediate response from you.
  • Focus on your heart and remember a loving or caring thought or memory. This helps the heart return to its natural rhythm, improving blood flow and clarity of mind.
  • Without following a storyline about what is happening, just observe what is actually going on.
  • Once you see the situation as it is in the present moment, decide a next step that is in line with your values.

Thich Nhat Hahn says, “What you are looking for is already in you, you already are everything you are seeking.” So, whether that is a wandering whistle, deep breaths, loving thoughts or anything else that comes from within, draw that forward in times of frustration and stress and find yourself more present and able to be your best self.

Supporting Your Path of Balanced Response to Stress

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