Today, the world runs at a phenomenal pace. We have everything at our fingertips and we can get things done quickly, without any delay. The speed and accessibility that our lifestyles are blessed with ought to be making life easier for us. In many ways, it does but, even some of the good things in life have their downside. With this speed of life that we have grown accustomed to, comes the innate drive to always be on the go. We are always moving, achieving, thinking, growing and succeeding. It brings about a positive flow of energy and new ideas, but it also can leave us feeling drained. The fast pace also keeps us from controlling negative and destructive ideas and thoughts. We often don’t even realize what we are thinking and how we are living. We aren’t conscious of our habits. We aren’t aware of how we can enhance ourselves, our lives and our relationships. Enter Mindfulness!
Mindfulness is a term used quite loosely today to define a variety of actions. For many of us, an understanding of what mindfulness is, can only come from experiencing it. Mindfulness is defined as the channeling of the mind to be completely present. The definition may sound somewhat vague. Simply, it is the action of being fully aware in the present moment. That includes not having any distraction or judgment, anxiety or anger. Now, you may think that this is exactly how you live your life. Mindfulness may be a new idea to you, but you’re under the impression that you have lived a mindful life up until now.
When you go out with a friend for a coffee, you participate in the discussion. You allow them the space to talk while you listen, then you take the talking spotlight. Perhaps you offer some advice or have a good laugh. You talk about your future plans, annoying colleagues, and family drama. The waitress brings you a drink, 30 minutes after you have ordered it. You feel frustrated by the time it arrives, and assume she isn’t good at her job, but what does that matter. You glance at your watch each time you take a sip of your coffee. You begin to feel anxious because you have an appointment that you need to get to. You imagine that you will be late because you still need to drink your coffee and it’s boiling hot.
Often we confuse mindfulness with interaction and concentration. In the previous scenario, we may believe that participating in a conversation is mindful. Although the conversation is flowing and everyone is having a good time, you are not being mindful. Instead of being in the present moment you are casting judgment on the waitress. You are putting pressure on yourself to offer advice to your friend. That means that you are more than likely thinking about how you should respond to her. Being mindful involves being fully present and listening to what she is saying. You are thinking about when your coffee is going to arrive or if you still feel like having it. Instead of being present in the conversation you worry about running late. You are thinking about how you will get to your appointment on time! Now that doesn’t seem too mindful to me!
Being mindful requires us to be present and aware. Now this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel annoyed or frustrated in some situations. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t feel stressed, or find that you have run out of time. But having a presence of mind gives you the ability to acknowledge them. You are aware of your thoughts and allow them to come and go. You can clear your mind again without feeling flustered or worried. An alternative to being annoyed with the waitress is to be mindful, acknowledge your frustration and move on. Don’t let it play around in your mind for a while. And the same goes for feeling stressed about being late. Acknowledge the pressure that you are feeling. Set a cut-off time when you will need to leave. Then let the thought dissipate. Allow yourself to enjoy those last 10 minutes with your friend without having to think about how late you are going to be.
What I have described, are moments of mindfulness within a specific scenario. Apply it to other situations and see how that can drastically enhance other experiences. To reach this level of mindfulness takes a lot of mind training. Now that you understand how mindfulness works and what it can do for you let’s start. It’s important to know that trying to start being mindful at this level, will only set you up for failure. It’s advisable to take a few steps backward and start off simply with this level as a goal. Practicing daily can be very helpful for you in being aware of your thoughts and emotions. The point is in not reacting to them and gently pushing them aside. You want to continue being present while steering clear of any judgments.
Dedicate a specific time of the day, and quiet space that is free of distraction. You will need to find a place where you can sit daily for 5-10 minutes to start. You should extend your time as you improve. as a start and practice being mindful. As you progress through your mindfulness journey, you will develop the skills you need to be mindful in different settings of your life. What you practice in a quiet space is used in all situations. This will create the opportunity for you to lead a life that is present and free of judgment. With it, you will have a new and healthier awareness of your emotions and thoughts.