Mindfulness: Living Here & Now
Being and doing. They’re always dancing.
Our roles in our lives overlap. You’re being a mother when you drop the kids off at school. Often, you’re being an anxious mess and rushing forward in your mind to that meeting at work. Once you’re in the meeting, your mind wanders off to other things, like what you’re cooking for dinner. We think we’re more productive if we’re multitasking, but that’s not always the case. Having multiple dialogues at once can take you out of the living world, and prevent you from connecting with what is in front of you.
t’s so typical to forget what’s primary. You’re a living, breathing being who is trying very diligently to be happy, and it seems to be just beyond reach. “I’ll be happy after I get the taxes done, after I finish these last few reps, after the kids move out….” What is the achievement if you’re missing out on the present moment? How does one just be happy?
Try cultivating a mindfulness practice.
Sometimes, mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation, can be mistaken as being too serious, complex or philosophical to be naturally or easily done, but that isn’t what they are, or how they work. With simple, plain attention, you can live mindfully wherever you are, and whenever you need it most.
At first, approach your practice with a goal such as, “Upon waking, I’ll focus on breathing for five minutes. I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out.” Then, “Whoops, I forgot to call the babysitter!” When the temptation to react to this thought occurs, as it will, gently direct yourself back to your intention. What we practice grows stronger, so if we focus on the voice of the inner critic, we’ll get better at listening to the critic (and most people are already pretty good at that). Life will be waiting for you in five minutes. Redirect and come back. This is how your practice starts.
Mindfulness isn’t about getting somewhere with the mind, but instead being here in this moment. Continue your practice by watching your breath for a few minutes, using small increments of time. Let yourself rest on what’s underneath you. Feel the sensations in your body. If anything stands out, can you let things be the way they are? When the temptation to change something comes up, keep breathing. The more you watch, the more tolerance and patience you cultivate.
You don’t have to be in a special place to practice this. Start by being willing to do exactly what you’re doing. When you notice that you wandered, just remind yourself to come back to what you’re feeling.
It’s common to get irritable as you watch how quickly the mind takes off, but remember, the unfocused mind wanders – that’s its job. The practice of mindfulness is about noticing that, and redirecting back to a detail of your current experience. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling now?” Your attention will re-direct itself to the present moment, along with your breath. Breathing is your constant companion; it’s the first and last thing you’ll ever do. It’s your greatest tool. Just being in your body and noticing your breath may reveal what you’re really feeling about a stimulus, and maybe you’re overriding that feeling in the present moment.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness practice are less anxiety, better sleep and increased creativity. Deeper benefits come with time, and foster the ability to let go of things that cloud our judgment. With continued practice, you may begin to recognize thoughts that are habitual. Be curious and inspect them. Your internal dialogue is automatic, and very revealing. But remember, you don’t have to believe everything you think.
Be patient – it is a practice after all. While you may not notice your mind quieting, you will begin to notice the shifts in your life. You’ll be less reactive in stressful situations. You’ll find yourself being more “yourself,” and being more yourself is not a goal; it’s developing awareness of what being yourself may be.