Mindfulness is very simply the process of being awake and present to the now. No judgement of the present moment, instead the acceptance of what is and allowing yourself to fully experience it.
Being here in this moment does require you to remember to be present, if you find your mind wandering to the past or future as it so often will gently remind yourself that you are here, right now. You can redirect your focus to your surroundings, your body (I like to start in my belly), what you are presently involved in and who you are with. Pay attention to the moment you are currently living in, do not live anywhere else.
This small act of reminding yourself to return to the now at first glance might appear easy, however it does take practice. Technology has a large part to play in our constant state of distraction; between the television, the internet, numerous mobile apps, text messaging and the constant checking of emails it is very easy to be everywhere else but here. Technology is a useful tool, it’s the only reasons you’re able to read this now, however it needs to have its place, it should be used without using you. If the television is on when you are trying to talk to a friend it will take away from your mindfulness and your friend will feel secondary. Anything that causes you to be overly distracted and disengaged from the mindful moment needs to be reconsidered as to its value in your life. A great tip for those who love music, listen to wordless music whilst you work or potter about the home; it’s not distracting and in the case of classical music it can actually help your work to improve.
The Wandering Mind
Even without distractions the mind too will wander which can lead to stress and unhappiness. Mindless thoughts of the past tend to go along the lines of what you should have done, missed opportunities, regret and resentment to people who have wronged you in some way. Mindless thoughts of the future are focused on what you won’t achieve or the ways you are lacking, fear-based worrying about events that may not even occur otherwise known as the ‘what if’s’. What if I lose my job, what if my partner leaves me, what if my business goes down hill, what if I have to move back in with my parents? Yes the mind really does get that crazy. All of these are examples of mindless thinking. Fear-based worrying of the future or re-living the pain from the past is what most of us associate with wandering thoughts. Usually you are thinking these mindless thoughts whilst you are trying to do two or more other things; a good reason to be mindful.
At some point you need to plan tomorrow or reflect on the past, to do so in a mindful way is the aim. To do this I like to set aside 20 minutes or an hour to really sit down and plan, or if I’m reflecting on the past especially when I am practicing forgiveness I also sit down and allow that process to have my full attention. It is okay to think about the past and future but only when you actively choose to do so, not when you are at the distracted mercy of a wandering mind. Do this mindfully and it won’t cause you anxiety or repeated pain.
It takes about two weeks to develop a new habit, so practice bringing yourself back to the now, throughout the day. To return to the mindful path try these little habits; aim to employ one each day adding them up as you go, so that by day three you are aiming for three mindfulness techniques:
- Be aware of your surroundings, use your senses, how does it look and smell, what can you hear?
- Be aware of your body from your nose to your toes.
- When eating look at the food and become aware of the smell and taste, feel it as it travels to your belly, then become aware of how your body feels.
- Notice your breath; take three full breaths in and out, aim to have no thoughts during those three breaths.
- Try a counting meditation, count back from ten with no thoughts, if you find you cannot reach five without having a thought, aim for five instead.
- Try walking mindfully; the next time you have to walk from one spot to another be fully present for each step, allow yourself to become aware of what you hear, smell and see and aim to complete this process with no thoughts.
- Become curious and judge nothing that is happening in this moment, accept what is.
Return to the awareness that the present moment deserves so that it may be fully lived. Share your tips for mindfulness in the comments below.
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. – Lao Tzu