Mindfulness is accepting what is happening in the present moment without judgment. An example of a mindful moment is “I hear children playing down the street.” It is neither good nor bad, it just is as it is and your ears are processing sounds around you in the present moment. A non-mindful moment would be, “I hear children down the street and it is aggravating.” In this second instance, you have judged the moment. If you were to think “I hear children down the street and it is joyful,” this is an example of gratitude. The thought, “I should’ve done something more with my life,” is rooted in past regret and is not mindful. A mindful form of that thought would be “Today, is a new beginning. What will I do today?” or “This moment is my life.” Thinking about a time and place at a later moment is not mindful.
Mindfulness can be used at any time to recover from over-thinking that may cause us to dwell in the past or worry about the future. In our western culture, the tendency to avoid the present moment and judge everything can lead us toward anxiety and in worst case depression, in best case unhappiness and discontent. We can use mindfulness as a tool to reclaim our present moments and create opportunities for more contentment in our lives. Somewhere along the line, we may have decided that it is ‘responsible’ to think ahead however, spending too much time in the future or the past can lead us to chronic discontent and stress.
On the surface, it would seem that mindfulness would be the easiest thing in the world to master, however accepting what is and doing it without judgment is one of the hardest things for our human minds to achieve. Mindfulness requires practice and our focused attention. For example, the act of returning to our breath in meditation is a focused attention on the present moment and non-judgmental reconnection with our body.
To bring more mindfulness into your life…
1) Be present: Become aware of what are you hearing, feeling, connect with your body, feel your feet touching the ground. Focus on these tangible, present moment activities, and practice non-judgment about them. Reconnecting to these physical realities can prevent us from filling our time and minds with over-thinking about the past and the future.
2) Maintain an openness to new experiences: Rather than fearing what the future will bring, know that whatever occurs can be enjoyed or dealt with at the time it occurs. We do not need to deal with anything before it occurs or think about all kinds of scenarios that can cause us anticipation and stress. When we respond with curiosity rather than judgment, we reduce our suffering.
3) Practice non-attachment: Learn to surf the wave of life. Know that you cannot hold people and experiences still. Life is flowing and it is not for you to manage, but rather occurring outside of your control, unfolding as it will. While we can control our reaction, focus on recognizing all that comes in and out of your life and how that is perfectly natural. Things are falling apart and together all the time and often, in ways that you may never have been able to imagine.
4) Recognize you are part of a whole: Connect to nature and community and appreciate that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Feel gratitude for what is around you – the people and surroundings that provide you with a complete life. Note the interconnectedness of all things.
5) Send yourself and others compassion: You cannot be compassionate to others without being compassionate to your own self. Many struggle to send themselves kindness and suffer for lack of it. Rather than judging or controlling a situation or others, feel connection and empathy to people you like, people you don’t know, and even people who may aggravate you. Your ability to respond with compassion is scientifically proven to improve your overall emotional wellbeing and has also been connected with longevity. In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama advocates focusing on the commonalities, rather than differences, between you and another person to cultivate compassion.
The more mindful you become, the more you will realize the ways in which you have been operating ‘mindlessly’ or on auto-pilot with a head full of worries or a belly full of uncertain that prevents you from true joy. Try to practice more mindfulness and see where it takes you. The results of mindfulness on your level of contentment will amaze you; it can help you create a sanctuary from life’s stressors you may have never known before.
In future weeks, we will continue to learn more about mastering our mind, looking inward, and connecting to our truest selves. You are so worth it! Thank you for investing this time in Innerspace. If you are interesting in joining the INNERSPACE Facebook Group we would be happy to welcome you!
Kim Perone, Certified Life Coach at The Center for Clarity, Compassion & Contentment serves clients with one-on-one and group coaching. She can be reached at [email protected], (518) 301-3593.
For more information on life coaching and the Center’s activities, visit www.Center4c.com.