There’s been quite the hubbub lately about mindfulness. You know something is catching on when there’s an article about it in the Costco magazine. Mindfulness has made its way out of the yogic realm and into mainstream society. Our culture has us moving faster and faster with the plethora of electronic gadgets and social media. Many feel pressured to “keep up” with the pace of the world and every Facebook post, Tweet, or news event. Perhaps like me, you wonder if all this is such a good thing. In the midst of this information overload, are we losing sight of what is truly important and failing to enjoy the precious moments in our every day lives? Maybe the ancients were on to something, so this week’s post is devoted to answering this question:
What is mindfulness exactly and how can it help us in our daily lives?
When some hear the term “mindfulness” they conjure up visions of cross-legged yogis with eyes-closed chanting. Perhaps a more realistic and comprehensible word for mindfulness is “awareness” or “being present”. Being present & fully engaged is the best gift we can bestow upon our spouse, our child, our friends and ourselves. Mindfulness is a form of meditation one does to learn to clear one’s mind and to be aware of one’s thoughts as they pass by. An untrained mind is mindless. Our thoughts jump from one thing to another, like a monkey on tree. We are easily distracted, forgetful, sucked in to emotional reactions, and not fully present or aware.
One way to judge this is to notice the rate of speech we use. When we are talking a mile a minute, our minds are racing. My mother always used to tell me “You think too fast,” and now I realize she was right. I thought too fast and I talked too fast so that is one reason I have taken up the study of mindfulness. Nowadays, I am often bewildered by someone’s conversation when they seemingly go off on an unrelated tangent. I ask myself “How is this related to what we were discussing?”. What happens is in their mind there was some connection to another event. Their mind monkey-jumped to this other thought thread and they started following it without realizing it was not related to the discussion at hand. As we age, this happens more and more because the circuitry of our brains has been wired for years. However, it is possible to stay focused and connected, even as we age, by learning this ancient practice.
Nothing is more upsetting to a wife than to come home to her hubby all excited about sharing something about her day and he tunes her out by reading the newspaper or being fixated on the boob tube, computer, or video game. I remember when I was married and I used to teach aerobics one night a week. I would come home from class all excited to share how the class went and my then husband would look at me briefly and then go right back to reading the newspaper. Is it little wonder then we ended up in divorce court? These days people substitute their cellphone, the television, the internet or a video game. It’s all the same problem – lack of mindfulness. Otherwise known as not paying attention.
When you are with them, make the effort to be truly with them. Don’t be doing dishes, talking on the phone, grading papers or whatever else needs to be done. Stay in the present moment and really be with your child. These things can be done after the kids are in bed. If you’re a working mom, like I was, you only have a few hours to develop a relationship with your children. Those hours are precious. I made sure eating dinner together was a priority. I’d ask them about their day and get them to talking. Some nights we’d have a bible study session where we would take turns reading the Bible. Now it doesn’t have to be the Bible. I wanted to make it a two-fer and use the connecting time as a teaching time as well. Then at bedtime, I’d often read them a bed time story. In other words, I made sure the hours I had with my kids, I was present.
How often do you forget where you put your keys, your wallet, the grocery list? You start one task and find yourself doing something else two minutes later. No, it’s not ADD or ADHD. Most likely it is the normal state of mindlessness. Not being aware of what you are currently doing. I think if we taught our kids mindfulness at an early age, far few kids would be on prescription meds. When we learn to slow down enough to pay attention to the present moment, we actively engage in the here and now. You know how you get so involved in your gardening, or playing tennis, or dancing and then wonder where the time went? That’s because you were mindfully present. You were actively aware in what you were doing. You were being mindful.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of mindfulness is being more connected to our thoughts and feelings. When we slow down and pay attention to our thoughts, we are more aware of what is going on in our internal world. We are able to feel our feelings before they cause us to react in an unhealthy or unproductive way or keep us up at night thinking about things. Even though we are asleep, our mind is still trying to process the events of the day. This is why we wake up in the middle of the night ruminating. When we learn to be mindful during the day, we will process our thoughts and emotions real-time, so our minds don’t have to work overtime at night to do it. Just yesterday, I caught myself having negative feelings towards an old friend. Rather than ignore them or stuff them, I allowed myself to sit with them. I realized why I was feeling upset, which led to an understanding of what I need to change about myself in this situation.
Mindfulness is a practice, like most things worthwhile in this life. When we make the time to train our minds, we will have better control over our thoughts and our actions. Our relationships with others will be more intimate and more connected and we will be more focused and directed in our daily lives and accomplish more of what we want to do. There are several ways to practice mindfulness and I have attached a link here with more information.
Love to hear your thoughts on this relevant and timely topic. Please leave a comment below or on Facebook.
Until next time, keep looking up!