The Time Is Now – Mindfulness
Are you rushing through life missing out on the real moments? How much time do you spend contemplating problems which never even happen? Most of us create an unnecessary amount of stress in our lives by spending more time rehashing the past or trying to control the future, then we do in the present moment.
In “Choosing Happiness” Alexandra Stoddard writes “The past is dead gone forever, only to be retrieved in memories, films, scrapbooks, and memorabilia. The past, whether good or bad, Is not where we should water our seeds of consciousness, because doing so drains our energy from what is alive to us and around us now. Dwelling on the past inhibits our ability to move forward and take action to inspire our well-being. However we perceive the past, whether in a positive or negative light, concentrating on it makes us unhappier in the present.”
My interpretation of this is that spending to much time in the past regardless of whether it is a good experience or not so good experience can only detract from the quality of our lives in this very moment. We can recall a great experience from our past to which the current moment does not measure up. By reliving a past experience that was not pleasant drains our energy.
In speaking of mindfulness here, I am not speaking of the classic western definition, but a somewhat extended version that is derived from Eastern Cultures. Author and teacher Dr. Jon Kobat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on, purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally.”
“Power of Now” author Eckhart Tolle says “To stay in the present moment means to be deeply rooted within yourself—to inhabit your body fully. To always have some attention in the energy field of your body, to feel the body from within, so to speak. Body awareness keeps you present; it anchors you in the now.”
Practicing mindfulness keeps your attention and being in the present moment. Mindfulness is staying keenly aware to who we are being in the present moment. Notice what is happening inside and out with no judgments, or wish to change it from what it is, just observe. Benefits of mindfulness include improved concentration and reduced stress & anxiety.
Kabat-Zinn who runs The University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness Research in Medicine, Health Care and Society where they been researching mindfulness for 20 years. Their research has shown “consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstrations of major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses including chronic pain.”
When we are traveling towards a destination, it is our tendency to focus on the destination we are heading to. We are thinking about what we are going to say at the meeting, purchase in the grocery store, how late we are running, or how rude the sales clerk was in the store we just left. What about the warmth of the sun’s rays as it hits our face, or the beautiful Cherry Blossoms that are blooming along the way, the screams of giggling children, or whatever turns you on.
In “Awake At Work” Michael Carroll writes; Mindfulness “means learning to live our lives nobly and without fear coming into direct contact with our experience. This takes effort and discipline…” “Such honest discipline is the essence of mindfulness and it does not simply appear but must be cultivated over time.”
If you are a beginner and want to start practicing mindfulness, a simplie technique is to start noticing what any of your five senses or your thoughts are experiencing in the present moment. Notice the aroma of the coffee, smell its richness, and flavor. It can be an odor, sound, even an emotion. Whether you like the experience or not, try and just notice and accept it for that given moment.
Whether rooted it in eastern thought, new age, or pop-psychology experts agree that the best tool for cultivating mindfulness is Meditation. It is actually a very simple form of meditation that anyone can do, and does not require formal training.
Sit in a chair, or on the floor with your spine erect and your body in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, notice your breath, there is no wrong or right technique, just observe it. Observe the air as it passes in and out through your nostrils.
As you stay focused on your breath, you may notice thoughts come into your mind, sensations in your body, background noise, and other experiences. You do not need to try and will them to leave. Just notice them as well, and return to your breathing. Embrace and accept whatever thoughts or sensations appear. Why they are there is not relevant, bring your attention back to your breath.
Practice this for 3 minutes a day. Over time you may increase it to 5, 10, or even 20 minutes.
There is a rich array of books and websites which focus on Mindfulness Meditation.