Do you ever find yourself having to make 3 trips to get out the door of your house because you keep forgetting things? Or found yourself standing in the shower and you couldn’t remember if you’d rinsed out your shampoo yet? I’m not talking about memory loss…I’m talking about mindfulness or the lack of it in most cases. If you’re like most of us, your mind tends to wander to the future or to the past most of the time.
The downside to letting your mind run you this way is that you aren’t fully in the present and the present is where life happens. James Joyce wrote, in his short story, A Painful Case, that “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” Can you relate? I can. There’s been too many times when I’m “in my head”, writing away, only to realize later that my body has been trying to send me signals to relax my shoulders or stretch out my back.
Years ago, I was introduced to mindfulness meditation when I read a book by Jon Kabat Zinn, who at the time was a physician at the University of Massachusetts teaching mindfulness meditation techniques to patients with chronic disease in an effort to help them live with and reduce their pain. His research was sound and showed many benefits to being mindful – I highly recommend his book “Wherever You Go, There You Are” if you’re interested in learning more.
When you’re mindful, you are acutely present, you are paying attention, you are experiencing moment to moment non-judgmental awareness. The principle is fairly simple. With our Iphones and blackberrys it’s not so simple. I have been an early adopter of most technology and enjoy my gadgets thoroughly; however, I have to admit, I resisted getting a smart phone. I often used the free minutes waiting for an appointment or standing in a line to just “be”. To be aware of what was around me. I knew the temptation of checking emails and the web might wipe out many of mindful moments. I have managed to find a balance. I don’t reach for the phone every free minute, but when I am working on a project with a deadline, it’s convenient to be able to exchange information quickly no matter where I am.
Anyway back to the technique. You can do this in just a few minutes. Become aware of your breath. Feel it rising and falling in your chest and your belly. When thoughts start to crowd in, just let them go by bringing your attention back to your breath. When you’re ready start to be aware of all parts of your body. And then from there open your awareness to the world around you, continuing to bring your attention back to your breath when your mind wonders. What will mindfulness meditation bring you if you do it regularly? Awareness and calm. Less stress and stress related illness. Seeing the world for the first time. Discovery that the world is full of small delights, many that you’re probably overlooking. And, a greater ability to be present to others. Pretty powerful stuff. And it’s free.
So go ahead, have a mindful moment or two. I’d love to see your comments here once you try it!