Tip 7: Be Mindful
I have spoken about mindfulness before, but I cannot stop raving about the benefits of this simple concept. Mindfulness, as someone said, is about paying extra-ordinary attention to ordinary experiences. Simply put, mindfulness is about being in the present completely and fully.
In therapy, I often joke about how my client’s favorite occupation is that of importing thoughts. We hardly ever fully ‘live in the here and the now’. We are either dwelling in some thought in the past (recent past or distant past) or we are mulling over some aspect of our future (what can go wrong, or how much fun we will have in the party tonight or how we will travel from office to home). We only have to be little conscious to see how true this is for most of us. The result is we miss out on the present experience. We are never free enough to fully enjoy the present for what it is worth.
With every moment passing us by in this form, what lives are we living? Lives of non-enriching, fleeting, unlived moments that pass us by without us even getting in touch with them! Is there any question then why our despairs of the past or our anxieties of the future perpetually weigh us down?
It feels sad and even unfair when we hear that we choose to be angry, depressed, low and so on. We feel at the mercy of our experiences. We believe we react naturally as anyone else facing such a situation might react. Well that is true we are at the mercy of our experiences when they occur. But are we at the mercy of those experiences when they are either way in the past or not even certain in the future? The answer is a clear and emphatic NO. We choose to import the painful experiences or lament the loss of joyful experiences of the past in the present and we trade the ‘full of promise’ moment in our hands for another moment of worry, fear or hope from the past or future.
What is then to be done?
We have to choose! We have to choose to live more mindfully, experiencing what the present moment brings to us. Embracing that moment and living it for its joy or its pain and letting it pass-as everything does pass– to the next moment and the living the next moment mindfully again.
I know this is easier said than done. It wasn’t the case during the early evolution of man but we have filled our lives with distractions and we pay a price for our unmindful living day after day.
When can one be mindful?
Anytime, anywhere, anyplace that you remember that you need to be mindful. Every moment is capable of being spent mindfully. Ideally one would attempt to spend every minute mindfully, which is very difficult for our distracted, overthinking minds. However what I usually tell people coming to me is: anytime the thought of being mindful strikes you, get mindful.
How can one be mindful? What is to be done?
I will try and explain what I do. This can be used as a template and applied to any and every moment in your life.
When I am traveling or eating or even watching a film, sometimes I suddenly catch myself thinking of something other than what is going on now. At that time, I gently (this is a very important word and I shall write more about being gentle with your mind someday) steer my mind back to what is happening now. Usually I start with focusing on my breath for about 2-3 breaths. During this I keep complete attention on my breath, its quality, how deep or shallow it is, how warm or cool it feels. This helps me in the initial coming back to the present. Then I guide myself to focus on what I am doing now. Sometimes I even ask myself questions like what am I seeing or hearing (while I am traveling or watching a movie), or how the food tastes in my mouth (while eating). These silent questions to myself help me to come back slowly to the ongoing experience. I have also noticed that this increases my focus and concentration multifold and even slows down the pace at which I am doing something, making the entire action more conscious and more enriching.
You can try something similar for your experiences. Of course this is just the starting point. As you get more mindful, you will learn your own ways that help you to get more connected to your present. You will also start seeing that you feel calmer, happier and you actually start loving to be mindful. It just takes away the strain from life!
I’m embedding a beautiful video here where Thich Nhat Hanh explains how to focus on your breath in order to get mindful
A good read on psychological aspects of mindfulness: Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
Have any of you been practicing mindfulness? How do you achieve it? Do share your experiences of mindfulness with us and our readers in the comments section.
Image by: mindfulness
Post contributed by : Sadia Saeed, Founder and Chief Psychologist at Inner Space