I recently wrote an article on why our minds do not like to remain in the here and now. Not being in the present definitely comes at a cost to us. We end up thinking about problems a lot more times than they really exist and therefore, miss happier, or even neutral moments of life as they quietly unfold before us. However, being mindful is a difficult job. We need to make a slow and small beginning towards the practice of being mindful. I have attempted to make this process simpler and perhaps a little clearer for you by describing steps or little measures we can gradually take to remain more in the present. Read each step described below slowly and mindfully 🙂
Step 1: Create Awareness of the Nature of the Mind
As I mentioned in the previous post, “if we allow our mind to have it’s way, not realizing and becoming aware of its true nature, life will slowly become focused on a handful of problems that we jostle with all the time. And before we know it, we have lost several years or decades just struggling with those problems and regrets, getting more negative, cynical and upset with time”- this is the nature of the human mind, to stray away from the present and get entangled in past regrets or future worries or plans.
Hence in order to be in the present, we first need to accept that this is the nature of our mind. It is the nature of a human mind, anyone’s-yours and mine. I can see this ‘not in the present mind’ in most people who meet me and talk to me about their problems. Not just clients during therapy sessions but even friends and relatives. I see this mind even in myself and often find myself quickly getting aware of it by following the steps I’m soon going to write out for you. All our minds function similarly and it is up to us to get aware.
A quick technique to create awareness about the nature of the mind is: Keep an alarm for five minutes and try to keep your mind in the present until then. You will see how difficult such a simple looking task is.
Step 2: Cultivate Mindfulness as a Practice
Mindfulness is a beautiful practice that helps in connecting and being rooted in life as it flows by. It involves getting our minds back to the present –“very gently”. We need to be gentle with ourselves because our wandering mind is also a part of us. So we create an awareness of its nature, create acceptance of its wandering tendency and whenever we realize we are straying away from the present, we try to get it back by focusing on whatever is happening in the here and now.
If you are watching a movie or reading a book and you realize your mind wasn’t completely in, just be gentle on yourself and come back to the activity.
Step 3: Get into a Habit of Asking Yourself Some Mindfulness related Questions
Small questions that we can ask ourselves help us in being mindful.
- “ What am I doing now?”-get aware of what activity you are engaging in
- “How does the ground feel under my feet?”-Sense the ground beneath your feet. Sense its hardness, texture, temperature
- “What are the sounds around me that I can be aware of?”-check for all the sounds you can hear and you will find there is so much happening that you are missing. Did you just get aware of the light sound of the AC or the fan in the background?
- “What can I see around me?”-We see but do we really see? See again mindfully, noticing each colour in your environment, notice the plants and the walking people outside your window.
- “How does my skin feel?”- See if there is light breeze touching your skin, which parts of your body is it touching, which parts it isn’t.
- “Is it warm or cold?”-Experience the warmth or the coolness for a while keeping your mind on that. Sense the temperature, the warmth of the sun, where are you sweating most, which part feels cooler. Sense both the comfort and the discomfort. Don’t react to it. Just know it.
We do not need to ask ourselves all these questions all of the time but certainly some of these questions at least some of the time. Any technique or questions that brings you and keeps you in the here and now helps in creating mindfulness.
Mindfulness opens you up to the larger space around you, the world moving and happening around you. You stop remaining shut in the room of your problems and you open up as you watch, hear and observe the moments passing you by. You absorb more of your life and slowly just being, just existing in the space around you starts to feel like a joyful experience.
I wish all of you reading this the joy of experiencing life as it really is.