Capturing mindfulness is like the trying to get tickets to Hamilton. We know it exists, we know that we NEED it in our lives, but we’re not quite sure how to actually make it happen. To make up for it, we drop the idea of mindfulness like it’s the biggest buzzword since Paris Hilton coined “that’s hot”. But despite this sought after concept being forced into us with abstract instructions on how to achieve this elite state, we sit with our disgruntled souls pretending to be more aware of who we are.
Before we can even being to lead more mindful lives, we need to breakdown what it means, exactly, to encompass the teachings of mindfulness within ourselves. It’s vital to note that mindfulness is already within you, perhaps a little beaten down from life itself, but it’s there. Hidden behind the everyday stressers, the underlying fears of failure, and the never ending to-do lists, mindfulness is sulking in the background waiting for you to uncover it’s powers. Thus, this is not an effort to “fix” who you are, changing your personality to fit into the mold of the zenned-out yogi on the mat next to yours. No, mindfulness will look unique for each of us. Though made up of all the parts, it’s construction will be different in each body.
Think of those days where you wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, reach for your lukewarm coffee and drive to work. Suddenly, you sit down at your desk and can’t recall a single detail from the morning’s routine. How did your shampoo smell when you washed your hair? Did your coffee taste strong? Bitter? Did your significant other dress in a color that was perfectly reflected in his eyes? Were there clouds in the sky as you went to work?
Without mindfulness, this could sum up our whole lives. Little moments strung together with nothing but routine and order holding it together. And then, one day it’s over.
Scary, huh? So here we find the necessary steps it takes to become conscious and aware of our internal and external actions at any present moment in time. We recognize the good thoughts we have along with the bad ones and know they are simply passing through. We accept that we are human and it’s in our nature to think beautiful and ugly things…but it’s also within our power to accept what these ideas have offered to us, and pass them on without judging ourselves for what we are inclined to see as faults.
Multi-tasking causes us to give little attention to numerous things, causing all of the above to be completed half-heatedly and without intent. Usually, it takes more time to jump back and forth between projects than it would to sit down and complete one before moving on. Instead of eating your lunch while checking your email, set your phone aside and notice the taste, texture and experience of the meal. When sharing time with others, use all of your sense to be invested in the conversation. Have your body towards your companions, keep your gaze from drifting off to the guy walking ahead of you, your ears away from the sounds of cars whizzing by.
When you become more aware of your tendencies, you’ll start to notice certain triggers that cause you to lose touch with reality. Perhaps it’s a stressful conversation with your boss that causes you to fret about the future, or your schedule changes outside of your control and you can’t plan accordingly. Recognize that the unexpected will happen, do not judge yourself for feeling this pressure, and identify what is within your control. Comfort yourself in knowing that it is not possible to attend to tomorrow because it does not yet exist. Come back to the now.
Abolish Mind Stories
The triggers can lead to obsessive thoughts that can consume our entire mind, causing unneeded stress. Learn to determine what is a true event, and what is just a story you’ve created. Hint: anything in your mind that begins with ‘but what if this happens’, is not based in reality and can be let go. Breath in that you have these worries and breath out that this worry only exists in the mind and therefore can be left behind as you move forward.
Act Without Concern for the Outcome
With anxiety for the future, we start to hinder our actions because we are so concerned with their influence over what is yet to be. To truly be mindful in the moment, we need to detach from the end result. Act according to what is in your true nature in that moment, and let go of your expectation of how you think it should go. When we loosen our ideas of how the picture should look, we have the freedom to draw and paint and color outside of the lines as we please.
Create Habits in How and What You Think
Although it may take more than overnight for a quick turn around, acknowledge your habits and learn what cues you can use to come back to the present. Counting your breaths and listing what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste in the present can root you back to this moment in time and space. A mantra, such as ‘let go’ or ‘just now’ stated while breathing in and out can also bring you back to the now.
Mindfulness allows us to overcome anxiety and inner turmoil by letting us be accountable for this single moment without expectation for the minute that has passed and the minute that has yet to come. Using these steps is not a way to lengthen our days, but to deepen them, giving each second the attention it deserves.
How do you practice mindfulness?