Most of what I hear or read about mindfulness is enough to put me off. A friend told me recently that she had been out walking with a woman who announced “I am walking mindfully”, focusing intently as she put one foot in front of the other. My friend didn’t get it, and wasn’t about to join in. She just wanted to enjoy her walk.
I am not keen on anything that feels feigned, forced or contrived. It isn’t relaxing or pleasant! However, I am aware that it is so easy to habitually be somewhere else in our mind…….anywhere, in fact, rather than where we are at! And it is so easy to get caught up in the practice of thinking ahead, distracted by what we think we still need to do, in order for life to become the way we want it to be. I AM that person……so I know what I am talking about!
I have always been a fan of what actually works, in the ‘real’ world, for the average Joe……in other words, people like me! Over the years we have all seen fads come and go. We all know people who find themselves completely caught up in the latest spiritual/emotional ‘break – through’……..the newest, biggest and best thing for all human – kind……….until the next one comes along. But I don’t believe mindfulness falls into that category…….unless, that is, it falls into the wrong hands first! Being mindful is much easier and way more simple than is often portrayed. And here is the way I see it (for what it’s worth!):
The purpose of becoming more mindful is to get more out of the life we are living. It whizzes by so quickly, we want to savour of much of it as we possibly can. Nothing stays the same for too long, and it is easy to dismiss great, though ordinary, moments in our life. Let’s face it, most of the life we will live, from beginning to end, IS made up of what are deemed to be ordinary moments.
The problem is, we can either take those ordinary moments completely for granted, OR we believe that they are not good enough, and that life is still somehow yet to really begin.
If we do the first, we become inert, bogged – down, lazy – minded, uninspired, bored and stuck. We may be very busy living our routine, everyday life, but we are still doing all, or most, of the above. We look for snatches of pleasure and gratification to break up the monotony, to relieve the boredom (technology, social networking, new stuff etc)…..but we are generally dissatisfied with life. However, not quite dissatisfied enough to break through the membrane that is dimming the light that wants to shine on our life! “Happy enough, I suppose, and just taking each day as it comes”, we say. “After all, that’s just what you do, isn’t it, get on with things…..?” In this case, WAKING UP is what mindfulness is about. We don’t need to force ourselves to ‘meditate’, listening to our own breath for hours on end, letting our thoughts come and go, trying to ‘feel’ inner peace…….which is a good thing, because we probably wouldn’t be genuinely committed to the practice, anyway!
No, we just need to see things through fresh eyes. To be aware of all the stuff that is good, and funny, and beautiful, and interesting…….every single day! We can still have problems to sort out. We can still have hopes for the future that have not yet been fulfilled. But we need to become fascinated, to pick up on things…….to look around us, and SEE. Today, as I walked with the dog through the wood, and along the beach, I was absorbed by the warm wind, the green – blue waves with white, frilly edges. Buoys bobbing out at sea. The amazing cloud formations scurrying across a pale blue backdrop. The smiles of other walkers, and their happy dogs, sniffing other dogs’ bottoms and generally being excited! The snail halfway up a wall, the golden leaves dancing around in the wind, the red berries and pine cones, the scent of late summer. And yet I still had other things on my mind! I listened to my favourite songs, as I walked along, seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling……I was present, and it was natural, easy, hugely enjoyable and rewarding…….but I also had a few other things running through my mind, things that are important to me. And I was completely appreciative of the whole experience. And THAT is something else that is part of mindfulness…….genuine, honest gratitude! But in order for us to be grateful for something, it has to be of importance to us. And if we are in the habit of taking things for granted and living on auto – pilot (which often leads to flatness, hopelessness and low energy), we have a tendency to under – value an awful lot of things.
So…….if you really want to be more mindful, but are discouraged by what you believe will be required of you, here is the GOOD NEWS! Just make a conscious effort to be more involved in everyday life, and enjoy the little things with every ounce of your being! It isn’t demanding, or hard work….it is fun! And like I said, life moves on so quickly, we need to savour as much as we can, of the ordinary – but – actually – extra – ordinary stuff, whilst we have the chance.
But what about the tough times? Well, when we are facing challenges, it will serve us to continue to be aware of and value all of the good stuff, because that will prevent us from becoming overwhelmed by the not so good stuff…and that will help us to figure out the best way forward. And if you decide you want to allocate a couple of minutes, a couple of times a day, to sitting, relaxing your mind, listening to your breathing, great…..because, as the old lady said, as she wee’d in the sea: “Every little helps!”
If, however, our problem is that we feel we, and life, SHOULD be different, and are living from within an inner world of intensity, self – criticism, old anger/disappointment, defeat or bitterness……some of the emotions/beliefs that can lead to severe feelings of hopelessness and depression……do we really need more intensity? I agree that it isn’t easy to completely control our mind and the inner movies we consistently run, and the inner dialogue that we keep going…….infact it is probably impossible. And that is another reason I feel that mindfulness needs to be more about looking outwards, rather than inwards……about a change of focus, about positive distraction, about new experiences, new projects……about savouring, and re – discovering the simple wonders of the world outside of ourselves. Which in turn will nourish our inner world, over time. We can’t fight intensity with intensity. We have to change the subject in our own mind every now and then, and yes, we should BREATHE……deep and long and satisfying, but without paying too much attention to it! There is way more interesting stuff to focus on in this world than the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide!