A Year of Mindfulness: Lessons Learned
Around a year ago I started working on making mindfulness a permanent part of my life. In doing so, I’ve essentially been trying to rewire my brain to consistently live in the present moment. Through this ongoing journey I have learned some valuable lessons.
I have learned a lot about myself. I realized I have a brain that, when left to its own devices, would like to remain functioning as a frantically distressed command center trying to defend itself against threats from the past and future. I.e. my brain likes to worry. A lot. As I became more aware of my thinking patterns through mindfulness, I also realized that so much of this thinking was selfish. Almost all the thoughts in my head were about one subject. Me.
As I have become more mindful through daily practice, I have noticed my focus shifting. I don’t get stuck in my head worrying about myself as often as I used to. My focus has moved outward, and I find myself living life more in tune with what is happening around me. I more fully engage with the people I talk to, and my focus more easily moves to them and their needs. I’m less quick to lash out at the driver who cuts in front of me at the last second. I’m better at managing my habits. I even eat better.
Mindfulness and the associated awareness has essentially created a buffer between the experiences I have and my reaction. In situations where I would have reacted immediately and out of pure emotion, I now have space to think and decide how I want to respond. I have illustrated the concept below.
Even after a year of practice, I still consider myself to be very much a novice when it comes to mindfulness. My brain still doesn’t like living in the moment, and it takes daily practice and a lot of failure to see improvement. Undoubtedly, I still have a long way to go on this lifelong endeavor, but the effort is worth it. After all, the only thing I truly own in life is the current moment. I might as well make the most of it.