Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll have heard of mindfulness. You’ll have been introduced to its numerous benefits, encouraged to meditate and maybe even told that ‘just ten minutes a day will keep the blues away’. (I just made that phrase up, but if you’ve heard it, I totally called it.)
It’s everywhere: every blog, publication and on the chalkboards of every downtown hipster coffee shop. It’s incredibly difficult not to hear about mindfulness — a billion-dollar business that’s only just getting started.
I’m not here to moan about that, though. I’m here to offer a little advice, because as tremendously helpful as mindfulness could be, most of us aren’t getting as much out of it as we might hope.
The Irony of Meditation
Here I am, sitting in a Starbucks after having just emerged from the crowded, stifling and exhausting pilgrimage that is traveling on the London Underground, walking amongst thousands of people rushing to make it here and there as quickly as humanly possible.
I meditated this morning. And yet there I found myself, racing through the crowds like everybody else, engulfing my lunch en route and trying to move as fast as my legs would carry me. I wasn’t even in a rush, really — just a little late for a coffee date with an old friend.
That ten-minute silence at 7am was undermined by my wholly unnecessary sprint through the streets, moving at lightning speed for literally no reason and paying zero attention to the world around me.
I know I’m not the only one. We all find ourselves racing around every now and then, storming through green lights and doing everything at one-hundred miles per hour even if we don’t really know why. I guess it’s just super easy to get swept up in the busyness of the world and lose yourself a little.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t be the only one kidding myself when it comes to mindfulness. It doesn’t make any sense — making an effort to meditate religiously every day and then wolfing our meals down at lightning speed or whatever it might be. Surely that’s not mindfulness, is it?
No matter how many hours we spend sitting on our pillow, humming and counting our breaths, there’s literally no point if that mindset fails to permeate into any other areas of our lives.
There’s far more to meditation than just those ten minutes in the morning.
An Alternative Approach
When you think about it, almost all of our emotional pains come from a lack of mindfulness. Unmindfulness? I don’t know.
I’m sitting here thinking about my work deadlines next week, about how I shouldn’t have ordered fries with the falafel wrap I ate at lunch, about when my friend will arrive to join me and my unmindful habits. And yet in reality, at this moment, I’m in a peaceful coffee shop, sipping my drink with little to worry about.
If we could just make that switch in our heads and start truly living for each moment, filtering out all of those thoughts, I honestly think we’d be so much happier. That’s what the scientists say, anyway.
It’s not just about meditation. Sure, you might be really mindful for a short period of time each day when you meditate, and that’s great, but wouldn’t it be better to be mindful more often? Like, all the time?
Of course it would — and really, it’s as simple as just doing it. It’s about slowing down to enjoy things that you’d otherwise rush through. It’s exactly what people mean when they tell you to stop and smell the roses, rather than trampling all over them to make it to your meeting on time.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, only that slowing down every once in a while might make you feel a lot better and more at ease. Go for a walk, cook a meal, make coffee — but practice doing it mindfully. Notice the smells, the sights, how your body feels. Notice your thoughts. Tune in.
Dedicate time each day not just to meditation, but to practicing mindful awareness in other areas of your life.
Life becomes much more enjoyable when we slow down and actually live it. Perhaps that’s the key to resolving our stress and worries; to realize that most of them aren’t really all that important right now.