You probably know a few people who seem to spend all of their time talking, thinking, and or worrying about the past or future.
They follow the same thought patterns day after day. Always focusing on that next promotion, that next party, that next vacation, that next whatever.
Or maybe it’s the past they focus on. Maybe they focus on a past love, a past decision, a past action, a past anything.
I know a lot of people who think like this. I don’t fault any of them for it. Not one bit. Someone that I’m really close with used to live like this. He was a prisoner of the past and future. That person is me.
I used to be out of tune with the present moment. This was the result of what has been called having a “brain on fire”. Thoughts never stopped for me. I couldn’t control the direction of my mind. So I lived life according to the quality of whatever I was thinking about. That sucked. Most of the time I wasn’t happy.
Then, as a freshman in College, I discovered the practice of mindfulness and everything changed. Not in an instant, but gradually over the last 6 and a half years.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the sensory experience of the present moment. I’ll provide an example to help clarify: Imagine a father and his daughter are on a hike in the mountains. As the father walks along the path, he’s thinking about his business and how beautiful the view from the top of the peak is going to be. Meanwhile, the daughter is looking at all the cool rocks on the ground she’s walking on. She’s smelling the smells of the flowers as she walks by them. She hears the birds chirping off in the distance. She feels the feeling of being a little out of breath. She’s fascinated by everything that’s going on around her.
In this scenario, the father has a wandering mind. The daughter, on the other hand, is being mindful. She’s living in, and truly experiencing, the moment.
We come into this world as incredibly present and curious beings. Ever noticed how curious babies are? Or the spontaneity with which they laugh or cry? Over time as we develop mental models for how the world works we often stop being so curious. We stop expressing our emotions. We stop being mindful. We begin to spend a lot of time in our own heads. We take it too far. But we’re not the passengers of the ship, you see. We are the captains. So, how does one become captain? For me, the key was with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment. It’s taking some of that energy we normally devote to thinking and literally re-directing it to focus on the present moment. It’s waking up to smell the roses. Literally.
I’m convinced that mindfulness is a core component to living a happy life. It’s a skill, though, and thus requires practice to develop. That’s what meditation does for you. It trains your mind. It’s like mental reps in the gym.
Meditation is the key to becoming more mindful (for me). If you think meditation is just for hippies and monks, I suggest you try it out before making conclusions.
I’ll talk more about meditating next week. In the meantime, if you want to learn how to meditate on your own time download the Headspace app on your smart phone and try the 10 day “take 10” trial. It’s free, takes 10 minutes a day, and could potentially change your life.
If you’re not quite there yet, but want to start practicing more mindfulness, you might try a mindful shower. As you shower, pay close attention to how the water feels on your body. Pay close attention to how the soap and shampoo smell. Pay attention to the sounds of the water hitting your body and the floor. See if you can slow your breathing a little and make it a relaxing experience.
If the mindful shower isn’t your thing, maybe you can have your mindful moment be your morning cup of coffee. Take a few moments to pay close attention to the smells, the taste, and the texture of your coffee as you sip it. Notice how your body feels. Notice what sounds are going on around you. Pay a little more attention to your senses. As you do this, over time, your thinking mind will quiet down.
There are a million ways to be more mindful. Have fun with it. Enjoy waking up to the present!
- Lots of people aren’t living mindfully, and they’re missing out on the sensory experience of life. This leads to stress, sickness, and a host of other negative things.
- Mindfulness is the practice of paying more attention to the present moment by focusing on sensory experience.
- Mindfulness is a skill, and it is developed with practice. Meditation is the vehicle to practice. Try downloading the Headspace app if you’re interested to try it out.
- An easy way to become more mindful is to start training your brain with mindful moments. Whether it’s your morning shower, coffee, drive to work, etc., pick something that you could pay more attention to and try it out for a few days.
Thanks for reading!
Originally published at www.chipgrossman.com on June 4, 2017.