“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” – Andy Bernard
Mindfulness is a contemplative practice that is the basis of most of the world’s great philosophical and religious traditions. It is also one of the most misunderstood and underutilized tools to maintain mental and emotional wellness. There are many definitions, most too esoteric and philosophical for the majority of people to digest and understand. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
Mindfulness 1. the quality or state of being mindful. 2. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also : such a state of awareness.
There are many other self-help experts, schools of meditation, and philosophical traditions that have their own spin on what mindfulness is. There are so many different perspectives that the average person gives up on practicing this basic skill out of misunderstanding and frustration that comes from trying to figure out something that cannot be explained, but must be experienced. The simplest and best definition that I know of comes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, who describes mindfulness this way:
“Be here now.”- Thích Nhất Hạnh
Most people associate the practice of mindfulness with the practice of meditation, as if one cannot coexist without the other. Meditation, also an ancient tool for mental health and wellness, is greatly misunderstood as well. Most 21st-century humans don’t have the patience or self-discipline to engage in a meditation practice. Most, however, can practice mindfulness by incorporating a few basic skills into their every day life. Modern life is a whirlwind of sensory stimulation, distractions, and shiny, pretty things that pull us away from what life is all about. For example, the number of people who think they have ADHD, as opposed to the number of people who actually have is a very wide gap. The American Psychiatric Association puts the number at 5%. Think about how often you hear people tell you that they have ADHD. You yourself may believe that you have this disorder. Do you really, or do you merely have a problem staying focused in the present moment? More importantly, does it even matter?
Contemporary life has never been more stimulating. We are living in the most distractible time of any society at any period of human history. Most of us carry, on a routine basis, more computer power than was available to Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon in 1969, and carry it in our pocket. From this device we can speak face to face with virtually anybody on the planet, watch more video than existed on television 10 years ago, and get as much information in seconds as it would’ve taken you hours to gather in the public library when you were in the seventh grade. Is it any wonder that were all walking around distracted and missing the life that is right in front of us right now? No wonder we’re all missing the good old days.
In my counseling and coaching practice, I try to get my clients to appreciate the benefits of a mindfulness practice of some sort. I frequently find myself having to sell clients on the idea that slowing down and noticing things will increase their productivity, happiness, and sense of well-being. Those that buy what I’m selling are usually amazed at how quickly their awareness, attention, and focus become. Like many things human, the tendency to overthink, intellectualize, and analyze tends to get away of optimal performance.
There are a number of ways to be mindful in every day life. Taking a deep breath and asking yourself the following questions can increase your awareness of those micro-moments that are the fabric of life and will be the good old days that you someday reflect upon. Here are some basic questions that can focus you on the here and now:
1. Where am I right now? This question is not one of confusion, but one of awareness and literalness. Ask yourself, physically, where am I now? Who’s with me? Where am I sitting, standing, and being right now? A deep breath, inhaled thoughtfully, can help you zero in.
2. What am I doing right now? What’s the task at hand, if any? This can be a physical or mental task. It can also be that what you are doing now is nothing. Realizing that sometimes doing nothing and merely zoning out is okay can be truly liberating.
3. Why am I doing what I’m doing in this moment? This can help you focus and zero in on tasks that must be accomplished, or can help you to realize that, in that moment doing nothing is perfectly okay. This can give you an appreciation of those micro-moments that will someday be those good old days that you look back on. For example, realizing that you are spending time at a family holiday party in order to commune with people that are important to you can more fully bring you into the present moment and make you appreciate what you have.
These first three questions can more fully bring you into the present moment. If there is a doing task that you must perform, then being mindful can make you more aware, capable, and effective. When going into a task, ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s my attitude? Am I bringing a positive, negative, or neutral attitude into this? Remember that neutral is sometimes ok.
2. What’s my energy right now? How’s my physical energy? Can I feel it? What’s my mental energy? Pause to notice and identity your energy resources.
3. Where’s my focus? What am I thinking about, looking at, ruminating over, saying to myself? How does this help or hurt the situation I am in right now, if at all?
Being mindful has the two-part benefit of making us more efficient and aware of what’s going on in our lives. It makes us more capable of making better decisions and choices, while giving us the ability to notice and savor those day-to-day little things that we might not notice or appreciate for years. Living life more mindfully can help you realize that the good old days are now.
“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee
P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at email@example.com