You don’t have to look far to find information on the benefits of mindfulness. Corporations are encouraging their employees to practice meditation, psychologists are finding benefits in present moment awareness, and study after study confirms the stress-reducing properties of mindful living.
Mindfulness, to put it simply, means staying focused on the present moment. This can be accomplished through meditation, yoga, or simply staying aware of each moment as you live it. When you live mindfully, you neither ruminate on the past nor worry about the future.
Does this sound difficult—or nearly impossible—to you? Then relax: you are in good company. While most people are aware of the benefits of living mindfully, many people are also not able to make it a part of their life. Clearing one’s mind, or taking the focus off of the to-do list, is something that many people are not able to do.
Unfortunately, the advice to these people is usually to “just keep practicing.” But asking someone to do that is like handing a toddler a unicycle and telling them that they will learn to ride it if they just practice! There are some steps that must be taken to train your mind to stay in the present moment.
1. Find your reasons for drifting.
The first step is to try living mindfully. Try meditation, or try staying in the present moment during an activity. Don’t worry—the expectation is that your mind will wander! But when it wanders, follow it. What is it that is pulling your mind out of the present moment? Don’t judge, don’t get angry at yourself, and don’t try to change your thoughts. Just notice what it is. Spend some time observing it. Is it your to-do list? Is it guilt? Whatever it is, just take note of it at that stage.
2. Find the fear behind the wandering.
When the mind can not stay in the present moment, that is a red flag that you are experiencing a fear-based assumption. So now the question is to ask, “what am I afraid of?” If your mind keeps going back to your to-do list, why is that? What fear I behind it? It could possibly be the fear that you will not get everything done if you take time to relax. If your mind keeps wandering to the past, perhaps your fear is that you have done damage to someone or to your life at that time.
3. Question and redefine the fear.
Once you’ve identified the fear, it is time to be curious with your own mind and redefine the fear. For the steps in this process, read this article. If you are afraid that you will not get everything done if you relax, you can realize that feeling busy is a sign of being in a state of fight-or-flight, and that relaxing will actually cause life to feel slower as you refocus. If you are experiencing guilt about the past, you can look back at the choices you made and see that you did the best with the tools you had at the time, and understand what you have learned from the experience.
4. Keep repeating the process.
As you learn to observe your thoughts, identify those that are fear-based, and redefine them, you will naturally become more mindful and more grounded in the present moment. You will have more success practicing a formal mindfulness routine, and you will automatically stay more focused in the present moment in your daily life.
Living mindfully means looking deeply and understanding. And there is no better place to begin this process, then with your own thoughts!
For help in redefining your own thoughts so that you can live more mindfully, consider an individual e-mail, chat, or Skype session. A sliding scale is available to fit every budget!
There are still spaces open in the Simple Living Basics E-Course, which will begin on July 1. Make an investment in your peace of mind this summer! Discounts are available.