Updated: Apr 19, 2021
During my daily walk, making a deliberate and conscious effort to slow my mind to consider the day and my current surroundings led me to mindfulness. It began years ago when it occurred to me that I hadn’t even had time to think about my last 24hrs. I noticed the repetitious, exhausting comings and goings of my co-workers and wondered what had I been neglecting because of my own busy schedule. I wanted more than the continuous treadmill of work, sleep, cook, clean, drop the boys to the sitter, pick them up afterwards, soccer practice…..and on and on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this until you realize you don’t remember why you keep yourself so busy. What had been simply mindless rote and expected behaviour on my part? The old clichés about taking time to smell the roses and stop to smell the flowers took on real significance for me. Yeah, what did they really smell like anyway…
And now, years later, I do indeed have this precious treasure called mindfulness. Mindfulness is not a destination. Nor is it even a distant relative to yesterday or tomorrow. It is fully and completely now. It is a consistent, intentional behaviour which evolves into an attitude. It is a state of living, and being, and moving, now, right now. Eventually you don’t do mindfulness-you live it. The better skilled you become at creating those new neuropathways in your brain, the more you will observe, and come to know about your own life day to day, hour to hour, then even minute to minute. You train your mind. You very consciously and intentionally become, almost painfully at first, paused, forcibly stalled, when you initially enter this state, especially if you’ve been racing through life. I promise it will get easier and even luxurious the more you do it.
I use my five senses. First, stop, pause, if only for a moment, and just take in the sounds, each one separately. Then consider what you see as you slowly scan, noticing what is happening. Be careful not to compare to yesterday and don’t allow your mind to note whatever may be obviously absent. This is all about NOW. What do you smell? Concentrate only on this for a few moments. Notice then the touch of the breeze on your skin or how your clothes move or sound as you walk. How do you feel? Then accept however it makes you feel. Do you want more of it or do you want it to stop? If what you feel is glorious pleasure, engage each of your senses again to enhance it. I really love doing this when I am swimming especially as I initially feel the warm water slide over me till it completely envelops me like silk. Over time you will come to see there are often precious pearls of pleasure here. You will have learned to dig for the deeper gems of the moment. Or, maybe it is a much more simple thing like watching the birds and squirrels play in your yard. There is no need to overthink it. Take those joy-filled moments at face value. Be it simple pleasures during a daily walk or more intricate learning experiences, you have taken the time to glean the core truth without judgement...and that’s the point of mindfulness-to enrich your life with the truth of the moment, to extract the merit in each second.
Mindfulness creates not just a heightened awareness, but an appreciation, a deeper gratitude for life. Therefore, one gains more life itself, more living. You will indeed live life to the fullest! Suddenly you will experience an abundance you may not have realized was even there. You will actually create more time for what is important to you because you have gradually assigned more and more value to it through mindfulness.
Look at it this way. What do you truly “own” in life? What really belongs to you? Make a list and I don’t mean possessions. Think about it. I believe you will find this list to be very short indeed. “Time” is a primary one, a vital asset. That’s why when you give someone your time, your friends, your children, volunteering, even your career, it is a choice to spend your precious time the way you chose. Truly what an incredible gift! So if you don’t like the way you are literally “spending” your time, through mindfulness you will learn how to spend your time on yourself, deepening and enriching your own life, which incredibly creates a more selfless you! Self-esteem and self-confidence can only grow! And, how can we be of value to others, our family and friends especially, until we find worth in ourselves. Indeed anyone can benefit from this personal expansion but especially children who learn it when they are very young. Through practicing mindfulness you now have already taken the time to look at and assess how and why you do the things you do, and how those things make you feel. You become much more budget minded about the use of your own time.
Consider for a moment exercising or studying and learning something new. If through conscious analysis (mindfulness), you believe this brings added value to your life, investing the time in it will become so much easier. Go beyond just reading about the benefits-experience the benefits. Ask yourself what it will mean to you and how it will feel in your own life. Visualize the desired outcome. You will then gladly find the time to exercise or to learn that new skill if you have mindfully considered the end goal and thus, experienced its personal benefits for yourself. It will be another present you gift to yourself, not a resented commitment. Self-discipline becomes easier. Any habit or behaviour you wish to break or create is much less stressful, again, because you have mindfully considered it. This all may sound very basic but how many functions do you perform in a day out of duty or rotely, without a single thought.
Perhaps this is too big picture for some people. Indeed mindfulness starts to take place at a much more primal, even physical, level. Breathing in and out with conscious thought to the muscles and the movement involved is a great place to begin. It is without a doubt the single most significant physical act of life. No breathing, no life. The absence of it creates an absence of life itself. Life ceases. I don’t know about you but even this wee exercise in mindfulness makes me appreciate my healthy lungs!
Being mindful has no down side. You learn to absorb every minute out of every day, every positive asset that each moment holds some pleasurable, some teaching, or even some painful. Even goodbye moments can become more precious and treasured. Nothing is ever again buried or suppressed. Fear decreases. And, there is little to no waste of our precious time. During duty, play, rest or even quiet contemplation more essential, useful, enjoyment comes to a mindful person. Seeking mindfulness is seeking the truth, always, in every circumstance. It is, I believe, the difference between living a small life or your biggest and best one. I guarantee you’ll never be bored again! Mindfulness is not acquainted with boredom. They have never met!
Mindfulness is a gift you give yourself and those you love. It allows you the space to examine all of life’s events, sometimes for simple pleasure’s sake, as a means of learning, or even for more profound reasons. To rush through life without being mindful, often leads to poor choices and wrong moves, especially when we are young or before we have developed the skill of mindfulness. Good and wise decisions demonstrate there’s been deep rumination. Honing the craft of mindfulness early, even in childhood, can be so very valuable yet you can begin at any stage of life and watch it gradually change you. It teaches you to pause and consider the details because details do matter!
Mindfulness develops within us an assigned significance to everything, every single thing. A maturing sense of mindfulness fearlessly welcomes the deepest of questions, the most brave assessments. You come to realize that if you want to experience life to the full, all things must be examined every moment, the pretty and the ugly… for that is the fabric of our lives, the wisdom we accumulate. That is what gives our lives profound beauty. After all, our lives are each a work of art …and we are each the artist of our own masterpiece.