Practice the Pause. Meditate. Pay attention to life.. in other words – Mindfulness as a practice has been shown to reduce stress, increase happiness, alleviate depression, increase productivity and help us align with our life’s purpose more quickly and easily than constantly thinking our way to what we want.
Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment – and like all arts, the art of mindfulness has the ability to greatly enhance our lives and takes practice.
The emotions, thoughts and sensations of every moment are different. If we don’t stop to pay attention, we risk being “oblivious” to the life that is here and now.
Typically our thoughts will carry us away – thinking about the past or planning and/or worrying about the future can leave one feeling anxious and tired at the end of the day without really having experienced the day itself. A lack of mindfulness can lead to boredom. We become so wrapped up in thoughts of what is wrong or insufficient with our circumstances, lamenting the “lack of excitement” in our lives, we miss the miracles that exist in every moment, step and breath we take. Our thoughts can carry us away from who we are in any given moment if we let them. And as they carry us away from moment after moment of living life, our entire lives can pass without ever having lived them.
I’ve been trying to teach my kids the art of mindfulness. Not the easiest thing to do with two teenagers who live in a world of constant stimulation and distractions, but a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless. I find bringing them to nature – either the forest trails or the oceanside – will ease their transition from frenzy to presence. Typically there is resistance to this at first and I can actually watch as their brains find a slower rhythm but they eventually get there and it’s a wonderful thing to witness.
I will point out butterflies and birds, clouds and light dancing on a window. They tell me I’m weird and “too happy” but I’m okay with that and like I always say to them, “if you don’t think your parents are weird when you’re a teenager, what do you have to talk to your friends about?” Of course it’s all said with lightheartedness and love and on some level I tell myself that the lessons of mindfulness – of paying attention to the journey and not just the goal – is sinking in.
Perhaps one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is with meditation but just as effective and available to you at any time is taking a deep breath. When we inhale and exhale deeply we are connecting immediately with our bodies and the environment surrounding us.
When we take a moment to pause and to observe we are often amazed by what we notice. Noises in the background we hadn’t been paying attention to, beauty in our surroundings, a smell in the air.. but even more importantly is the connection with our emotions because they are the truest guidance system we have. Because our emotions are designed to guide us in letting us know how our inner being feels about the thoughts we are having and the actions we are taking, if we ignore them or are too distracted to notice them, we are missing out on a whole lot of information we can use to live more aligned, happy and fulfilled lives.
You can read as many books as you want, but until you actually “practice the pause” and find a space in-between all the busyness, none of them really matter. Only you can make a difference for yourself. Only you can grow in awareness of your life’s purpose and practicing the pause in the art of mindfulness is a huge step to connecting with and finding all of those things. And like any art, it grows with practice and expands with you as you grow along with it.
So take a deep breath – take several… chew your food slowly, savour the wine, really listen to your friend talking before thinking of what you’re going to say in response, observe the light in a room, take a minute to see what your body is really asking for when you sense hunger, look into your children’s eyes when they speak to you, really feel someone’s lips on yours when you kiss.. everything does not have to be about getting somewhere else because if that is how we are living our lives, we will inevitably miss the whole thing.
As Eckhart Tolle says, “to realize that your life is only ever now” is a revelation for many. I would take it one step further to say that it is only when we realize that our lives are only ever now that we really begin living them.