"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind" - Gandhi
Choices. As we close 2013 and launch into 2014, we all have many things on our mind. We have to choose what consumes our thoughts and actions and what will be left out. A simple question to ask yourself is,
"Do I have a full mind or am I being Mindful?"
A full mind is stuffed with stresses stemming from people, relationships, finances, career, illness, family….you name it. The full mind is overtaken with so much for so long that life seems to overwhelm you. The past haunts and scares you enough to create goals and behaviors that hinge on unrealized events well off in the future. When you think about what you plan to do today, you immediately think to the future, but not to the present moment. Your mind wanders to the hours, days, weeks, months and years ahead. Then it shifts backwards to the past and how those experiences will influence how you achieve your future state.
What about the present?
Being Mindful is the state of being aware and attentive to what is happening in the present. Breathing. Taking a shower. Brushing your teeth. Eating. Walking. The strange feelings and pains that you have in your body that you should have checked by another person and not the internet. Really listening to the person directly in front of you. Taking 15 minutes each day to do absolutely nothing and to think absolutely nothing. Letting things go, albeit for a just a short while, each day. Earlier forms of mindfulness were linked to Buddhism, but the current mindfulness programs are independent of religion.
Let's face it. Being mindful can be a challenge. Perhaps an appropriate analogy would be to the Motivation Triad of 1) Avoid pain 2) Seek pleasure and 3) Do it all at the lowest energy cost. Many times the Triad is applied to life areas such as diet and nutrition but it can be expanded to anything. In our world, we are constantly buzzing about trying to optimize our triad, reduce our stress and make our loved ones happy, yet we run out of mental and physical energy that then puts our physical, mental and spiritual parts out of balance.
How do I be more mindful?
There are many ways. Most of them focus on breathing, simplifying and practicing. Two of my favorite outlines on how to be more Mindful are Zen Habits and from Tiny Buddha. In short, they focus attention to breathing, keeping things simple, and paying attention to those in front of you. Sure, meditation is a super way to practice being Mindful, but you certainly don't have to meditate to practice mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn pioneered the use of mindfulness to help many with stress reduction, anxiety and coping. He founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. I leave you with one of his most notable quotations regarding life and stress,
"You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf"
Happy 2014 to All! Be present. Be mindful. Be well.