“Always be Mindful,” said the Tortoise
How often do you find yourself living your day on autopilot? Not to get too maudlin here but every second you spend disengaged is still a second lost from your life. Deny it if you wish, but unless someone invents immortality the fact is that we’re all just clocking up the seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, years until finally they run out. Sheesh! What a way to start a blog!
But it’s the reality of the human condition. So knowing this, as we do, why spend so many precious moments out of touch with the present?
“The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift that’s we call it the present.”
— Alice More Earl (& Master Oogway — The Tortoise from Kung Fu Panda)
Yes it’s an old adage (some may say it’s over used) but it’s still true. Wouldn’t our experience of life be vastly different, and arguably more satisfying if we could fully experience and appreciate each moment?
Luckily there is a way to at least improve our experience just a little bit. Mindfulness.
Mindfulness brings us back into our present moment and helps us to reconnect with our senses as we are pulled from pillar to post with responsibilities, tasks, a to-do list stretching into next week. If you haven’t already discovered mindfulness tools them there are countless apps, books, and video tutorials to help. I encourage you to try them and discover what works for you. Just be sure to build in repetition, just a little bit every day until being present with your thoughts, your loved ones, and your reality becomes the norm.
Positive habits are a proactive way to creative long lasting change instead of a quick fix, or momentary boost (nothing wrong with that by the way — whatever gets you through the day) but if you are interested in raising your life experience for a prolonged period of time, then you could do worse than focusing on cultivating mindfulness as a daily habit.
Whatever you do, being mindful is noticing every moment and using all of your senses. For example, eating chocolate. This is a classic example of mindfulness at work.
Sit down with the chocolate bar, take a few deep breaths (close your eyes if that helps). Now. Instead of ripping open the packet whilst busily engaged with other thoughts, first take a moment to explore the packaging. Is it foil or plastic? What is the texture, how does it feel under your fingers, how heavy is the bar? Trace your fingers to determine the shape of the bar beneath the wrapper before you have even opened it.
By this point you may have usually have consumed the whole thing and moved on without a thought. So being mindful takes time (the best things in life generally do).
You can imagine how the process of eating chocolate mindfully continues: using all senses, taking your time and focusing all of your thoughts on the process instead of relying on auto pilot. Put simply, mindfulness is about ‘noticing’ your life as it passes.
Now, before you think that his all sound a little far-fetched, science backs up mindfulness as a proven way to help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. “It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
NHS UK tells us that… reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
So start small. A little everyday (tortoise steps remember). Maybe on your walk to the station or bus stop could try to become aware of everything around you. The sights, sounds, smells, the ground beneath your feet, the feel of the wind against your cheek, your clothing against your skin. Being mindful needn’t impact on your busy routine, but should enhance it. Simply start noticing the life you are already living.
Simple as that. Have a grateful day!
Klaus White is a Trainer, Educator, proud Dad,
& co-founder of The Way of the Tortoise