The splendour of the current moment seems to have been lost in modern day society as we plod through life constantly worrying about the past or anticipating the future. Rarely do we pause to acknowledge and appreciate the present. Evidence of this can be found in our daily lives. How often have you tuned into your favourite radio station only to realize a while later that your mind is pre-occupied elsewhere? Perhaps you have noticed that instead of focussing on a particular television programme your thoughts have drifted to an earlier conversation. During a meeting or a lecture, you may find yourself thinking about other tasks which need to be completed. In today’s world, we are constantly focussed on our pasts, on our futures, on our worries, on our thoughts - the list is endless. Sadly, our minds seem to be everywhere but in the present moment.
Without conscious awareness, our minds tend to drift to numerous thoughts including those related to emotionally laden topics which involve anger, self-pity, stress, worry, depression, etc. The more we allow ourselves to indulge in these thoughts, the more we fuel negative emotion which increases emotional distress. By intentionally re-directing our attention away from such thoughts and toward the present moment, we have the power to decrease its negative effect on our lives and to instead pave the way for a more content and fulfilled existence.
The art of mindfulness, which dates back to ancient Buddhist tradition, involves directing of one’s attention to the present moment. Being mindful can be equated to imagining one’s thoughts as objects on a conveyer belt, watching them go by without stopping the conveyer to examine them more closely. Mindful practice allows one to view one’s thoughts from a distance, to recognize how thought patterns influence emotion and behaviour and to let go of experiences which are not useful.
The following mindfulness-based activities can be incorporated into your daily life as a means of interrupting your ‘autopilot’ mode and focussing your attention on the present:
- Engage in an activity such as yoga or tai-chi which will help you to develop an awareness of your breathing
- Take a walk or hike – listen for the sounds that you may previously have overlooked, notice the various objects in the environment (e.g. stones, insects, leaves, footsteps, plants, etc), focus on the different smells that you encounter
- Sit in silence for a few moments and pay attention only to your breathing or only to the sounds in your environment
- Choose any of your daily activities (e.g. taking a shower, making coffee, driving to work, washing the dishes) and completely immerse yourself in the activity using all your senses as opposed to rushing through the activity
- Take up an activity such as gardening and allow yourself to focus only on the task at hand
Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s stream of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations whilst also making a repeated effort to bring one’s awareness back to the present moment. Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a fantasy…all we really have is the present. Immerse yourself in the Power of the Present and experience true living.