“Mindfulness” seems like a hot buzzword these days. What does it mean to practice mindfulness? It simply means having awareness in the present moment. Seems easy (or even boring), right?
The trouble is, we are often distracted many times throughout the day. Even hundreds and thousands of times. Our thoughts creep in, worries about upcoming events, or ruminations about the past. What we should have said or done. What will be happening next week. How often do these worries or ruminations distract or divert our attention? How many times do they keep us from fully participating in and enjoying the present moment?
If you begin to count the times you are distracted throughout the day, you will probably realize how much time and energy you are devoting to unproductive thinking habits. We have no control over the past or the future, but we do have the ability to “seize the present moment.” Carpe Diem!
We are not practicing mindfulness when we are distracted. We are mindful when we are committing our full and focused attention to the present. When we notice and observe what is happening around us, we invite the sensations and experiences surrounding us in the moment.
Mindfulness can enhance our connection with others. When we practice mindful connection, we can sit down with someone and truly enjoy their company. We are not thinking about the next funny thing we should say, or judging ourselves in the interaction. We are just listening, attending, noticing the other person. So often we are distracted in our communications with our friends and family members. We may be distracted by our to-do list, or by an electronic device buzzing or dinging in the background. We may be distracted by thoughts or judgments about ourselves or the other person.
When we can observe our surroundings, the sounds, the images, and the sensations, we enliven our experience of the present moment. This is how we can imprint, or form new memories. We can take a walk in the woods, notice the crunching of the leaves under our feet, the cool crisp fall breeze, the smell of the pines. These sensations are much more vivid than any words or thoughts that occur along our walk. And if we are simply walking as fast as possible, pre-occupied with getting home to clean a dirty house, or anxious about our next meeting at work, we miss so much of the joy in the experience.
I notice that when I practice mindfulness, my anxieties and worries subside, and I am able to truly connect with others around me. I can observe my baby smiling, and my toddlers laughing and playing. I can relate to my partner and family members. I can find more joy in the little moments. I am no longer “bored,” I am simply present, and more re-freshed. I feel more energized to seize the day. Carpe Diem!