Mindfulness benefits are not new — increased attentiveness, lower stress, reduced rumination, decreased anxiety, etc. We all know what mindfulness is and how it works.
However, for me, the reason to enjoying the present moment is:
“No matter how hard you try, you’ll always lose something (while acquiring something else). So why not enjoy the view of life from where you are!”
I know this is the modified version of the law of thermodynamics. But, this thought helps me understand myself, my fears, resistance to change, and an uncontrollable urge to either dive into the future or drown in the past. This law of nature never lets you acquire everything.
“You always have to let go of something to hold onto something. You have to let go of the waves to feel the sand.”
But, no one is perfect at this task. No one. Not me for sure. I have always felt that it’s a continual learning process that teaches me:
What to let go
When to let go
How much to let go
What to hold onto
What not to hold onto
However, I learned these lessons only when I failed to apply them. I think that’s the beauty of living. You experience a wide range of emotions — from being distressed to being super excited. But, we resist this experience as Thích Nhất Hạnh quotes:
“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.”
Reason? We get caught up in our thoughts and distractions that prevent us from experiencing the “joy of being alive.” Also, practicing the wrong level of mindfulness makes you feel even worse about your life.
You might be thinking, “what’s the wrong level of mindfulness?”
Well, I have bifurcated mindfulness techniques into three categories.
Thought-based Attention (Expert Level)
Action-Based Attention (Intermediate Level)
Trigger-Based Attention (Beginner’s Level)
Not understanding/learning the commitment required fails you at being mindful. That’s why you feel that “mindfulness is not my cup of tea.” But that’s untrue.
I. Smile, Please! You’re on Camera
Do you like your photographs where you seem lost and sad?
Then why do you (want to) feel drowned in thoughts of the future/past while being recorded by God?
Yes, you got it right! Our life is like a movie reel where every moment is recorded which sets the stage for the future.
Anything that leads to a consequence is Karma. Thoughts give rise to feelings, emotions, and hence actions. The result of thoughts is feelings, which later culminate into actions. So, thought is the seed of all actions. We’re constantly creating the future, unaware. That’s why we need to focus on our thoughts to enjoy the present.
e.g., If you constantly think pessimistically, you’re bound to feel stressed, which would later create mood swings and ill behavior. Isn’t that going to invite an adverse reaction from the people around you?
If we believe in the idea of “Smile…Camera!” deeply, no situation has the potential to distract our mental attention. Also, we would be cautious about creating healthy and positive thoughts as they would follow a positive consequence (in the form of feelings, emotions, and actions).
This analogy of life and camera has helped me remain conscious of my thoughts. Most of us call it mindfulness; I call it “awareness.” An awareness of what to think because the mind manifests everything into reality — good or bad.
This technique is hard to incorporate in practical life until you apply the following action-based attentiveness approach.
II. Before Every Action, Set an Intention
Let’s say we are unable to pay attention to our thoughts (which is likely). It requires practice to be aware of what we think. So, let’s start with the basics. Pay attention to your actions because we’re so much living in auto-pilot mode that we’re not even aware of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Watching TV….no aim, just exploring the Netflix world.
Using Social media…no intention…just scrolling endlessly.
Writing…don’t know about the outcome.
So, if you’re about to start any activity like walking, eating, drinking, watching TV, writing, speaking, etc., just pause for a moment. Then, think about your intention for doing that task.
What’s the outcome of my task?
What am I trying to achieve with my actions/activity?
What impact will my actions have on myself and others?
When you answer these questions, your mind becomes hyperactive during that task. It gets involved 100 percent. As a result, you won’t have to worry about when someone asks you to identify the ingredients of the pasta you’re eating.
“Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
So, setting intentions for actions triggers your mind to stay vigilant of your “doings.” Isn’t this the simple form of mindfulness?
If not, let’s talk about the basic one.
III. Set Mindfulness Bells That Triggers Your Attention
What’s the thing that wakes you up from your sleep apart from nightmares?
The same is required for mindfulness. You need an alarm to remind you to stay aware of the present. Sharon Salzberg aptly says:
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
When I started mindfulness, I used many timer apps like Hourly Chime, Blip Blip, Chime, Insight Timer, and many more to help me retract my attention from elsewhere.
This mindfulness method is the easiest yet intimidating. Though it helps you stay grounded in the present moment, it asks you “why.”That’s why most of us fail at this basic mindfulness too!
Since we are so much engrossed in our daily chores/errands/work, we’re hardly aware of the surroundings around us. This trigger-based attentiveness approach helps us bring our focus to the present moment.
But what do you do after these alarms wake you up from your fantasizing thoughts?
No one talks about it while suggesting this mindfulness exercise.
Remember, these alarms were set for a reason, just like your morning alarms. Associate reasons to those triggers (alarm). If your work is causing fatigue, check your mental status every hour. Ask yourself:
How am I doing?
What’s bothering me for the past one hour?
What can I change/do to feel better?
How can I not transfer my past hour’s stress to the following hour?
These questions will help you realize the importance of being alive.
“Life is not meant just to pass the time from 9:00 — 5:00 or Mondays-Fridays.”
Mindfulness is Your Friend, Not Enemy
Just as the body that has not exercised for years experiences excruciating pain initially, our minds also resist mindful habits. But, with regular attention and practicing the correct mindfulness exercise, our life becomes simpler.
I will take your leave with a thought-provoking quote from Buddha:
“Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life.”
If you found this letter helpful, please share it with your friends and family.
That’s all from my side.
I’ll see you again next Wednesday. Till then, stay happy, safe, healthy, and don’t forget to wear your infectious smile!