Why Mindfulness Matters
By Sandi Kimmel
Be Here Now, the mantra of mindfulness, is not just a catch-phrase or soundbite. It’s a powerful suggestion for living your life as it’s actually happening…instead of living in your thoughts.
What exactly do I mean? Today, for example, I could get completely torn up about the most recent mass shooting (it doesn’t really matter which one) and spend countless hours pouring over the latest news reports. Or I can stay informed without getting stuck in the quicksand of mass consciousness, send my love and prayers to all involved and come back to my life, my family, my yard, my chores, my trees, my own sweet day, with gratitude. The approaching holidays are another example. We tend to race through all of the tasks (planning, shopping, wrapping, sending, cooking) with the “goal” in mind…instead of savoring each of the parts that make up the whole.
I can almost hear you asking, “How do I do that?” Years ago, I read a lovely little book called When Singing, Just Sing: Life as Meditation (sadly out of print now) that basically instructed the reader to fully experience whatever they were doing mindfully.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness back to the present moment and whatever it is presenting. Even household chores! Raking leaves? Remember the cycle the tree is experiencing, releasing the old to prepare for the new. Cooking? Spend a moment thinking about the farmers and the sunshine and the rain, infusing love into the meal. Even a grilled cheese sandwich required a LOT of people and the generosity of nature to get the cheese and the bread to you. Folding laundry? Notice each item, appreciate the person who wears it, feel the warmth from the dryer, smell the freshness, enjoy having “new” clothes to put away.
Sound crazy? To me, it’s crazier spending all of my time in my thoughts about the past…or the ones about the future. I remember working in my corporate life, always planning months ahead. I missed whole chunks of my life only looking ahead and never looking at where I was at any given moment. I noticed one day that when the future I’d been thinking about arrived, I was already thinking about the “next” future. And I missed the present moment entirely.
And I also remember countless hours spent going over past events, dragging them kicking and screaming into the present. Better to leave them where they were…
Some years ago, I took a week-long training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the program pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are. During the course of the week, we spent many hours meditating, paying attention to our busy minds. We were asked not to wear watches so we would not be tempted to see how long we were meditating. (“That’s why they call it a watch…”) One day, I was having a particularly hard time sitting still. My chattering mind was getting the better of me. I decided to “cheat” to see how much longer it would be until we could go back to our rooms. I stole a glance toward the back of the room to see the clock…but someone had taped a piece of paper over it with the word: NOW I got it…and almost burst out laughing!
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to take a breath, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, with your awareness on your breathing. BAM! You’re in the present moment! (Amazing how that happens, right?) Or, as my 88-year old mother often says when we’re enjoying a family gathering, “Can we just press the PAUSE button?” That magic button is the breath, and you can press it any time…
This holiday season, press the PAUSE button…as you plan shop, wrap, ship and cook. I suspect you’ll find the holidays last longer…and so will you!