You can be fully present and enjoy beauty, such as a sunset...or miss it altogether. How much we take in, depends on how mindful we are - as a way of life.
For a long time, I categorised the practice of “Mindfulness”, the practice of deliberate, focussed awareness of the present moment, to be a discrete one; something to be done during a specific period. So, for a period of time, say 15 minutes each day, I would engage in the activity in some form, usually via deep breathing, and trying not to let distracting thoughts interrupt this area of focus.
After this, I would usually revert to being semi-present.
However, increasingly, the benefits of embracing mindfulness as a way of life have become apparent to me. Basically, my goal has been to present in the moment in a way directed toward a valued way of interacting in the world as much as possible, all of the time.
I need to note that mindfulness as a way of life has been the goal and that I do realise that realistically, the mind’s natural tendency is to wander. It has been likened to being like a young puppy, excited by the many and varied stimuli around, and this is just human nature. So when this occurs, I remind myself not to be discouraged by this, but bring it back to whatever it is I would like to focus on.
I would like to share some of the benefits that I have enjoyed from just endeavouring to be mindful. I’d also like to note that the success of trying to be mindful does improve over time.
1. A decrease in mental suffering whether this be anxiety or depression, for example. I believe we create a lot of our own distress through introspection, which can lead to many imagined worries. Even if we do have real reasons to worry, be sad and have other negative states of mind, focussing on them tends to freeze us, make them seem that this is all there is, rather than redirecting our attention outward, or onward and forwards, where solutions lie.
So I find myself experiencing less depression and anxiety, for example.
2. Life becomes more interesting, meaningful and a richer experience. As I focus my attention toward my five senses while walking, for example, I notice the beauty around me, rather than being distracted by the mental chatter in my head. Also, I just notice so many intricacies of life that I would otherwise just miss.
3. I notice an improvement in interpersonal relationships. Rather than being stuck in my head, I notice I am listening actively more, and not just passively listening. I can then respond more authentically and meaningfully, rather than just nodding, and say ‘uh huh’ – realising I am not ‘really there’.
4. Feelings of peacefulness . Particularly before I am about to retire for the evening, I try to direct my attention toward my breathing. As I become aware of the rhythmic rise and fall of my diaphragm, the concerns of the day dissipate, and seem to melt away. Sleep comes easier and I do not create unnecessary suffering for myself ruminating about the events of the day.
5. Clarity of thought and improved concentration. The persistent practice of focussing on one stimuli helps me to slow the futile mental chatter that otherwise occurs. As I relax and direct my attention toward a valued direction of thought, for example – engaging in meaningful conversation, or enjoying reading a book, I am more present.
6. An increase in effectiveness. As I learn to direct my attention toward whatever it is that matters to me, whether being present with a person, or my beloved pet, or getting a job done, when I channel my mental energy toward just that activity, I feel I am more effective. Being fully present allows you to give yourself fully towards what matters.
Great article, Jussie. I find looking around for things to photograph is one activity that makes me more mindful. Then concentrating on what angle to take the shot from makes me more aware of what is happening around me.