Perhaps the best way to understanding what ‘mindful living’ actually looks and feels like we need to explore what not living mindful is.
Lost In Thought
A great way to understand what it is to be lost in thought is to compare it to watching television. You enter the TV room, turn on the television, choose a seat and choose a station. These actions are usually quite clear and mindful. You are aware of your position in the room and the choices you are making. You are aware of your body; you assess how you feel and what station suits your mood. You press the remote and start to relax.
The point of getting lost in the television is when you start watching the program and forget yourself, in a way. You are lost in the entertainment; fully aware of the character on the screen and the topic they are talking about. Someone could walk into the TV room and you don’t even hear them speaking to you.
Not being mindful is just like watching television this way. Your thoughts take so much of your attention, that you cant even see the present moment.
The mind is extremely adaptable. The first few times you do any new activity your attention is fully in the moment. Once the action is familiar you can go back to getting lost in thought because you can manage a familiar action and a thought at the same time.
This can be a real disadvantage if a lot of your days are similar. You might be spending a lot of time lost in thought, if on auomatic pilot.
Sit in a different place at the dining table or office.
Take a new direction when exercising.
Make a conscious decision to taste your food, enjoy a shower and notice nature.
Notice your body and the detail all around you as much as possible each hour or each day.
Repeating a Pattern of Habits
Problems accumulate when we are making choices when lost in thought and on automatic pilot. You might reach for an unhealthy snack and eat so quickly that you can barely recall the flavour of lunch. You might speak without consciously thinking about the impact this is having on the person in front of you.
You are not making clear conscious choices. Each small daily habit creates how fit, happy and productive you are. Each unconscious decision, reaction and habit becomes a future you didn’t plan for.
Write down some new productive habits you would like in your life.
Make a plan to add small steps of change.
Find ways to remind yourself to add the new habits.
Ask a friend to join you.
Random Attention Focus
Automatic habits feel easier because you don’t have to think too much about each decision or discipline yourself too much. They allow you to keep thinking like a high-speed computer randomly scanning from one topic to the next. We are thinking about what appears to be a very important concern, when probably the best point of focus is in the now.
When emotions, fears and outer triggers are driving what we think about, we become a couch potato watching the screen that we imagine is our life. So much of what we perceive has happened or will happen isn’t reality.
In effect we are wasting time in the non-mindful state. The intention behind emotion, fear and responding to outer circumstances is usually self-preservation and protection but there is another way.
Create a habit of living fearlessly.
Step out of your comfort zone more often.
Learn something new.
Reduce your stress levels by dropping most of your worries.
Set clear daily intentions that bring out the best and bravest in you.
Mindful Living is behaving as if you have nothing to fear, nothing to react to and nothing to protect yourself from. That is why being in the present is so challenging. Your defense mechanisms are down; you accept that trying to control your outer circumstances is exhausting and all but impossible anyway. You decide that the best approach is to face each day with intense gratitude and wonder.
A world will open up to you that perhaps you didn’t know was there. All the beauty, strength and resilience you find in the moment, you will also discover in yourself. From this place you will be awake, alive, courageous and passionate. You will feel emotion like never before but it will pass without all the thought that can spiral down. You can feel and move forward. Feel and move forward again.
You will notice the person entering the room and ask them to sit with you. You will ask if they have had a good day. You will hear if they have had a good day or not because you will be there in the present moment. The peace and happiness you have created within yourself ,will be of benefit to everyone around you.
This will be best place for you to spend your precious time.
In the here and now.