Imagine that you were told that today was your last day on this earth. What would you want to do? Who would you want to spend it with? What would you want your last meal to be? I always think about people on death row and what they request as their last meal. I wonder if they savor each and every bite and really taste the food, unlike most meals today which are eaten in haste and without second thought. I imagine that they experience that meal like no other meal they have ever eaten, in a state of pure mindfulness. Even though we may not be on death row having our final meal, we never know when our last meal may be. There are no guarantees when it comes to our time here on this earth. We all expect to have another meal but the truth is that we will have a last meal, we just don’t know when or where that meal may be, but it is coming.
Most of us have become so disconnected from our true selves, we lead such busy lives of going from one place to the next on autopilot and filling our calendars with to-do lists and appointments that life just slips by us. Why not savor every moment of our lives as if it’s our last. We can literally retrain our brains to be in a more calm and relaxed state by practicing mindfulness. No matter what it is you are doing you can be more mindful and have a greater appreciation for life.
Mindfulness is a practice. It is a practice of becoming aware, awake, present, and in the moment. It’s acknowledging what is going on but remaining calm and not overreacting to whatever is happening.
When was the last time you actually paid attention to just your breathing? It is something that occurs whether we think about it or not, it’s truly incredible that our bodies know to breath without us telling them to. Right now just stop for a moment and take note of your breath. Feel the air come into your body through your nose and notice how it moves down through the body and back out. Do not try to force your breath to be any different or extended or deeper, just take notice of where your breath is right now. That is being mindful, mindful of your body. It’s simple yet so hard for many to do as their minds wander off in a hundred different directions.
Our minds are controlled by our ego and our ego doesn’t usually just say “hey, let’s stop and just be present in this moment”, it’s something most of us have to work on. But the benefits can be so rewarding. A sense of inner peace and calm, a sense of balance, a sense of purpose all can increase by just being more aware, even if it’s for just a few minutes each day.
You don’t have to be a spiritual guru or practice yoga or meditation to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. It can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to just focus on your breath at that moment, no matter what chaos is ensuing or how zoned out you are at work, just taking time to reconnect with yourself and be aware of your body. Three mindful breaths is a great start. I work in a very stimulating environment where there is constant noise and music and sounds literally all the time so I always take time throughout the day to reconnect with myself and focus on my breathing amidst all the chaos in my work environment.
I have been practicing mindfulness for many years now and I will have to continue practicing until my last day on this earth. It’s not something I’ll ever perfect but I make strides to improve all the time. Looking back to the way my life was even up to 5 years ago, there have been so many transformations. It seemed like I was always caught up thinking about the next thing I had to do or excited for the next vacation or thinking about what I had coming up the next week. I was also caught up in defining myself by my past, my past actions, thoughts, experiences and so forth was my excuse for being who I was. When I was somewhere my mind was somewhere else.
I remember one summer about 5 years ago when me and my husband were talking about house projects we wanted to do, the landscaping ideas we had, and the way we wanted our house to look. We live out in the country on about 3 acres of land surrounded by nature and trees and wildlife. We also have a swimming pool which comes in handy on those hot Oklahoma summer days. As we were both listing off our renovation goals and how we wanted things to look I stopped and said “hey, why don’t we just enjoy what we have this summer, and not worry about doing any projects and making more to do lists, let’s just spend time together and be happy with what’s here now”. Every year he was always busy making things and working on projects that I had dreamed up. It seemed like we were so busy doing all the time that we had no time for being. He agreed and so that summer we didn’t do any projects or work on any plans. This was a turning point for myself in that I was recognizing the fact that time was slipping by each and every day but I wasn’t truly living in the moment, I was too caught up in the future.
Some people by nature are free spirits who are not caught up in the daily grind of what’s next, what happened, but instead are just “being”. Most people, however, are not so lucky, we really have to work on being present. The good news is that we all have the ability to shift our thinking and start living in the moment once we recognize it and commit to it.
It is said that depression comes from being stuck in the past and that anxiety comes from worrying about the future. Everyday people wake up, go to work, eat, sleep, and repeat with other hobbies, interests, or responsibilities in between. Our lives have become almost robotic in this modern technologically driven world. You can be driving somewhere and end up at your final destination and not even remember how you got there because your mind was flooded with an array of different thoughts whooshing in and out.
Mindfulness is about observing your thoughts without passing judgement or being attached to them. Our minds are constantly judging and analyzing everything we come in to contact with, mindfulness helps put a stop to all of the noise. It’s taking time every day to just be in the moment.
It’s also about becoming more intentional. Intentional with what you are doing and how you are doing it. It’s also about letting go of trying to control a situation. If you are stuck in traffic and find yourself getting anxious and frustrated just try to tune your mind to a different channel like you do the radio. If there’s a song on that you don’t like you don’t have to listen to it, you can find another song that you do like. Try to turn the situation into a positive situation, you can’t control the traffic around you but you can control how you react.
Make a conscious effort to focus on what it is you are doing at different times of the day. It’s amazing once you realize how ego driven we are that you can start to see how your mind is always caught up in the past or future and judging almost everything going on in and around you. No matter what you are doing you can always bring your attention inward and put your focus on that. For example, when you eat dinner try focusing on just the act of eating, taste the food as it enters your mouth and feel it, sense it, see how your body works in digesting each bite. Give it your full attention.
A good way to start integrating mindful moments into your life is to make a reminder, whether it’s setting a reminder on your phone or writing it down on post it notes and placing them in different areas, or tying something to your wrist it can help serve as a reminder throughout the day to be present. I wear a bracelet everyday that has the word “mindful” stamped on it as my reminder to stop my monkey mind of incessant thoughts and just breathe and focus on the now whenever I see it. It will soon become a habit and you will find yourself living a more mindful life the more you practice it. When you are being mindful thoughts will still come however just let them roll off and bring your awareness back.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can help calm the mind and create a sense of inner peace. How many times have we all heard to live each day as if it’s your last because you never know when it will be your last. Mindfulness gives you a greater appreciation for life. It enables you to really live life, this moment is all we have so be in it.