I have been thinking a lot about trying to be mindful.
My mother, a therapist, extols the benefits of mindfulness on one?s psyche. The mindfulness master, Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, explains that mindfulness is “moment to moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposely paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to.”
Others are getting on the mindfulness bandwagon, too, like my favorite happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin. On her Happiness Project blog, she recently posted a quiz containing 15 yes or no questions about how one moves through life. One of the questions spoke to me in particular: I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else.
Yes. A million times yes.
I drop and break coffee cups while unloading the dishwasher. I spill full glasses of hot tea on my desk and on myself. At the gym, I run into equipment and give myself big purple bruises, even though the equipment never moves locations, so I should no to avoid smashing into those big machines. I seem to have a disconnect between my hand and putting something down on a surface, resulting in dropping food, pens, papers, etc…on the floor.
I used to think I was just clumsy. But now after starting to move through Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living, I realize that clumsiness is not really my problem but rather mindlessness.
I see that I am not alone in living somewhat mindlessly. Everyday I see some of my co-workers walk around in a daze. Sometimes one of them will walk into my pod, start to say something, stop, and admit that he/she has absolutely no idea why he/she needed to speak with me and will have to come back later when he/she remembers what it is he/she needed to convey. This happens all of the time! People walk into meetings with wrong files and documents. They forgot what time we are starting a meeting. They send emails and include all of the wrong people.
I see it in my friends and family members, too. I get off of the phone with my Mom, and immediately I forget what time she told me to pick up my sister. I tell my friends to meet me at one place, and a friend will show up at another and call me to ask me where I am. Sometimes Dan and I will be having a conversation, and then I completely blank on what he just told me.
Mindlessness. I am just not listening.
Luckily, this is a condition for which there appears to be a cure, if you put your mind to it, that is. Kabat-Zinn recommends yoga-like movements and stretches to help refocus, and indeed, after my weekly yoga classes, I do feel slightly more…balanced. He also recommends meditation, which is hard for a whirling dervish like myself to master. Meditation is so?quiet. And a solo activity. This is difficult for someone like myself who is on the loud side and enjoys the company of others. However, I see how meditation can have excellent benefits for re-centering the mind. Oftentimes just breathing deeply seems to do the trick. (A yoga teacher I once had said it takes 35 breath cycles to change one’s brain chemistry.)
At work I can get into the zone better than I can out of the office. When tasked, I can concentrate and focus on the activity of the moment rather than allow my mind to buzz about worries and weekend plans. I still manage to spill and break stuff (as evidenced last week when I tore the seam on my gray slacks while moving too fast around the office and getting caught on a piece of metal), but I find I can be a lot more in tune with what is going on at the moment.
At home, living in the moment is much more difficult. Much of what Dan and I discuss deals with future activities, e.g. buying a home, getting a dog, raising a family. Not a lot about what we are doing at this very moment. We try hard not to get too caught up in what my mother-in-law smartly deemed the “what-if game,” and we also try not to worry ourselves with the need to make decisions about things in our life that have not even happened yet.
But, it seems we are in that stage of “starting out” where much of our life is future directed, which causes me to loose track of the here and now.
So, in an attempt to stop spilling hot liquid all over myself, breaking things, and to quiet my mind enough to listen, each day I am trying to work on my mindfulness. I find that dogs are a good inspiration. Our family dogs definitely exhibit a live-in-the-moment attitude. Baron, my parent’s puppy, is especially good at this. For him, each moment is new, and he only concerns himself with the day’s activities, especially meal-time activities And it is true that he is not mindful about his size (he thinks he is a lap dog, but he is almost 60 pounds), but he truly lives in the moment.
So for today, I am only concerned with the present, which feels enormously uplifting. Now, that’s something to think about