You are with your best friend but you are not paying attention. Your head is racing with all sort of ideas and distractions. You want to be present but, you are somewhere else. Sounds familiar?
You know how it is, doing one thing and thinking of another, feeling divided, but also not paying attention to that feeling, and jumping to the next thing to worry about.
You are racing from one thing to another carrying the feeling that things were not done properly, but again not having time to delve on those feelings, efficiently brushing them to the side, as the next thing/task/person is already waiting, and you, as usual are running late. You know you are stressing, but you prefer to rationalize it, instead of feeling it, and do something about it.
I have friends that live like this. It is a tough call I know, and I am sympathetic to their condition and predicaments. The sad part is that most people live their lives like this, oblivious to the central hero/heroine of the plot: themselves. They live their lives without attending their own life. As you move on into this direction you begin to have an estranged relation to your Self, a distant one. At some point you become unable to be with yourself, and you crave for distractions and entertainment to avoid that, to avoid YOU.
One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.
— Alan W. Watts, Psychotherapy East and West
The good part is that is never too late to take a small step towards meeting yourself again. Yes, to pay a visit to yourself. To restore the feeling of being comfortable in your own company. In short, coming home to the core of who you are.
This reminds me of a personal story that happened when I was about 5 years old.
My First Encounter With Mindfulness
On that sunny and warm afternoon my father drove us to a special place. Out of the car we walked through the bushes, wild grass, and branches, till we arrived at a small secluded dam where we sat.
We were facing forwards with our legs hanging down looking at the tiny stream of water falling down from the dam, close to our feet.
“Let’s play a game” my father said. “Let us close our eyes, and without speaking, listen to all the sounds around us”. So I join him, willingly, curious to know where that would lead me.
After some seconds I begin to notice sounds that I didn’t notice before, but were there already. The drips coming from the creek; birds with different pitches; the sound of the breeze through the leaves; a kind of 3D natural sound system.
The more I stayed playing the game the more sounds I was becoming aware of. Not only that, it felt that the range of awareness was expanding. I could notice sounds further away in the landscape, like the far away noise of a motorcycle.
While I was paying attention, I was becoming more and more aware of sounds and noises all around me, I began to feel something completely new, something that I never felt before, a sense of expansion, and deep pleasurable inner peace. Suddenly, reality became more intense, crisp, sharp, and a sense of connectedness, and aliveness was present in me.
I was so happy when we finished. I didn’t know that was possible, I didn’t know that I could do that. At the same time I was so grateful for my father teaching me that. In that moment, I felt so close to him, so present, beyond words, bonding like never before.
I liked it so much that I began to play the “game” throughout my childhood, when I had the chance. I didn’t have a word to describe the “game”, or the psychological and spiritual state that I was carried to.
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Only years later when doing my degree in Psychology I got it: Mindfulness. The name of the “game” is Mindfulness. My father taught me Mindfulness without any mental or conceptual framework for it, just the sheer pleasure and fun of doing it. I will never forget this gift he offered me. Much gratitude!
What I am about to share with you is what I have been teaching to my clients.
Before We Start
Remember the following:
- Don’t buy a cushion, bench or any meditation props. You don’t need them to practice Mindfulness. You just need to decide to do it.
- Another important thing, your mind will wander off from time to time. That is ok. All you have to do is to notice it and without judgement, bring back your attention to the focus that you choose to practice during the exercise.
3 Steps To Be Present & Calm
- Hit Pause Button and Breathe – Before you begin set a period of time that you feel comfortable with. A timer is quite useful for this (most phones nowadays have one included). Start with a minute or two, maybe five. Start by taking a few long deep breaths, in and out, until you feel ready to start, then resume your natural way of breathing. You may close your eyes, or leave them slightly open, paused on one point in front of you.
- Pay Attention – You can select what you want to pay attention to, but you have to stick with it for the length of the exercise. You can select sounds, or the flame of a candle in front of you, or your breathing, or your own thoughts coming and going, or the sensations in your body, etc.
- Expand Your Field of Awareness – After a while, try to pay attention to the background of what you are noticing, going deeper and deeper into the awareness you are unfolding. When you finish pay attention to what changed; the way you are feeling; your thoughts; how you perceive things and the people around you.
That’s it, nothing complicated, just a very interesting “game” that you can play with yourself, and change the way you relate to yourself, others, and life itself. Maybe one day, you’ll teach this “game” to your son or daughter. Who knows?
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn
Give this “game” a try and then let us know how it goes in the comments section below!