How often do you enjoy the present moment without any ulterior motive? Spending time doing something for no reason other than feeling content? Not that often, right? What even IS your thing? Some of us might remember loving to paint, reading for fun, playing the piano, sewing, napping, doing jigsaw puzzles, baking and making jam. But these days even the mere thought of doing something unproductive, when there are so many things we should do, make us feel guilty. Is this you?
Are we a nation of box tickers?
Our culture values efficiency, achievement, productivity and improvement in all forms. Got something you need resolved? No problem, there will be a someone or something (most likely an app) that has already solved it for you and quick. Boom – another tick in the box!
We love ticking off chores because it makes us feel productive and goal focused. An act of clearing space for the things we really would like to do if only we had enough time. The paradox is that now that we have nothing but time we don’t have the peace of mind (for very understandable reasons). And putting pressure on ourselves to maximise this time by learning a new skill, getting super fit, decluttering the house or writing a new book may back fire when many of us are struggling to make sense of the current situation, lacking concentration, focus and suffering from low mood.
If 100% of our daily actions are dedicated to maximising our potential then aren’t we running the risk of perpetually keeping ourselves from being in the now? The only moment we’ll actually ever have available to us.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a word we hear banded about a lot yet how many of us actually incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives? And what is it, really? In short, mindfulness means observing what you are thinking and feeling without trying to change it. When we are mindful we are better able to pay careful attention to what is happening within us without acting out according to familiar patterns of behaviour. Here are some useful things to know about mindfulness:
- Non-judgement. We have views on most things. Politics, the virus, other people, parenting and so on. We judge ourselves and others and get firmly stuck into our views and positions. Next time, observe without judgement when you or someone else falls short of your expectations. Be kind.
- Patience. Things have a natural way of occurring and us forcing an outcome may only delay the result. A form of wisdom, patience teaches us to tread gently and trust that we don’t have to control everything around us. Next time something doesn’t go your way, try a patient approach. Your time will come. It is not a race.
- Beginners mind. Imagine you are seeing someone for the first time. Even a very familiar person. Each moment in our lives are unique and yet we filter people and experiences based on our preconceived ideas. What if you were cooking a meal for your family for the first time? Pay attention to the different steps and try to stay present.
- Trust. We have an in-built navigation system that we often discount. Why? Because we think other people, teachers, thought leaders and society have the answers. But we all have our own path to wander in life so how can someone know what is right for you? Today, begin to rebuild trust in your intuition and start paddling your own canoe. What will make life good for you today?
- Non-striving. This comes back to accepting where and who we are without trying to make it better. To accept imperfection and still feel good enough. If you are having an off day then let yourself have an off day without the pressure to improve. Some days are just like that.
- Acceptance. We spend so much time resisting what is, not wanting to see the facts. Instead, accept your experiences for what they are even if you don’t have any immediate solutions. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable and not forecasting the worst can be liberating and save us from fretting. When we want things to be just so, we prevent ourselves from being in the present moment. Important! It does not mean we remain passive in unacceptable situations, tolerate things that hurts us or resign to feel helpless.
- Letting go. This is a wonderfully freeing notion which allows us to let things be as they are without the pursuit of it being different. We can let go of so much; expectations, judgement, bad habits and unhelpful stories. When we let go there is an immediate sense of lightness and freedom. Like we’ve put down our backpack for a moment only to realise that we don’t need to put it back on. The need to automatically react can be replaced by letting things just be.
This week, see if you can introduce something into your life that you do simply because it brings you joy and makes you feel good. These are strange times and we need to be even more kind to ourselves than normal. If you are having a bad day, try putting some of the above mindfulness practices into action and notice what happens. Always love your feedback…