You know how much energy it has taken me to stop, sit down, and starting typing this? Honestly, to try and slow my brain down just enough to get that *little* bit of focus to begin tapping away was such a hard task. But hey, here I am and I’m now on a roll.
Have you ever driven somewhere and find that you can’t remember how you got there? Might be a morning or afternoon commute. It can be a little shocking at times, because you know, you’re driving a large and heavy piece of metal and you kind of need to be SLIGHTLY alert, right? I guess you still are, but good luck keeping your mind 100% focused on the road ahead of you.
This happens all.of.the.freakin.time to me. Not just driving, but talking to people, reading, watching a documentary, working, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing… you get the picture. Basically, I always find my mind elsewhere. Distracted. Never in the moment. Never understanding or more importantly appreciating what I am doing right then and there.
The other interesting thing I find is that things are always great after they happen. Don’t follow? Let me explain.
So, I’m out at a gig/show (easiest example for most reading) and have a good enough night. Might be some beers, a lot of socialising etc but it all happens so quickly that before you know it, you’re home again. Good enough night, but life goes on. Now, fast forward 5 years and recall that same night. There’s probably a good chance that you will recall a “fucking awesome night” and say something along the lines of “that was the good old days” or whatever. I used to think that it was a case of blowing things up to be better than what they were at the time (you know, over embellishing), but I think its more of a case that I simply was not appreciating what I was experiencing then and there. In the moment. Only when time has passed and has made the heart fonder (sound familiar?), that you start to miss particular times in your life and appreciate them more.
Remember that other old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”? I’ll tell you why you don’t know. You don’t know because you’re not paying attention. You’re not stopping in the moment and thinking “hmmm, what do I have to be thankful for?” and finding a true feeling of gratitude. You’re instead in a subtle and unconscious state of panic. You’re thinking about the next task, the next adventure, the next unattained achievement that is currently out of reach. It’s like when you suffer, stress and frustrate yourself so much because you’re trying to master something, achieve something, attain a material object or person, but then when you have it, you’re instantly onto the next thing. No time to stop! Just got to keep going and going and going and going.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a high achiever and constantly setting goals for yourself. Achieving one thing, ticking it off the list and moving on. It’s fine and if anything it can be quite healthy. The problem is that word that I mentioned earlier. Gratitude. A word that most know the meaning of, but have so rarely experienced it that they don’t really know its true essence. I certainly don’t. Hell, I torture myself trying to get to the core of the word. What kind of experience does gratitude give? What does it FEEL like? Have I experienced it? Do I really understand it or am I simply telling myself that this is how I should feel regularly. I know one. I’m certainly over-thinking it!
Nudging this rambling amass of words back on track, the point I *think* I am trying to make is that I think we all just need to calm down. Calm.the.fuck.down. Nothing is as bad as we make it out to be (disclaimer – in most cases) and all of those distracting thoughts that tear us away from the moment, are simply throwing us into a spiral of in-cohesive dribble, where we find ourselves waking up on the other side wondering how we got there. Wondering where those minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and even years have gone.
So nutshell here, and maybe I’m simply talking to myself more so than anyone else (therapy session anyone?), is to sit still. Breathe. Feel your heart beat. Feel your lungs expand and contract. Listen to what noises are around you. See who else is around you and continue to build on that. Add to it and slowly see that your world might not be as chaotic or as stressful as you might normally make it out to be. Some of those worries and fears might actually be things that are easy to resolve because you can now put some focus on them, instead of letting it be pushed to the back of your head by other easier and more distracting thoughts.
This is my interpretation of what mindfulness is. It’s not perfect and you might be more confused than before you started reading, but this is where the journey begins, continues and never stops. Always looking to be mindful or finding moments of mindfulness. Never forcing it, but always working towards having better awareness. Day to day, moment to moment.
Note: If you’re struggling on auto-pilot and trying to find some clarity of mind, give episode 26 of my podcast a shot with Dr Craig Hassed. He studies mindfulness and is the author of many books on the practice. I highly recommend picking up the book Mindfulness for Life, which is a great introduction. I’m still new to it all, but as I mention in the episode, the little that I have learnt has already had a dramatic impact on my life. You have nothing to lose!