The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. ~ R. D. Laing
In the summer, I took a day off from yoga class to cart and spread mulch in my flowerbeds. When I next saw my yoga instructor, I commented about what I had been doing and his reply was “as long as you were doing it mindfully.” I just said “yeah, sure” and went on with my day, not thinking much about it.
Over the last week, after some medical business, I’ve had to take it a little more easy with asanas. So, I’ve tried to do more meditative work or other things that I can do with mindfulness, even crocheting. But, this has encouraged me to think more about what it means to be mindful and how it benefits us.
Mindfulness refers to the act of focusing attention on the present moment and on the activities of that moment – whatever they may be. Too often, we move through our day thinking very little about what we are doing. We drive on auto-pilot (how often have you gotten to work and then realized you had no memory of the drive there?); we shower while considering what we will be doing at work; we eat while surfing the web shopping for holiday gifts. In each of these moments, we are thinking not about where we are or what sensations we are experiencing in that moment, but thinking about the future or the past or someone or something else. We ruminate on our emotions, our stresses, the slights we have experienced, until they fill the space of our day – even while we engage in the many activities that are living. To be mindful instead, then, requires that we pay attention to what we are doing and feeling in that moment in time, and let the other things fall away.
This sounds easy, but it’s not. Even in yoga class, I can easily “miss” the whole Savasana because I’m thinking about what I need to do with the rest of my day, or the things that happened before class or the day prior. And I pretty rarely seem to truly taste what I’m eating with any degree of mindfulness.
Yet, if we can do it, if we can focus on what we are experiencing in the moment – all of the sensations that exist in every single second of our lives – think how much more it would 0pen up to us? Perhaps mindfulness while eating would help us to fully experience the sensations of eating, and maybe to understand the ways in which we have been using food to cope with other emotions. To be truly mindful of the moment when we sit with a loved one in silence or in conversation would help us see more clearly how we feel in the presence of that person and what he/she brings to our lives. There is evidence that mindful meditations have other positive impacts on our stress levels, depression, sleep patterns, concentration, etc.
So, the next time someone asks “Do you mind?”, say “Yes!”