It is so easy to get caught up in the hope/fear cycle – hoping that things will be different, fear that they won’t. We can spend our days worrying about the future or dwelling in the past. Going over past moments in time like movie re-runs, wondering how you coulda/woulda/shoulda done something, or not. It can be tiresome, consuming and overall not very useful. Getting caught in the what if, buts’ and maybes’ can prove tortuous, we spend our time on all of the things that could happen rather that noticing what is happening right here right now. We fundamentally miss the best part of life, the here and the now.
Practicing mindfulness is a great step towards bringing your cluttered and busy mind into the present moment. The more you practice mindfulness and presence, the more you will notice you have less fear of the future and decreased concerns of the past. Focusing on here and now will not only decrease your worry and your stress, it will increase your clarity of mind and improve your attention. You will notice more feelings of gratitude and connection to the world around you and overall improved state of mind.
So how do you practice mindfulness? It is perhaps the simplest tool we have at our disposal yet it can be the most difficult to put to use. Practicing mindfulness can be challenging as we are conditioned to have our attention on everything else but this moment. We distract ourselves, block off our feelings and emotions and take ourselves out of this present moment as often when we are present, we find we are alone with ourselves and that can be a scary place to be.
The easiest way to practice mindfulness is to actually make it an active process – rather than sit in meditation, being mindful of the breath (which you can do if this works for you) you can start with being mindful with different tasks you do each day. Start with small things such as cleaning your teeth, or eating your breakfast, washing dishes etc. Use the activity as an exercise in mindfulness and practice it each time you undertake the activity.
How to be Mindful?
1. Pick your task you will practice with eg brushing your teeth
2. Start by bringing your attention onto the task. Notice how you consciously move your hand, notice the feeling in the body, the senses in the body eg taste of the toothpaste, the sound you are making, the feel of the brush inside your mouth, the smell of the toothpaste.
3. Notice that your mind will wander and start making your shopping list, or noticing the tiles in the bathroom need cleaning, or you need to cut your toe nails.
4. Bring your focus back onto the task, being mindful of each movement, each sensation. Being conscious and present with every moment.
At first you might find your mind getting distracted, but with practice you will develop a more concentrated focus. Each day will be different and there is not need to judge the experience as right or wrong, good or bad, but simply notice. Practice on a daily basis and you will find you will develop the tendency to be more present more of the time.
Being present in the moment does not mean not planning for tomorrow, but doing this as a conscious choice rather than a random flurry of worry and fear. Dedicate time each week to planning your future, and ensure you take this time. Carry a note book with you so when you find your mind consumed with worries of the future, ideas, or things to do you can jot them down and address them in your weekly “Future” time.
Take yourself out of the cycle of hope and fear and into the here and now and notice the power of presence.