The Mindful Path

Mindfulness is a path, and can be a long one at that.  We move through most of our lives not ever realizing that we exist moment to moment.  Our minds race with erratic thoughts as we navigate the hamster wheel of life.  Such is the way of man, especially in modern society.

The Past, Present, and Future

Our minds are usually focused on the past or the future.  We wake up and think about our day and how it will go.  We obsess about the presentation that we have to make at work, or how we are going to get through traffic in time to pick up our children.  We might spend time thinking about something we did last week, or regretting a decision we made in the past.  Our minds love this theater, because it's easy.  It gives the mind something to do.

The problem lies in the simple truth that we only ever exist in the present moment.  Everything we've ever done was done in the present.  Everything we will ever do will happen in the present.  Reading this now, you're in the present.  There is no past, or future.  There is only now.

That might be a hard concept to grasp given our temporal nature.  We love and hate time.  We set our clocks and lives by it.  We measure success or failure based on it, and stress about it indefinitely.  The sad part of this is that it is always at the expense of the present moment.

That's not to say that thinking about the past or future is bad.  Many of these thoughts can prepare us for possibilities, or in relation to the past, can reinforce lessons that we need to learn.  The trick is, though, that we should be looking at these with accute awareness that they are not the present moment, or that we are doing so in the present moment.

Mindful Movies of the Mind

We are using NOW to look back or forward, as we are centered in the present.  This perspective can give us clarity like no other.  When we begin to do this, we start to seperate our thoughts from our selves.  We begin to watch our minds like we are watching movies. 

When we watch films at home, we always have the ability to hit pause, rewind, or stop and leave the room.  This will happen with your thoughts.  They will cease to have power over you.  You will no longer be controlled by your thoughts, and you will associate who you are with what you think far less than you do now.  This will open a door to a perspective that you can't possibly imagine.

A Practical Exercise in Mindfulness

One simple practice is to simply breathe.  As you breathe in and out, just watch your breath.  Thoughts will arise, and that's fine.  When they do, let them be.  Do not judge them or try to stop them, just be aware that they are there, and gently return to your breath.  Do this for about ten minutes and you will notice a calmness start to take hold.  This is the beginning.

If you keep practicing this simple exercise, you'll find that it will deepen.  You will start to see your thoughts as they are, just thoughts.  You will learn things about yourself that you never knew.  Most importantly, though, is that worry, fear, guilt, and many other emotions may begin to have less power over you in time, especially anxiety.  Mindfulness is a very effective tool to stop panic attacks and general anxiety.

If you have trouble focusing and you feel that your mind and body are too would up, try some relaxation techniques.  Autogenic training, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, and even some relaxation drinks can help you calm the storm in your mind.  This will make things much easier as you perform the practice described above.

There are many mindfulness techniques out there that can start you on your journey.  The trick is to just begin and stick with it.  Many people worldwide are beginning to feel the benefits of practicing mindfulness in their daily lives, and you should too.