Now is all we Have
written by Shan Watts
As I age, the more my idea of what age you become “old” at, is extended. For example, I turned 53 a couple of months ago. When I was 21, I thought that 53 was ancient. In fact, I can recall when my 40-something mother went in to have her gall bladder taken out when I was in my teens, I was making all kinds of contingency plans about how I would care for my 3 younger siblings if she passed away while in hospital, not because she was having her gall bladder out, but because she was so OLD! Now I find that I think even someone in their 90’s doesn’t qualify as old unless they have multiple health issues.
As a paradox, I find I’m conscious of time passing more and more quickly each year, which I gather is a symptom of aging in itself. Remember when we were kids and the next Christmas/birthday/summer holidays seemed to take forever to arrive? Now it’s a matter of blinking and we’re halfway through the year.
Time Keeps Slipping Away
Because of this and because of the number of dreams I have yet to fulfill in this life, I’m all too conscious of the amount of time I’m wasting. Time spent working for other people, while necessary to put food on the table and shelter over our heads at present, seems a waste in terms of the bigger picture and the desire I have to help others manifest their dreams in this life. Time spent working when I could be out enjoying the sun on my skin, the birds in the trees and the clouds in the sky sometimes feels like a waste of time, so to combat this I strive to spend some time every week working outside so I can enjoy the elements while satisfying my soul’s yearning to be of service. Time spent sleeping sometimes seems like a waste but then I need to remind myself that it’s necessary to rest and rejuvenate in order to extract the most enjoyment out of my waking hours.
How do we cope with this concept?
One of the most powerful techniques for thoroughly enjoying what’s available to me here and now is being mindful and present. When I take my time to live in the now I cease to fret about the amount of work I am/am not getting done, either in my own practice or when I work for others. I cease to procrastinate or to think about how much I’m missing loved ones and wonder when I’ll next get to see them again. I cease to worry about all the other things that can flit through my mind, creating an underlying murmur of stress and discontent as I go about my life: how to pay the power bill, how to get everything done and still have time for me, what to have for dinner that night. You can relate, right?
So how do I become mindful and present?
It can take some practice, but the more you do it, the more you become proficient at it – a bit like yoga. (I have a secret to tell you – I don’t actually do yoga as I don’t find trying to turn myself into a pretzel much fun, I belly dance instead. Not very well, but who cares when you’re having fun and being mindful at the same time?)
The traditional way is to sit down somewhere quiet, make yourself comfortable and focus on your breath going in and out of your nose. This method quietens your mind and focuses your attention on one thing – your breath.
I prefer another way
While focusing on my breath works for me, I prefer to be more aware of my surroundings. When I make a conscious decision to be mindful, I focus ONLY on that particular moment in the here and now. I tune into all of my senses and do the following:
- I tune into what I feel right now in terms of body temperature and comfort. If there is something there that distracts me from being totally present, I fix it before I go any further. It’s hard to focus on the here and now when you’re cold or uncomfortable!
- I observe my surroundings, taking in their texture and colour and the contrasts between one thing and another.
- I listen – to silence, to external surroundings, to the things going on in whatever building I might be in at that time. (Incidentally while you’re waiting for something – be it an appointment or a bus, is THE perfect time to practice mindfulness!)
- I focus on the texture of my clothes, the ground I’m standing on or the chair that I’m sitting in and how these things feel against my body.
- I breathe in any smells – incense, rain, perfume. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do this bit if you were at a bus stop and aware of a lot of pollution or someone with body odour close by!
- In those times when my mind is racing a million miles an hour and I can’t quiet it, I journal. Either that or I write down my thoughts as quickly as I can, attempting to capture each one as it flits through my mind and once I’m done, I give my mind permission to relax now that it’s told me everything it needs to.
- When undertaking a task, I devote the whole of my attention to it, whether that means folding clothes or focusing on my writing, I make sure that any thoughts that come into my mind are acknowledged and then sent on their way while I return my concentration back to the task at hand.
- As mentioned before, I also belly dance. When you’re trying hard to focus on the music AND get the steps right in an atmosphere of fun and laughter, you don’t have time to think about anything else!
What’s the point of it?
There are many ways to become present and mindful. No doubt if you do a bit of research you’ll find many more. The whole point to it, however, is to slow down or rid yourself of distracting thoughts completely so that you can then choose where to focus your attention. How you do it is up to you. If one way doesn’t work, find another. There is no one true way to practise.
Being mindful and present allows you to spend some time with yourself that doesn’t involve stress or focusing on negatives. Clearing your mind, even for a short space of time, is a bit like pushing the “reset” button. It enables you to rid yourself of procrastination, clarify the things that matter most to you and plan the most effective way to achieve them. Our time in this particular life goes by so quickly it’s a shame to waste it flitting from one thing to another without taking a mental break which then allows us to focus on what we really want. Won’t you take some time out to nourish yourself and ensure you’re on the right path for you today?
Fellow Squishies, how do you become mindful and present?